One of the memorable events of history that has gone unnoticed was the 1893 World’s Fair, held in Chicago. It was an elaborate event that transformed Chicago into several different metropolises (or is it metropoli?) like Venice, for instance. The result was a lavish, expensive journey that inspired many, among them, architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
In EXPO: Magic of the White City, Mark Bussler and Brian Connolly help to illustrate how much effort was needed to get the Fair off withou… a hitch, despite occurring a year after the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ journey to find the New World. Narrated by Gene Wilder (Young Frankenstein), the film provides a lot of historical information and background on everything that was responsible behind the success (or failure) of the Fair.
The film/documentary is more along the lines of a normal Ken Burns historical feature. There aren’t any interviews, but there are a lot of drawings and sketches of how things appeared at the time, along with A LOT of spoken detail. If you were ever curious about how this event came out, this is the thing for you.
The feature is touted as being filmed in High Def, but the problem in that is that 96% of the footage in this feature is comprised of historical stills, sketches and paintings. There are some actual brief clips shot on High Def that look great, but they are few and far between. It’s a little disappointing, but in retrospect, probably should have been expected.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix accompanies the HD video presentation. The surround effects are used subtly and wisely, and don’t interfere with Wilder’s commentary through the feature. Nice and clean, like it should be.
David Cope, the historian, provides a commentary for the feature. Although it’s got a lot of historical facts and trivia, the track is disjointed, and it even sounds like he phones in some of the review. If nothing else, it’s unique I guess. The featurettes for the film do not have any dialogue, and have optional commentary. And they even go straight to the main menu, without going to the Special Features menu, so it makes things all the more confusing. There are also 8 deleted scenes that run for 10 minutes, and six trailers complete the disc.
All in all, EXPO goes into a lot of detail about an event that a lot of people have ignored through the years, and have helped to shed some light on it. It’s definitely something for the history channel crowd to enjoy.
Special Features List
- Historian Commentary
- Director Commentary on Special Features
- Deleted Scenes