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"Oswald's Ghost" -- A Personal Review

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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted January 16 2008 - 07:33 PM





[img]http://reclaiming-history.googlegroups.com/web/051.+MIDNIGHT+PRESS+CONFERENCE?gda=VhWJ9lAAAADr6tC8UyTBgT86VBHer5Z9v-hoxUzPc1XgcGFr12wVjbxSYi6AThRMfradhN33qvli0BCv4XgvhQuXL6LcshS5bcVT3VtYGKLco-_l-8AzjQ&gsc=ZJUc5AsAAAAPgdTmqBuTWdP5lAIjrCnG"> [img]http://www.box.net/static/flash/box_explorer.swf?widgetHash=kt8qtb3408&v=1[/img]


The number of old video/film clips that can be found in "Oswald's Ghost" (and the rarely-seen nature of some of these) puts me in mind of another good documentary centering on the same subject, "The Murder Of JFK: A Revisionist History", an award-winning film that was made in 1999 and released on DVD in February 2006.

"Revisionist", like "Oswald's Ghost", is a worthy film for avid collectors of JFK-related programs too, mainly for the large amount of historic 1960s-era video and filmed material that it contains.

And a third Kennedy documentary film, "Four Days In November", is yet another movie that earns high marks in the "vintage film footage" category.

In fact, in my own personal opinion, the Academy Award-nominated "Four Days In November" (which was released in theaters in late 1964, less than a year after the assassination) is the cream of the crop when it comes to films or TV programs associated with the JFK assassination. I haven't seen it topped by any other movie or television documentary yet.



Three items are on the "Special Features" menu of the "Oswald's Ghost" DVD. Here's a quick look:

1.) "A Visit To Dealey Plaza" --- Now here's something that ought to appeal to conspiracy-thirsty people. This bonus, filmed in Dallas' Dealey Plaza (probably in 2007), consists of 9-and-a-half minutes of non-stop, mile-a-minute JFK conspiracy talk.

For the first seven minutes of this torture, we're treated to some nut who is perched up on the Grassy Knoll in the Plaza, armed with a thick notebook full of assorted conspiracy-flavored tripe.

This guy has got his conspiracy spiel down cold, I've got to give him credit for that, as he rattles off one unprovable theory after another, including everything from soup to nuts it would seem (much like Oliver Stone's "let's throw in the kitchen sink too" approach to the case).

Yes, it's torture to sit through to a degree....and yet this man (a Mr. Russell) is strangely compelling and easy to listen to at the same time, despite the ridiculous position he is taking regarding how the assassination of the President occurred.

And, yes, sure enough, Mr. Russell even believes that "Umbrella Man" was part of the covert plot to kill Kennedy....and he also believes that the "three tramps" were a major part of the murder plot too, including the fable about one of the tramps being E. Howard Hunt.

The tramps, of course, have since been fully identified as just that--tramps--and not conspirators, but tell that to Mr. Russell, who you can no doubt find on the Knoll this very minute, peddling his pro-conspiracy wares.

The final two-plus minutes of this bonus feature focus attention on famous researcher and conspiracist Robert Groden, as he gives one of his many talks to the visitors of Dealey Plaza.

Groden has set himself up a stand for selling his assassination books and goods in a nicely-shaded area on the steps that lead up the Grassy Knoll on the west side of the Plaza.

Bob doesn't talk quite as fast as our other conspiracy theorist featured in this bonus supplement, but his theories are just as preposterous and unsupportable by the evidence (of course).

Mr. Groden, for the trivia-minded out there who might not know this, was born on November 22. He turned 18 on the day of JFK's death.

So, coincidences CAN, indeed, occur. And do. [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/a/a8/htf_images_smilies_smiley_wink.gif[/img]


2.) "The Zapruder Film And Beyond" --- This 22-minute DVD add-on supplement is a "talking heads" piece, with various of the participants from the main feature (plus Louis Stokes, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Assassinations) providing a dialogue about Abraham Zapruder's infamous 26-second home movie, which shows JFK being shot and killed in full color.

There's some other general "conspiracy vs. no conspiracy" discussion included here as well. This is pretty basic stuff. My favorite part of this bonus is when Mark Lane talks about how he took a copy of the Zapruder Film off the desk of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison and then arranged for 100 copies of the film to be made and distributed "everyplace". ~chuckle~


3.) "Interview With Robert Stone" --- This interview lasts almost 16 minutes. Among other things, Stone talks about how he was able to unearth some never-before-seen film footage connected to the events of 11/22/63.

I think the best comment in the interview is when Mr. Stone says: "The mantra in making the film was always, This is not a 'whodunnit'...this is a 'what the whodunnit has done to us'. That's what it's about."

All three DVD bonus programs are presented in Anamorphic Widescreen format (1.85:1), with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio.



Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1).

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Subtitles: None. (But Closed-Captioning is provided.)

The movie is divided into 13 DVD chapters. The chapters (or scenes) are titled as follows:

1. Introduction
2. The Prime Suspect
3. Oswald In Custody
4. Oswald's Assassin
5. The Commission Investigates
6. The Warren Report
7. Re-examining The Evidence
8. Jim Garrison's Allegations
9. Murders Of MLK & RFK
10. The Church Committee & The CIA
11. Conspiracy Theories
12. Oswald's Ghost
13. Credits



There's nothing really super-extraordinary or shocking or ultra-spectacular about "Oswald's Ghost". It's just a good, solid, well-constructed documentary film on the death of America's 35th President.

I suppose some people who viewed this movie wanted some kind of "new evidence" or heretofore-undiscovered revelation to be unveiled by Robert Stone within this film. Alas, that's not to be. And that, in my opinion, is mainly due to the following fact: There is nothing "new" to be unveiled concerning the way John F. Kennedy died on November 22, 1963.

JFK was shot by a lone loser named Lee Harvey Oswald. And that lone loser who hated America and its "representatives" just happened to own a cheap mail-order rifle and he also just happened to work in a building that overlooked the very last portion of President Kennedy's motorcade route through Dallas.

The combination of things I just mentioned above was a lethal combination. And it's also, whether you want to believe it or not, a combination of circumstances brought about by nothing except pure garden-variety coincidence and happenstance.

Lee Oswald's very own brother, Robert, said pretty much the same thing during an interview a few years ago:

"It is my belief--my conviction--no one but Lee was involved--period. .... He had problems at home. He had problems on his job. He was completely frustrated about what was going on around him. This is not EXCUSING what he did. This is UNDERSTANDING what he did. He wanted to be somebody. And this opportunity came about coincidental. Nothing planned. Nothin' organized. It HAPPENED that way. It's one of those happenstances of history." -- Robert Oswald; 2003

So, if you want to watch a well-made, non-sensationalistic documentary about President John F. Kennedy's murder and the events associated with it, you'll certainly want to pick up this DVD.

If you want sensationalism and lots of complicated and impossible-to-pull-off conspiracy plots, then I'd suggest opting for the 1991 movie "JFK" (helmed by that other director named "Stone").

David Von Pein
January 2008


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Edited by David Von Pein - 7/4/2009 at 10:03 am GMT

#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted January 17 2008 - 02:37 AM

Thank you for the thoughtful and thorough review of Oswald's Ghost. I missed the PBS airing of the show this week and was thinking of picking up the DVD. I've been to Mark Lane lectures, heard other conspiracy seminars, seen Oliver Stone's version in JFK, and harbored my own theories about the assassination over the past 40-odd years. How could any person who lived through that cultural experience and felt the solid ground underneath their feet pulled out from under them not? But it's really hard to believe, in today's blabbermouth world, that there is anyone with any tangible evidence or testimony who is also disciplined enough to keep their mouth shut about a larger conspiracy. And to keep the mouths shut of everyone else that would have had to be involved. That stoic personality type is a vanished breed, perhaps another legacy of Oswald's Ghost. Conspiracy theories will persist because, at least for us baby boomers, it is still unimaginable to conceive how a lonely little loser like Oswald could bring down the presidency of John F. Kennedy and all that it promised. It's not fair. It just didn't fit with our idealized view of the world and the way things should be. And we've been trying to live with that adjusted view of the world ever since.

#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted January 17 2008 - 05:36 AM

Which is fine, but I gotta admit I thought Ghost was lackluster just because it seemed like the 976th take on the same thing. Why make another JFK assassination documentary that tales the same story again? I also thought it lacked focus. One minute it wanted to be a psychological assessment of LHO, while the next it tried to get into conspiracy theories, and then it'd go for a grand evaluation of how the assassination impacted society. That's a lot of subjects to pack into one fairly short documentary, and it doesn't do the "jack of all trades" thing well. It's entertaining enough but it doesn't really seem to have any particular reason to exist in this day and age...
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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted January 17 2008 - 05:40 AM

The doc touches on that concept. Frankly, it's a terrible reason to support conspiracy theories. I'm not attacking you, BTW - I'm just saying that the "it's not fair" idea is a pretty lousy basis for grandiose theories of what "really" happened. One lone nut CAN alter the world - you don't need a massive plot to pull off enormous change...
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#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted January 17 2008 - 06:05 AM

No offense taken. My point was exactly that our 'idealized' view of what should be fair conflicted with reality. I don't buy most conspiracy theories anymore ... except for whoever puts security sealant tape on DVD cases - that's obviously an insidious attempt to drive us all nuts.

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted January 17 2008 - 07:54 AM

FYI, we also have a discussion about this documentary occurring in a thread in the After Hours section, though the thread -- started by this thread's creator -- has been around for a while. We can consider this the "DVD thread."

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted January 17 2008 - 06:56 PM

That's incorrect. This "Lounge" thread wasn't actually started by me, but I have contributed a bunch of posts to it. Posted Image

#8 of 10 OFFLINE   BobSchneider


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Posted January 17 2008 - 07:17 PM

I actually watch "Oswalds Ghost" this week on my local PBS station , I give it at face value B- because as other posters mention it lack focus and needed better editing to make it the best JFK assassination documentry. But, in hid site I give it a A- because it did a fabulious job at showing what a fool, nut case and charlatan Jim Garrison was and how Oliver Stone was a bigger fool, nut chase and charlatan for releasing fraudumentry JFK. I still think best documentary I seen on the JFK assassination was frontlines excellent "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald" it had the best focus on Oswald and the assassination, I havent had a chace to view the dvd extras (which most are online PBS web site)but they may enhance Oswalds ghost , in my mind it good but not the best treatment of JFK assassination.
Q: Why do you care?

A: You'll never know.

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted January 17 2008 - 08:14 PM

That is a very good program indeed. In it, you also get to see one of the leading lone-assassin researchers before he became an "LNer", Dale Myers. Interesting stuff.


As mentioned in my "Ghost" review above, I'd still vote for "Four Days In November" as the best JFK program ever made. I'm rather amazed (still) at all of the various Warren Commission-backed facts that "Four Days" was able to cram into its 123-minute running time.

And it's a film (produced by David Wolper) that was actually being made before the WC released its Final Report in Sep. '64. The film debuted in NYC on Oct. 7, 1964, just 13 days after LBJ was handed the Warren Report.

I've never been quite sure how David Wolper, director Mel Stuart, and United Artists (the studio involved in making "Four Days") were able to get that movie filmed, edited, narrated (very nicely by Richard Basehart), and scored (by Elmer Bernstein, in what is a fabulous musical soundtrack) prior to the Warren Report ever being released?

I think I can assume that Wolper & Company didn't pull off a movie-making, cram-session miracle by making a 2-hour movie in 13 days' time, between Sep. 24 and the movie's debut on Oct. 7.

It would appear to me, via this tight timeline, that UA/Wolper must have been privy to some of the WC's conclusions and details of the case prior to the general public having knowledge of such information, apart from the several "re-created" scenes that were filmed exclusively for the movie.

That's just a guess on my part, but it's something I've always wondered about each time I watch the film on the MGM/UA VHS videotape.

In any event, "Four Days" is a documentary I'd recommend to anyone interested in the assassination. Some of the wealth of archival TV and film footage found in that film, like "Oswald's Ghost", you're not likely to find anyplace else.

Another great source of info for delving into the inner mind of JFK's assassin is Jean Davison's 1983 book "Oswald's Game". Plus, of course, the new JFK Bible, which is Vincent Bugliosi's masterpiece "Reclaiming History", which includes a 276-page biography on LHO.

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#10 of 10 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted January 18 2008 - 07:33 PM

Plus the evil people who manufacture the clear type of CD jewel cases where it's virtually impossible to open the tray portion of the case (in order for artwork to be inserted) without cracking the dang thing to bits.

That's gotta be a conspiracy by the case-makers (so that customers are forced to buy more and more cases to replace the ruined ones).

(Maybe E. Howard Hunt was the real brains behind this "jewel case plot". After all, he can usually be conveniently blamed for pretty much any conspiracy anyone can dream up. Right?) Posted Image

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