DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Baseball - A Film By Ken Burns (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 14, 2004.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns



    Studio: PBS
    Year: 1994
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 1621 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Standard
    Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
    Color/B&W: Color & B&W
    Subtitles: Closed Captioned
    MSRP: $179.98
    Package: Box Set – 10 Keepcases





    The Feature:
    I recall years ago when this show was originally broadcast on our PBS station, I watched this religiously. As a fan of documentaries, Ken Burns is among my favorite documentarians and is responsible for many specials, some which I consider the best ever done. Some of his previous projects include; Jazz, The Civil War, biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lewis & Clark, Thomas Jefferson and one of my favorites, Mark Twain (which is an absolute must own).

    Regardless of what many people think of the game today, I'm still a fan of the sport, although admittedly, my admiration for many of those who now participate has waned over the last ten years. When I see clips of baseball from the 40's or 50's, I can't help but think of simpler times. Ken Burns has meticulously researched the game of baseball and has created a most enjoyable history on video. Smartly, the set consists of nine individual innings as well as an extra inning disc.

    Colossal in scale, this documentary which took more than four years to complete, chronicles the history of the sport’s origin dating back to the 1800’s and continues through to present day. Many of baseball's greats are featured including Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Mays with countless contributions from the likes of Buck O'Neill, Curt Flood and Ted Williams as well as various celebrities, journalists, politicians and historians.

    Many of the game's more troubled times are also discussed, such as segregation, racial inequality and the forgotten Negro Leagues. Included are some of the game’s scandalous times, discussing the cloud over the Chicago “Black” Sox as well as the notorious Pete Rose saga. It should come as no surprise that there is a significant amount of coverage focusing on Jackie Robinson and detailing what he had to endure to lead the way for others through the integration process. It's also interesting how the various social issues of the times were also incorporated into the documentary, discussing the role of the game during the Great Depression as well as both World Wars. The show is superbly narrated by John Chancellor.

    The set consists of a rather large and durable box set containing 10 discs with a total of approximately 25 hours of material. Some might say that the use of 10 discs is excessive, but personally the trade off is a preference of individual keepcases over a digipak gatefold (which I tire of) or double sided discs. So I'm perfectly content to give up some shelf space for a matter of convenience. Also included is a two page folded insert, which very neatly outlines all of the various chapters and where they can be located on the individual discs (a must for a set of this magnitude).

    The discs are prepared in the following manner:

    Disc One:
    1840’s – 1900
    Our Game

    Disc Two:
    1900 – 1910
    Something Like A War

    Disc Three:
    1910 – 1920
    The Faith Of Fifty Million People

    Disc Four:
    1920 – 1930
    A National Heirloom

    Disc Five:
    1930 – 1940
    Shadow Ball

    Disc Six:
    1940 - 1950
    The National Pastime

    Disc Seven:
    1950 – 1960
    The Capital Of Baseball

    Disc Eight:
    1960 – 1970
    A Whole New Ballgame

    Disc Nine:
    1970 – 1994
    Home

    Disc Ten:
    Extra Innings
    Special Features & Interviews.



    Video:
    Documentaries are rather difficult to critique in that much of the material that has been gathered for the feature is all over the map in terms of quality and age. I’m happy to report that even though many of the photographs and some of the footage used dates back to the turn of the century, this feature looks great on the big screen.

    I recall reading that the DVD presentation looks vastly superior to that of the previous VHS releases, and I must say that I’m not surprised. Considering the age of much of the material that has been included, it certainly exceeded my expectations.

    Even much of the material that was specifically recorded for the special, shows superior to many of the documentaries I have seen, even those recently released. If I had to find any faults with this set (and I’m nit picking here folks) would be that some of the recorded material has a reddish tint to it on flesh tones during interview sequences. No big deal.

    A very impressive job considering the age of much of the material that was included.



    Audio:
    Not much to talk about in the audio department and I would doubt that many who are truly interested in the set are concerned about showing off their home theater. That said, the wonderful narration of John Chancellor comes across exceptionally clear and bold. To me this is one of the highlights of this special in that it is 25 hours long. The last thing I’d want is an “insurance sales seminar” like narration and this is anything but. Very tastefully done.

    There is a ton of period appropriate music used to score the individual chapters much of which is an accompanied piano score, all of which adds greatly to the feel of the show and the era being discussed. It comes across quite nice never sounding strained or becoming fatiguing. Occasionally, during some of the older recorded music, hiss and pops can be heard, which is to be expected.

    An absolutely perfect job.



    Special Features:
    There are a number of special features located on this set. On each disc, there is a “Gold Features” listing which is comprised of the following:
    [*] Trivia is a listing of 25 questions. Upon a correct answer, you are taken to the next question. When answering incorrectly, you are taken to a clip of the feature and shown a snippet of footage highlighting the correct answer. These are done very well.
    [*] Up next is a Timeline. This is an interesting feature which glides along highlighting in chronological order, the significant events surrounding the game which occurred throughout that particular decade. A very nice little feature.
    [*] The next feature is Baseball Cards. Several players are featured who were dominant in that particular decade. Upon clicking the card, personal information as well as statistics is shown.

    Disc 10 is entitled Extra Innings and contains most of the special features and interviews.
    [*] The first feature is entitled The Making Of Baseball Duration: 23:32 minutes. This is an extremely interesting feature (in essence, a documentary of a documentary) showing how much work and effort went into this vast undertaking including trips to various film archives (very interesting), sound effects, voice narration (John Chancellor) and the music that was used throughout the special. Very interesting stuff.
    [*] The next special feature is Team Information which are text listings of all past and present MLB teams showing various team stats such as previous team names, retired numbers and stadium information.
    [*] The last feature is a number of Interviews. This is a group of Charlie Rose episodes which includes interviews with Ken Burns – Duration: 54:49, Rachel Robinson (Jackie’s widow) – Duration: 24:41, Bob Gibson – Duration: 29:43, Yogi Berra – Duration: 14:46, Bob Costas “On the 1998 Season” - Duration: 52:04. What can I say about Charlie Rose? These are all “meat and potatoes” interviews particularly the Costas interview discussion on Mickey Mantle – Duration: 27:32.

    All of these special features are extraordinary and definitely worth your time.



    Final Thoughts:
    There are very few filmmakers that have accomplished what Ken Burns has when it comes to shooting documentaries. His Baseball series is proof that he is one of the best documentary filmmakers period. Baseball is not just a story about the sport, moreover, it’s a meticulous account of Americana that's intertwined with the sport spanning the past century.

    Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns is a testament of his work, and here, he has produced another high quality documentary that rivals his The Civil War series. Ken Burns covers the origins of baseball from its beginnings in the 1800s to present day (1994). For fans of the sport or those who enjoy extremely well done and thorough documentaries, this set is a must.

    Highly Recommended...!!!




    Release Date: Now
     
  2. JohnTRU

    JohnTRU Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review Herb!

    We haven't had this fine series released here in Australia yet. Even if it was released, the quality in which other Ken Burns series have been released points me to get it from North America.

    I remember watching the series on television here some late night a few years back, and even though my opinions on baseball (not a big sport here by any means) had waned considerably, this show, without making me love baseball all over again, proved why I did like it so much to begin with.

    Unfortuately, I missed some episodes and it hasn't been repeated to the best of my knowledge.

    I really do NEED to buy this set.
     
  3. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Jazz got me hooked so I am eagerly interested in purchasing this at some point in the next wekk or so.

    Great review Herb

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

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    Oh how I love this set, I will be breaking it out again soon with the baseball season fast approaching.

    Great review of a great set!!!
     
  5. Vincent Matis

    Vincent Matis Second Unit

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    BTW, there are no subtitles at all, only CC. At least on my set...
     
  6. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Thanks Vincent... that's what I get for using a template... [​IMG]
     
  7. PerryD

    PerryD Supporting Actor

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    PBS has had a couple 50% off sales in the past year, the most recent one expired last month. It has made it a lot easier to pick up these $200 box sets like Baseball, Jazz and Civil War.

    Original Bargain PBS thread
     
  8. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    I hate baseball. I've never liked watching it or playing it. I've been to maybe 5 games in my life, and that is only because of free tickets and a concert after the game.

    I LOVED this documentary when it aired! This is a must own for fans of the game. I'd pick this up if it wasn't so pricy.[​IMG] (also because I'd get the Jazz and Cival War sets first.)

    The "Frank LLoyd Wright" doc was great as well, I haven't caught the others.
     
  9. Terry Hickey

    Terry Hickey Second Unit

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    My wife purchased this for my birthday when it was first released. It is really outstanding, and if you have a love for baseball, you cannot go wrong by getting it.I grew up in the 50's and while watching the 50 & 60's era presentations, it brought back quite a few memories. This is one gift that I have really enjoyed thanks to my wife!
     
  10. ZacharyTait

    ZacharyTait Cinematographer

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    I've watched the first 3 discs so far via Netflix and it's really good. I've got the next 3 coming tomorrow so I'll be right back into it.
     
  11. DanHaya

    DanHaya Second Unit

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    I have the deluxe VHS set and I watch it every year before the season starts. I probably won't buy the DVDs, though, unless I could get a decent price for my VHS set on eBay.

    My only complaint about the series is that I was always disappointed with how little time Burns spent covering the 80s and 90s. Granted, the series did come out before the big strike of '94. It would be nice if he revisits that last inning someday and brings it up-to-date.
     
  12. McKinley

    McKinley Auditioning

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    Baseball is an excellent documentary on America's past time. It is just a sampling of the great body of work produced by Ken Burns. My wife is an associate producer for Ken Burns' and is currently working on the re-release of Baseball for it's 10th anniversary.
    For all you boxing fans, keep your eyes open for Ken's upcoming documentary on Jack Johnson.

    McKinley
     
  13. JohnTRU

    JohnTRU Stunt Coordinator

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    Does this mean there will be a re-release on DVD, or will it just be re-aired?
     
  14. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    well if that is true then I will wait until more news is known about a possible re release.
     
  15. Joel Vardy

    Joel Vardy Supporting Actor

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    One of the 'great' documentaries ever made -- regardless of topic. Though I learned baseball and it's history as an immigrant I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this whole series a number of times. I'm grateful that it is available on DVD and have owned it since its release.

    Joel
     
  16. ZacharyTait

    ZacharyTait Cinematographer

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    If they re-release this with updated info on the 80's, 90's, and this decade, and drop the MSRP to a decent price, I'll pick this up.
     
  17. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Fine review Herb. Thanks. [​IMG]


    I'm probably misremembering, but I really thought that I’d seen a couple of episodes on the ABC a few years back.
     
  18. McKinley

    McKinley Auditioning

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    From what I could ascertain, the re-release of Baseball will just contain the original content meaning as far as the history of baseball is concerned, it will still end at 1994. However, there may be some new extras but that's abou it.

    McKinley
     
  19. JohnTRU

    JohnTRU Stunt Coordinator

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    That's where I saw the series the first time. They've just finishing repeats of 'Jazz' also.

    My complaint is that when the DVDs are eventually bought out here, the quality is sub-standard. R1 get commentaries throughout the 'Civil War' series, we get poor A/V quality with no extras. Can't remember how 'Jazz' differed, but 'Baseball' wasn't even released here - which is a shame.
     
  20. clayton b

    clayton b Stunt Coordinator

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    The A/V is nothing to write home about, and the extras are pretty meager. Still, I consider this boxed set to be one of the crown jewels of my collection. It's an absolutely astounding documentary, an absolute treasure chest of information about the great game of baseball.

    I one day want very much to own both 'The Civil War' and 'The West'. Based on Baseball, I'm more than happy to shell out for both sets sight unseen.
     

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