HTF REVIEW: "Roots" 25th Anniversary Edition

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 10, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    ROOTS

    "The ancestors of all of us came across
    that same ocean in some ship. We must learn
    not only to live together, but learn to see
    one another as people rather than stereotypes."

    -Alex Haley-
    I love Father John Banahan's quote inside the
    packaging of this newly released 3-disc set that
    so rightfully describes the impact of the Roots saga:
    "An Experience similar to watching the first men
    walk on the moon". Amen, Father!
    On January 23rd 1977, Roots made television
    history. 103 million people witnessed master
    storyteller Alex Haley's chronicles of
    his own family across many generations, from
    the kidnapping of an African warrior by American
    slave traders to eventual post-Civil War freedom.
    His family became our family. They were characters
    that became part of the American language and national
    consciousness.
    The series ultimately garnered 9 Emmy Awards
    including Best Limited Series.
    Warner has packaged this landmark series in
    a cardboard package with slipcase insert that
    slides out and opens into a 5-gatefold that
    features 3 DVDs housed in plastic. The insert
    has the full index of each 2-sided DVD broken
    down by chapters. There is also a text breakdown
    of all the contributors (Directors, Producers, etc.)
    on each disc as well as those that provided
    running audio commentary.
    Starting with Disc One/SideA, we are greeted by
    a non-animated standard menu. The viewer has the
    option of watching Roots with running
    commentary from a wealth of contributors including
    David L. Wopler, Levar Burton and
    Cicely Tyson, as well as the Directors
    and screenwriters that put it all together.
    There is also running VIDEO commentary. This
    was an option I had a problem with. Allegedly, a
    ROOTS LOGO appears in the corner of your screen
    during various points of the presentation that lets
    you open a window that shows you the individual
    giving the running audio commentary. Most of the first
    two discs that I scanned through for this review
    failed to show that logo. I was able to watch
    HIGHLIGHTS of the video commentary through
    the Commentary Video Highlights option off
    the Main Menu.
    How does the video look and audio sound?
    In general, the video looks good, though not
    pristine. The video is often littered with small
    amounts of dirt and an excessive amount of grain.
    Colors look faded, and the overall feel of the
    presentation looks dated as a result. Perhaps
    this works to the advantage of a story of its time
    period. Overall, I don't think anyone is going to
    be terribly unhappy with the video quality.
    It was very nice to see that the original broadcast
    ROOTS introduction was included in this release (which
    is shown just prior to the start of the first
    episode). I believe this was omitted from the
    VHS versions that have been previously available.
    While the audio is presented MONO (as originally
    broadcast in 1977), it sounds generally good.
    I actually had the opportunity to listen to
    much of the running commentary on Disc 1. If you
    have already previously seen Roots, I would
    opt to start watching it immediately with commentary.
    Producer Frank L. Wolper talks about how he
    approached Columbia and Warner brothers about the
    original project. Levar Burton talks about
    how he never wanted to get into TV and film and
    was a drama student at USC when he was approached
    to do Roots. He talks about the awe of
    working with acting royalty. Ed Asner gives
    some very stern insight into the black hole of
    slavery and how it became the economic staple of
    the new world.
    Remembering Roots is a collage of recent
    interviews with the principle actors, actresses
    and Producers/Directors done exclusively for this
    DVD. Ed Asner, Sandy Duncan, Cicely Tyson,
    Levar Burton, Georg Stanford Brown, Beverly Todd,
    John Amos as well as the many writers and
    Directors contribute their thoughts on what Roots
    means to them and this generation. There is also
    a segment where each actor gives their rememberences
    of Alex Haley.
    Finally, a simple Family Tree traces the
    Haley family back to its ancestoral roots.
    Final Thoughts
    Never before nor after had a miniseries made such
    an impact on everyone that was witness to it. This
    was a story that made us laugh, cry, and even rage
    with anger.
    Warner Brothers has done an admirable job of
    bringing this series to DVD. The amount of
    interview material from the surviving actors
    and contributors who participated in this DVD
    presentation shows the monstrous effort that
    the studio went to in order to preserve the
    integrity of this series.
    This is a DVD that belongs in every collection.
    Do not hesitate to purchase it.
    Release Date: January 15, 2001
     
  2. Nigel W

    Nigel W Extra

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    I plan to add this to my collection and have been anxiously awaiting its release.

    I was too young to watch this when it originally aired, but will jump into every aspect of this series once I get it.

    It's good to hear that Warner has done a fine job on this series!
     
  3. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the great review, Ron. It appears there are some very interesting extras as well. Does the packaging appear rather fragile like The Godfather Collection?
    Regardless, I am all over this one. [​IMG]
     
  4. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Ron, is the mini-series presented in its original eight parts, or six?
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I had forgotten that the series ran 8 nights.

    They cut it down to 6 episodes. What this

    does to the continuity or even the "Last On..."

    recap that is done at the start of each episode,

    I don't know.

    The packaging is on the frail side. It's

    basically thin cardboard with plastic hubs to

    house the DVDs.
     
  6. Anthony_H

    Anthony_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Ron;

    Could you please clarify? Did you mean "cut it down" as in excluding any of the original broadcast material? Or simply condensed the original eight parts into six?
     
  7. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    When Roots originally aired, four nights ran two hours and four nights ran one hour. The episodes were condensed for home video, and now dvd. Nothing has been cut, with the exception of the opening and ending credits for some of the hour long episodes (unless ABC simply re-ran the credits.) What I am confused about is this- Warner claims that the mini-series is taken from the original elements. If they went through the trouble to include the original bumpers and introduction, why then are they showing it in 6 parts? Was it originally in six parts, and then the network cut it down, or is the dvd taken from a later-'70's re-broadcast. I really wish the studios could be more specific with their claims when they say that something is "restored and remastered from the original elements." Elements taken from 1978, or later, are not the original elements, but dupes.
     
  8. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    By the way, Episodes 3 and 5 were the ones that were seen in hour-long installments.
     
  9. Glenise

    Glenise Supporting Actor

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    I went to Best Buy to purchase "Roots" today and they were sold out.

    I had to get a rain check.
     
  10. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Let's see. 4 x 2 + 4 x 1 = 12 hours. (How's that for some fast and easy math?) 12 hours of air time with commericals would come to about 9 hours without them. That's 540 minutes. The box says 573 minutes. (Ok, shoot me, my commercial time is off!)

    I'd have to assume that this set includes the whole 9 yards. I hope I'm right.

    Glenn
     
  11. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Glenn, the entire mini-series is included as far as the story..I am not sure about opening and ending credits and previews for the extra two episodes. I'll bet when it originally aired, it was cut up by ABC, with the last hour of each one hour segment run without a preview...and the end credits for the one hour episodes run twice. Who knows. What a wacky way to present a movie.
     
  12. Mikah Cerucco

    Mikah Cerucco Cinematographer

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    Everything is there, though I haven't watched my set yet.
    I agree every collection should contain these DVD's. It is one of the things I've most been looking forward too (more than even Star Wars and BTTF, for instance). I was hoping they'd do the set while the principals were still alive.
    I taped the 25th Anniversary Special broadcast on NBC this past Friday (1/18/2002) as I wasn't sure it was included on the DVD. I made a VCD of it to keep with the package.
    I've never seen this with Closed Captions before, so I'll really enjoy watching it again.
    Ron, thanks for reviewing this. I hadn't seen much about it either here or in alt.video.dvd and it really does deserve some attention. Of course all the ads during the recent 25th anniversary celebration won't hurt. [​IMG]
     
  13. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Ok Scott, maybe that came out wrong. If a 2 hour show airs on TV, there will be about 30 minutes of commercials. Since each side of each disk is a little over an hour and a half, the four one hour episodes would have some of the opening and ending credits removed so that they won't show up in the middle of a disk, (which would look a little silly, IMO). With the 'naturally' occuring spaces for commercials, it wouldn't be any problem to end a disk in the middle of an episode, and continue it after the opening credits on the next DVD. (I'm being as confusing as I possibly can on this - is it working?).

    You did have a question and I think I answered it.

    Glenn
     
  14. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Guys, here is what I feel happened. All of the episodes are complete as far as content is concerned, and each disc ends at the end of an episode with complete credits. The one-hour episodes were part of episodes 3 and 5. The opening credits for the first hour are there, along with previews from the previous episode. On DVD, the episode ends after what would have been two, one-hour episodes, with the credits. Perhaps the credits weren't condensed on dvd, and the original broadcast simply re-ran the same credits for episodes 3& 4 twice. To make matters even more complicated, the recap following what would have been a one hour episode contains scenes from both one hour episodes before it. I think ABC hacked this one into 8 pieces at the last minute. I wish I could verify this as it has bugged me for eight years now.
     
  15. Scott_G

    Scott_G Second Unit

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    I just got mine from outpost.com. $35 shipped.
    My 10 year old is doing a school paper on slavery. This should help him out.
    to my wife ...
    I told you the HT would be educational [​IMG]
     

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