King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis – Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Monumental MLK Jr. documentary debuts on Blu-ray
King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis Review

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis. Better known today for producing a line of movie adaptations of theatrical plays during the 1970’s called the American Film Theater, producer Ely Landau had turned in one of most important productions at the start of the decade. Coming just two years after the assassination of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Landau – along with associate producer Richard J. Kaplan and directors Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz – compiled footage of Dr. King’s speeches and the significant events of his activism spanning from 1955 to 1968 and created a filmed record of his life and work from Montgomery, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee. Originally released in theaters as a “one night only” event, Kino – who had previous released the documentary on DVD – has brought this significant documentary to Blu-ray for the first time.

King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1969)
Released: N/A
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 185 min
Director: Sidney Lumet, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Cast: Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara
Writer(s): Mitchell Grayson, Ely A. Landau
Plot: Follows Martin Luther King's life and decades-long civil rights activism.
IMDB rating: 8.2
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 3 Hr. 1 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/20/2024
MSRP: $29.99

The Production: 5/5

Starting with the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-1956 to the garbage workers’ strike in Memphis in 1968, the activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is chronicled through the archival newsreel and television footage of the man who strove to better America through the doctrine of passive resistance. Throughout the film, contrasting footage of rivals like the Black Panthers – who, of course, went against Dr. King’s message of “love thy enemy” – and opponents to desegregation and civil rights like Sheriff Jim Clark of Dallas County, Alabama help to illustrate the impact of Dr. King’s work to not just improve the lives of the underprivileged and those who couldn’t speak up for themselves, but of all Americans as well. Buffeting these images are the celebrity testimonials – directed by Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz – of those who had participated in the march for Civil Rights (through reciting the speeches and poems of Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Ellison, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Hayden, William Bradford and Langston Hughes); they include Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman (reciting Hughes’ poem “War”), Anthony Quinn, Clarence Williams III and Joanne Woodward (reciting Hughes’ poem “Birmingham Sunday”). Among the highlights of the documentary include the famed “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington (shown in its near entirety), the marches from Selma to Montgomery, the shocking confrontation of peaceful protesters, counter-protesters and police in Chicago’s Marquette Park and the recitation of the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. A documentary film possessing enormous power, King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis stands as a testament to the man dedicated to fighting to make sure that America lived up to its fullest potential and to the vast challenges that he faced in trying to achieve his dream for America and the resulting legacy he left behind.

Look carefully in the archive footage and you’ll spot Marlon Brando, Anthony Perkins, Sammy Davis Jr., James Garner, Elaine May and Mike Nichols, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, Mahalia Jackson, Peter Paul & Mary, James Baldwin, Robert F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Sidney Poitier, just to name a few of the many celebrities and dignitaries who crossed paths with Dr. King.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The original 3-hour version of the movie is presented in its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio for this Blu-ray release. Fine details and gray scale are faithfully presented while film grain is presented faithfully as well with varying degrees of scratches, tear and dirt present on the archival footage used in contrast to the celebrity segments; however, given the commitment to show the archival footage as it was originally shown – unvarnished and unretouched – the contrast can be forgiven. This release is by far the best the movie will ever look on home video.

Audio: 4.5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and the source music are all presented faithfully with minor cases of scratches, tears and dirt present on the track. Overall, this film is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 1.5/5

Theatrical Trailer #1 (1:36) – Teaser featuring Harry Belafonte.

Theatrical Trailer #2 (1:06)

Both of the film’s trailers come from the collection of Josh Gibson.

Overall: 4/5

More than just a powerful documentary, King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis is a tribute to one of America’s greatest figures of the 20th Century and the enduring legacy he left behind. Kino has done a tremendous job in bringing this movie to Blu-ray with a solid HD transfer of the movie. Extremely recommended for its historical value and absolutely worth upgrading from the previous Kino DVD.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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