Untold History of the United States (Oliver Stone's) (2012)

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Released 26-Jun-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 580:14
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Oliver Stone
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Adam Peters
Craig Armstrong
Alex Marquez


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.70:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The Untold History of the United States is a 10-part Showtime series and a 750-page companion book which begins with World War I and ends with the first Obama administration. The book was written by Oliver Stone and American University historian Peter J. Kuznick, and released in October 2012. The television documentary series was co-scripted by Stone, Kuznick and British screenwriter Matt Graham.

     Stone met Kuznick in 1996 when the Professor was teaching a course at the American University aptly named, 'Oliver Stone's America', The course looked at history through Stone's films such as JFK and Platoon. What began as a two-year project became an epic, all-consuming four-year labour of love. Stone put $US1 million of his own money into it. The initial $US3 million budget grew to $US5 million, almost forcing the foreign distributor to pull out. It was decided early on to present the history of United States Government foreign and security policy from World War II onwards, otherwise it was felt another 10 hours would have been needed to cover the content.

     This is a unique documentary series in that there are no interview subjects, no computer-generated graphics and historical quotes are read by actors, to differentiate the audience from Stone's narration, which dominates every episode. Each episode contains archival material of stock film, photographs, video and audio recordings, maps and diagrams and clips from fictional movies.

     The reaction to the series has been mixed. Some historians have stated that the entire series is communist propaganda and is influenced by communist author Carl Marzani's Soviet-published, We Can Be Friends. At the same time, it has been suggested that Stone is too anti-American and too pro-Russian. Nevertheless, others have claimed that the series is provocative, riveting and 'weirdly' engrossing.

     The perception amongst other media outlets of the anti-American stance propagated by this documentary has meant that it has received little support in the United States. Despite Stone stating that it is not anti-American, The Untold History of the United States has received little support in America. It has received a DVD release in the United Kingdom and Australia though, in July 2013. The ten-part series is divided into the following episodes below (each episode is approximately 58 minutes in length):

     Chapter 1: World War II (58:22)

    Chapter 2: Roosevelt, Truman & Wallace (58:03)

    Chapter 3: The Bomb (58:03)

    Chapter 4: The Cold War: 1945–1950 (58:02)

     Chapter 5: The 50s Eisenhower, the Bomb & the Third World. (57:58)

     Chapter 6: JFK: To the Brink (57:46)

     Chapter 7: Johnson, Nixon & Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune (57:55)

     Chapter 8: Reagan, Gorbachev & Third World: Revival of Fortune (57:31)

     Chapter 9: Bush & Clinton: Squandered Peace - New World Order (58:00)

    Chapter 10: Bush & Obama: Age of Terror (58:34)

     Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States DVD is not easy, feel-good viewing, but I would agree that it is engrossing, providing many counter-arguments to what we have been commonly taught in our schools and universities in regards to 20th century history.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     As this is a documentary, there is extensive use of archived and recreated footage and 3D camera mapping (i.e. transforming 2D images into 3D). The video transfer should not be compared to a large-budget Hollywood-produced film!

     The aspect ratio is 1:78:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. However, I must state that many images and archived video footage has been cropped slightly on the left and right-hand sides of the images, varying at times from 1:70:1 to 1:73:1.

     Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States is presented on 4 discs. The first three contain three episodes each. Each disc is approximately 7 gb in size. Episodes one to nine have an average bitrate of 5.45 m/b per sec. The last episode is presented on a 2.79 DVD-5 disc with an average bitrate of 6.36 m/b per sec.

     Archived footage is in black-and-white and colour, whereas recreated scenes contain colour films from the related time period, so contrast varies.

     Due to the archived footage included, film artefacts are abundant, both negative (white) and positive (black). There is also macro-blocking and low level noise present with footage that is low in contrast and from analogue sources due to age.

     The RSDL change varies in the second episode on each of the first three discs, but is not noticeable. The last episode is presented on a single-layered DVD-5 disc.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Audio

     Oliver Stone's narration drives the theme of each episode, which is dialogue-heavy in nature.

     The main audio track is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 224 kbps.

     Oliver Stone's narration is clear and the audio is synchronised.

     Adam Peters and Craig Armstrong use an orchestral score that is patriotic, in line with the themes of the series. It is mainly used in the background, with Stone's narration in the foreground in each episode.

     As this a stereo soundtrack, made for television, surround channel usage is limited and there are no subwoofer effects utilised.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Unfortunately, there are no extras included!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 2 United Kingdom DVD release of this ten-part series is identical to the Region 4 Australian release.

Summary

     Oliver Stone has called this series 'a story of a country that lost all its innocence after the Second World War and became obsessed by national security'. The last episode commentary on the global financial crisis (with banks bailed out by the American taxpayers), the condemnation of Presidents Bush and Obama as war criminals and Julian Assange and Bradley Manning as unjustly persecuted for speaking out, for me, aptly sums up Stone's and Kuznick's views.

     Despite its alternative rhetoric, The Untold History of the United States certainly deserves to be viewed and heard, if only to provide a different perspective to America's 'War on Terror' defence for its security policies.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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