The Weather Underground (2002)

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Released 23-Nov-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Audio-Only Track-Original Weathermen Audio Communiques (2)
Short Film-David Gilbert: A Life time Of Struggle
Featurette-Excerpt From Emile De Antonio Film 'Underground'
Notes-Filmmaker Statement
Trailer-Control Room, Bondi Tsunami, The Corporation
Trailer-Tibet-Cry Of The Snow Lion, The Blues Film Collection
Trailer-Life + Debt,
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 92:36
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sam Green
Bill Siegel
Madman Entertainment
Starring Billy Ayers
Kathleen Cleaver
Bernadine Dohrn
Brian Flanagan
David Gilbert
Todd Gitlin
Fred Hampton
Abbie Hoffman
Naomi Jaffe
Martin Luther King
Jim Lange
Timothy Leary
Charles Manson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 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

  "Within the next fourteen days, we will attack a symbol or institution of American injustice".
Weather Underground member, Bernardine Dohrn. 21st May 1970.

   This Academy Award nominated film documents the enthralling account of The Weather Underground and their extreme efforts to achieve revolutionary change in America during the early seventies. Directors Sam Green and Bill Siegel have combined some truly amazing archival footage and photos with current interviews to produce this confronting and thought-provoking film.

   The turbulent sixties and seventies saw an abundance of anti-establishment organizations emerge worldwide. In the US, with the war in Vietnam in full progress, many groups preached and plotted revolution, but all approached the issues from a non-violent perspective. One of these groups, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was active in their pacifist protests against the war in Vietnam and also racial violence. An internal power struggle saw the group split and a more radical and ominous group emerge. They called themselves The Weathermen, a name derived from the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song Subterranean Homesick Blues. The lyric reads; "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows".

   This organisation declared a state of war against the US government, on the principal issues of the Vietnam war and the racial abuse of black Americans by those in authority. This action and their methods would place the group high on the FBI's most wanted list.

   An early campaign of The Weathermen involved the rallying of students to cause mass chaos in the streets of Chicago. The operation was called The Days of Rage and was heavily promoted. The hope that many thousands would support the protest was dashed when only a few hundred students arrived at the assembly point. Not willing to accept this lack of numbers as defeat, the assembled group embarked on the systematic destruction of shop windows and cars in the business district. This operation became the foundation for the more lethal method of civil unrest planned by The Weathermen, methodical bombings of American buildings relevant to their cause.

   While experimenting with the making of one of these devices, a short circuit caused an explosion that killed three members and destroyed the Greenwich Village townhouse they were operating from. This inadvertently forced the organisation to go underground, as the FBI now had hard evidence of their planned terrorist activities. They now became known as The Weather Underground.

   The group vowed that all bombings must be planned with meticulous detail, so that no casualties occurred. In the twenty five deliberate bombings perpetrated by the group, no lives were lost.

   The Weather Underground dissolved at the end of the war in Vietnam, but members continued to stay in hiding, evading authorities for many years.

   This documentary is comprehensive in telling the fascinating tale of this group of activists, totally committed to their cause. It tells the story without canonizing the group and lets the audience come to its own moral conclusions. Many of The Weather Underground members are retrospectively interviewed in the film and provide superb insights into their objectives at the time. They all seem to harbour certain regrets relating to aspects of their revolutionary years and it is very interesting to see them in today's society.

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Transfer Quality


   The video transfer for The Weather Underground is very good, considering the many sources of footage used.

   The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. I believe it is presented as a full frame transfer.

   The transfer exhibits varying degrees of sharpness due to the many different sources of footage used in the documentary. Although some scenes offered images which tended to be somewhat soft, none were problematic and they obviously reflected the sharpness inherent in the source material. Blacks were generally clean and displayed no low level noise. Shadows held good detail, although both of these factors differed depending on the source footage.

   Colours, especially those in recent interview footage, appeared clean and very natural. There were no obvious issues relating to colour, and even older colour footage appeared to be well rendered.

   There were no MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts were well controlled. Grain was noticeable at times, even in new footage, but this was not overly troublesome. As you would expect, film artefacts are frequent in much of the archival footage, but was not a significant issue.

   Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on this DVD.

   This is a single sided, dual layered disc, with the layer change occurring at 59:48. It is easily noticed, but not really disruptive to the flow of the documentary.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


   The audio transfer is of very good quality.

   There is one audio track available on this disc, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

   The dialogue quality was clear and easily understood throughout the film and audio sync was spot on.

   The original music by David Cerf and Amy Dominques is rather incidental and keeps a low profile throughout the film. There is a persistent deep tone that plays in the background for a time which appears to have been used for effect. It does, however, become a bit of a nuisance after a few minutes.

   The surrounds carried dialogue and music, without any distinct separation. The audio track is suitably front based, with narration and interviews being the predominant content.

   The subwoofer was reasonably active, adding effects to music and some bass elements. An example of this can be found at 5:22 , adding some rumble to explosions in the jungle.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


   The selection of extras is relevant and worthwhile.

   The main menu is static and has a very basic theme, based around the film. It features looped music and is 16x9 enhanced.

Original Weathermen Communiqués

   The Weathermen would release taped communiqués to the media before a major hit, explaining their motives. These are two original communiqués, hence the audio quality is not great. They play against a static background.

Featurette: Short Film: David Gilbert: A Lifetime of Struggle (28:27)

   David Gilbert is a former member of The Weather Underground. He is serving life in prison for his involvement in a botched armed hold-up on an armoured van. At the time David was supporting The Black Liberation Movement, which needed funds to continue its operations. Security guards and police were killed in this robbery.

   This interview was recorded in July 1998 in Great Meadows Prison in New York. David discusses his days in the organisation and many of their actions, through to the incident that brought about his life sentence. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Featurette: Excerpt from the Emile De Antonio film , Underground (4:22)

   Made in 1976 when members of The Weathermen were forced into hiding, after joining the FBI's most wanted list. This short clip from an interview conducted in an unknown location marked the beginning of a long campaign for the organisation, all the while being hunted by authorities. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Filmmaker Statement

   Six pages of text outlining the objectives of the film, as well as information relating to the making of the film.

Theatrical Trailer - The Weather Underground (2:17)

Other Madman Trailers

R4 vs R1

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

   The R1 version of The Weather Underground has a number of major differences to the R4 version.

   The R4 version misses out on:

   The R1 version misses out on:

   The audio commentaries are both excellent by all reports, so the nod would have to go to Region 1.


   The Weather Underground is a confronting but fascinating look at a radical group of revolutionaries of the seventies. The collage of stock footage and current interviews comprehensively tells their story without glorifying them or their organisation. Highly recommended.

   The video and audio transfers are both excellent.

   The selection of extras is relevant and worth viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, June 20, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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Comments (Add)
1.29:1 16:9 Enhanced - REPLY POSTED