Overall, one of the lighter episodes this, in the 13-part survey of 20th Century phenomena and endeavours, narrated by Sir David Frost. Many of the "feats" depicted here are more dignity-defying than death-defying, involving chaps walking across hot coals, people launching themselves into shallow water from bizarre, home-made contraptions and a Frenchman who spectacularly scaled a 36-storey Philadelphia skyscraper unaided by machinery, only to be arrested at the top.
Once again, Sir David Frost's narrative is especially valuable for those who need absolutely everything explained to them: "The stuntman is an important man on a great many film sets", he intones, "but when things go wrong it can be deadly serious". The most spectacular footage here is that of a British man who ascended to 10,000 feet above the clouds using 450 helium balloons; the most quietly satisfying is that of Richard Branson's balloon landing in the drink with an ignominious plop; and the most luridly, shamefully compelling are the live shots of a plane crash at a 1997 German air show, which killed 10 people. Slapdash captions hardly enhance this production, including one informing us that the Victoria Falls are in Kenya. --David Stubbs
Witness Events Of The 20th Century DVD Documentary NEW