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Prohibition [DVD]

4.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Peter Coyote, Patricia Clarkson, Blythe Danner, Paul Giamatti, Tom Hanks
  • Directors: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
  • Format: PAL, Widescreen, Surround Sound, Subtitled, Closed-captioned
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: PBS Distribution
  • DVD Release Date: 29 Oct. 2012
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006K4OY0C
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,499 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

PROHIBITION, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the story of the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The film starts with the early history of alcohol in America and examines the 19th-century temperance and progressive movements through the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. This 6-hour, three part documentary also includes over 2 hours of bonus content.

About the Director

Ken Burns has been making films for more than thirty years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. A December 2002 poll conducted by Real Screen Magazine listed The Civil War as second only to Robert Flaherty s Nanook of the North as the most influential documentary of all time, and named Ken Burns and Robert Flaherty as the most influential documentary makers of all time. In March, 2009, David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said, ... Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period. That includes feature filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I say that because Burns not only turned millions of persons onto history with his films, he showed us a new way of looking at our collective past and ourselves. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source. Ken s films have won twelve Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations, and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I read Okrent's book, `Last Call' (on which this documentary is based) last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I enjoyed this documentary quite as well.

There are three dvds in here, for a total of more than 6 hours of footage. The first dvd covers the birth of the idea of prohibiting alcohol from Americans' lives, back in the 1800s: how people lived, what they drank and how much, how this affected everyday life, how the first prohibition movements worked. The second discusses the life of the 18th Amendment: how it was lobbied by the anti-saloon league, the way distrust towards immigrants played a big part in it, how this changed the life of people, especially youth. The last dvd addresses the way gangsters profited from the law, how this took away the trust of people for the law and order and especially for Prohibition, how when the Great Depression kicked in the 18th Amendment was finally repealed.

There is a huge amount of images from the time discussed. Mainly photographs in the first dvd, but a huge amount of it. So many videos in the other two, coming from Twenties films, but also non-fiction footage and even some personal photos and video. I love this.
Beside interview with experts - including Okrent - there are a number of interviews with people who were young during Prohibition. Oral history is incredible. People who remember often have a very different view, their tales have a different mood from the commentary from experts. And the one always enriches the other.

There is a thing where the documentary goes in a different direction than the book. Where the book focuses on everyday life and the way Prohibition affected it, the documentary focuses more on personalities.
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Prohibition

From Ken Burns, one of the masters of the documentary, come this compelling three parter. We tend to forget how long that ban on liquor in the USA went on. It was shown over here on the PBS America Channel in December 2012. There are over 6 hours of footage in 3 discs, showing how the temperance movement in white Protestant mainly small town America had had enough of the nation's menfolk throwing away their lives and wrecking their family life through the demon drink. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution barring manufacture, sale and distribution of intoxicating beverages was put into place at the end of 1919, and with it came a host of unintended consequences. As well as joblosses across the amusement, entertainment and restaurant sector, the tax revenue to city halls from legitimate sales immediately dried up and before long small time crooks became big time ones. Nobody that wanted a drink had to go without one. 32,000 speakeasies (where almost for the first time men and women drank together) materialised in the basements of New York and Brooklyn and by 1926 the US was the world's biggest importer of cocktail shakers. Californian grapegrowers started canning (or packaging as "winebricks" grape pulp with the warning that if left in the warm it could start to ferment! US breweries like Anheuser Busch started producing "malt extract". Canadian brewers and distillers did pretty well. Drugstores enjoyed booming liquor sales for "medicinal purposes". The number of registered pharmacists in New York State tripled during Prohibition! The king of the illicit distribution networks in Chicago was that folk hero Al Capone. A law that was meant to foster temperance instead encouraged intemperance and excess.
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Superbly researched, beautiful use of historic photographs and newsreel footage, effective use of narration and voiceover combined with carefully chosen music of the period. What can I say? Another GREAT documentary from Ken Burns.
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Any Ken Burns documentary is going to be smart, well made and educational. This one is also fun (in the plus column), but lacks the emotion, ambition and power of his very best work, like "The Civil War" or "The Central Park Five".

Made with a ton of great movie footage and stills, and lots of tid-bits about the history of drinking in America -- it's out of control pervasiveness among men, especially working class men, that led to the push for prohibition that puts the now ridiculous seeming constitutional amendment in a somewhat more understandable light. That in turn explains the odd confluence of its backers, from religious conservatives, to well meaning social progressives looking to save the poor from themselves, to blue-blood WASPS who hated working class immigrants who drank more openly, to women fighting for the right to vote, and who saw how often alcohol contributed to domestic violence.

The film also does a great job in showing how a law that tens of millions of citizens will simply ignore is much worse than no law at all, as it sows the seeds of disregard and contempt for the law, as well creating a fertile ground for criminals to give people what they want in a black market. Much the same arguments are going on in the US right now about other "vice" laws, from marijuana, to prostitution, to proposed laws on fatty and sugary foods.

One of the central questions of any democracy is how much and where does the government have a right to intrude into people's lives for the greater good. It's an important and complicated question, and one the series does a good job of raising.

But at over 5 hours it starts to run a little thin, and the points and stories start to get a bit repetitive. I'm glad I saw it, and enjoyed myself quite a bit, but unlike many documentaries by Burns (and his equally talented brother Ric), I don't think I'll feel a need to re-watch it anytime soon.
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