It's an event that, in hindsight, was an apt harbinger of things to come. On June 22, 1938, American heavyweight Joe Louis met German pugilist Max Schmeling in New York City's Yankee Stadium for a rematch – or as one newspaper described it, "one hundred and twenty four seconds of murder." It wouldn't be the last time in the next few years that America and Germany would lay into one another, each attempting to completely savage the other.
Written, produced and directed by Barak Goodman (Scottsboro: An American Tragedy) and narrated by Courtney B. Vance, this 90-minute installment of the PBS series "American Experience" titled The Fight examines this monumental sporting event that served as a prelude to both World War II and in later years, the civil rights movement.
Hotly anticipated and far-reaching in its impact on both sides of the Atlantic, Goodman deftly sets up both men as opposites that nevertheless share some similarities. Louis, the quiet, stoic African American boxer, described by more than one interview subject as having "that something special" and Schmeling, the strapping German and friend of burgeoning sociopath Adolf Hitler.
A handful of sports figures, historians and writers flesh out the events surrounding the famous bout, up to and through Louis's lightning-quick victory – as well as its eventual impact upon black America. Generous amounts of vintage footage, including a touching clip from Louis's appearance on "This Is Your Life," help give some added depth to this incredible story.
The Fight is presented in a crisp, clear 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Much of the archival footage is understandably shabby, but the modern day interviews are vibrant and free of defect. A very nice looking picture (excluding, of course, those vintage newsreels).
Dolby 2.0 stereo is the only audio option available and it's perfectly serviceable. The more aged footage sounds clear and as befits recently created material, the modern day interviews are appropriately warm and smooth.
No extras are included on the disc – a filmmaker's commentary might've been nice for contextualizing the event and the making of the film or maybe even some deleted interviews, but there's nothing to be had here.
A handsomely mounted documentary detailing perhaps one of the lesser known triumphs in the sports world, this "American Experience" look at what could be described as Joe Louis's greatest Fight is recommended for documentary or history buffs as well as sports fans.