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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Pennsylvania Miners' Story
The Pennsylvania Miners' Story
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // June 24, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted July 8, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: Nothing grabs at the attention of the media, and our hearts, so much as hearing about people suffering from a tragedy. Whether it be on such a grand scale as an airplane crash, or simply the convenience store clerk shot by a thug seeking his next fix, such events concern every feeling person on some level or another. Last year, a television movie was made about one such tragedy, The Pennsylvania Miners' Story. The movie detailed the events surrounding a group of nine coal miners who were trapped deep inside a collapsed mine in Pennsylvania will little hope of survival. For over three days, the media blitz surrounding this event was more comprehensive than just about anything else since then. The movie shows the events from the viewpoint of the miners themselves and their families who take every bit of information released in the worst possible light. Such is the human element to any significant life threatening situation.

Okay, when you think of TV movie (this was originally shown on ABC), the first thing you think of is either "opportunist money grubbing TV executives" or "waste of time", right? Well, in this case, both would sum it up nicely. The acting was about as moving as a high school play (with someone else's kid in the lead) and the script was full of all the usual clich├ęs that are formulated to make it a tearjerker. At no point did the movie take the time to provide any depth of character to any of the nine miners, the family members, or any of the others here. Such is to be expected of television movies (although I've been surprised once or twice in the past).

Before I go much further, I figured I'd mention that I've met with a number of miners in my life (I used to travel a lot). Some mined coal and others mined various other raw materials used to give us our modern day lives all those cool conveniences. When asked why they do the work they do, almost to a one they told me that that was all they knew. Literally, their dads were miners and perhaps their grand dads were too but that was the type of job open to them and in order to raise their families, they did what was needed. No movie could convey the nasty smelling air they breathe down in those coal shafts, the way their food tastes, or even the way they don't notice it (their sense of smell and taste must die early). My hat is off to all of them for their sacrifices to make a life for their families as I'd never make it in such a tough line of work. They don't like outsiders much but if you need help-they're some of the most community oriented people I've ever met. It's just a shame that the movie was so broad in scope that it had to overlook most of the detail that would've humanized this one.

The movie itself was one that I'd suggest you Skip It unless you like paying for movies you wouldn't really want to watch on TV for free. It had nothing new to offer as a dvd or on the genre itself. Maybe television companies should leave the sensationalized human dramas alone for a couple of decades in order to let the genre air out a bit. There are better accounts of such tragedies, usually in written form, to check out if you're interested in the real deal.

Picture: The picture was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame it was shot in. The colors were okay but nothing special and the dvd showed a number of compression artifacts.

Sound: The audio was presented in stereo Dolby Digital English with optional Spanish or French subtitles. Again, pretty basic sound with little separation between the channels.

Extras: None

Final Thoughts: Companies sure have some nerve packing up tired old television movies and selling them at premium prices. If you want a suspense filled drama, a detailed look into the miseries of coal mining, or just a better movie in general, look almost anywhere else.

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