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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Primary
Primary
Docurama // Unrated // October 28, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted November 9, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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P R I N T
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THE MOVIE

We all remember John F. Kennedy and the course he tried to put this country on as President of the United States. But lost somehow in our memories is that of Hubert Humphrey, an equally compelling leader who gave Kennedy a run for his money in the 1960 Democratic Primaries, became Vice President under Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and was just narrowly defeated by Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1968.


As Americans, we have a trend of only remembering the winners. But Humphrey is one of our country's great forgotten men, and Robert Drew's Primary helps shine a little light on his memory, as it covers the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary and one of the showdowns between Humphrey and Kennedy.

Primary is a documentary that was shot in the days when such documentaries were not commonplace. It isn't riveting drama. In fact, it has all the emotion of one of those black and white science films they made you sit through in class back in high school. But what it does offer is some great footage of both Kennedy and Humphrey…footage which I had never seen before.

The packaging for Primary is all about Kennedy, but the film itself gives equal time to both men, and I couldn't help but think that the director (Drew) had a soft spot in his heart for Humphrey over Kennedy. However, Kennedy buffs should also enjoy this title, particularly for the rarely seen footage it offers of both the former President, Jackie and even a short appearance by Bobby Kennedy at one of JFK's speeches.

But even more enjoyable than watching the candidates was the fact that Primary proves to be a time capsule back to 1960. There's some great footage of Wisconsin here (albeit in very rough-looking black and white) and just seeing how proper and polite the average American acted in 1960 proved to be a real contrast to the more fast-paced, self-centered America we live in today. I don't know if living in 1960 was better or worse than living in 2003 – but it sure was different.

THE DVD

Video:
The video is presented in black and while and in full-frame, and is really showing its age. It appears that the best job possible was done to make the picture look as good as it could, but those looking for a pristine transfer should look elsewhere. Perhaps the most annoying bit of the video was the fact that the makers of this disc chose to put a Robert Drew logo in the bottom right corner of the screen. That's something I could have done without!

Audio:
The audio is presented in 2.0 Dolby, but suffers from the film's age, with some noticeable "popping" and an overall scratchy sound to the audio – much like one would hear from old news reel footage.

Extras:
There's a nice number of extras on this DVD for those looking to find out more about this movie, as well as Robert Drew's overall career. First, there's a Feature Length Commentary Track featuring Drew and photographer Richard Leacock. A featurette entitled The Originators: Recalling the Primary Breakthrough is 27-minutes long and features footage from a panel discussion with the filmmakers in 2000 at the Sun Valley Center For The Arts. 30/15: 30 Years of Robert Drew Filmmaking is a 16-minute featurette that showcases footage from some of Robert Drew's movies, including Primary. About The Filmmaker is text that gives a biography of Robert Drew; while About Docurama features text about the company. Finally, there's a Catalog section that shows box covers for all of Docurama's available DVDs and contains Trailers for twelve of them.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Those into politics, history, or those who are just "Kennedy Buffs" will want to add Primary to their collection. It's one of the rare documentaries featuring JFK that doesn't try to idolize or demonize him – but instead just shows the man as he was.
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