The Harley Davidson brand has been around for over 100 years, and despite financial hardships at one time, has come back strong. Robert Kline's documentary, "Harley Davidson: The Spirit of America" tries to explore some of the history of the company, as well as some of the real biker groups out there today.
We start off learning about the "Ice Cream Men From Hell", a travelling group of bikers who meet up with new friends along their route, including (uh, oh - here comes real trouble!) actor Gary Busey. In another segment, we hear from famed photographer Michael Lichter, and his experiences shooting motorcycle images. Later in the segment, a large group of Harley riders hit an art gallery to check out and chat about Lichter's work. Another big segment of the documentary is devoted to women of all ages who have moved on from riding on the back of the seat on to their own Harley, and the brand has responded by making bikes optimized for women. Finally, towards the end of the piece, we hear more about the Hell's Angels and the charity work they do. There's also more about some of the famed yearly rides.
The documentary also features some early looks (via old photos) of the early days of Harley Davidson, which was started off in a basement in Milwaukee, WI. Although the documentary's frequent promotion/heavy praise of the Harley brand (I'm sure it is, but that doesn't make it interesting to hear about repetitively and I'm sure that the majority of those watching this program are already Harley fans) starts to get a little much, the documentary thankfully does at least provide some looks at why the Harley brand is so popular in terms of the technical aspects of the bikes as well as the community that has rallied around the brand, and what the brand means to them.
Aside from some segments spending too much time offering general praise for Harley, the other issue with this feature is that the structure is very fractured, with the whole thing made up of different segments that don't always smoothly flow from one to another. Still, this is a mostly enjoyable piece that provided a good basic introduction to biker culture.
VIDEO: Image Entertainment presents "Harley Davidson: Spirit of America" in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Image quality is fine, with satisfactory - if somewhat inconsistent - sharpness and detail. Some minor shimmering was the only real fault noticed, as no pixelation, edge enhancement or wear was spotted. Colors remained pretty natural-looking and pleasant throughout, with no smearing or other concerns spotted.
SOUND: The stereo presentation capably handles dialogue and music, both of which sound clear and clean, but understandably for this sort of low-budget production, don't have much range.
EXTRAS: Nothing. The main menu is about as basic as it can get, as well.
Final Thoughts: "Harley Davidson: Spirit of America" is a little praise-heavy, especially early on. Despite that, and some awkward transitions, I did get a fairly good, albeit rather basic, overview of the biker community. The DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality, but no extras. Recommended for biker fans.