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Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan – His Life and Legacy on DVD

By Jim Bray

Just in time to cash in on the death of “the Great Communicator,” CBS news has released this quick look at the man, his life, and his impact on the world.

Okay, maybe that “cash in” crack isn’t fair; this production actually predates Reagan’s death in 2004, and in the grand scheme of things in today’s media environment it’s actually about as fair and accurate a look at Ronald Reagan as you could hope for from CBS or any other member of the partisan media.

It looks at Reagan from the left of center “so-called moderate” point of view that dominates the news media, but – surprisingly - it does it without bashing him. But they do tip their hand when they claim, for example, that Reagan’s evolution from Democrat to Republican was a shift to the right on his part rather than the clear shift to the left of the Democrats that many who aren’t Democrats or members of the lockstep, partisan media would argue was behind his “awakening.” But if they'd even bothered listening to Reagan over the years they'd have noticed that he has been quoted as saying something to the effect that he hadn't left the Democrats but that they had left him.

But what are facts when you have an agenda?

The feature itself is quite short and quite superficial, which to a cynic could be interpreted as a good thing in that it didn’t give them time to indulge in their normal sport of Republican-and/or-conservative-and/or Reagan bashing. Alas, it doesn’t really give them much time to do anything other than rush through various aspects of his life (segments cover such topics as his sense of humor, his ranch, his early life, his and Nancy’s love for each other, etc.) so that what you get is really just a quick introduction to Ronald Reagan.

And as such it works. The result is a decent primer, and to fill out the program’s running time (90 minutes, padded) they’ve included segments from some of his most famous speeches.

This is perhaps the best part, because it gives you Reagan in a nutshell, in his own words and style with no media filter other than the choice of segments and their (apparently minimal) editing.

There are sections of his addresses from his initial inauguration as president in 1981, and his address to Congress after he was shot shortly into his first term. I was in awe of his speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day, which began as a moving tribute to the men who had liberated Europe and which seamlessly morphed into a hymn to freedom and pointed indictment of the Soviet bloc's tyranny in one first rate address.

The man seemed never to raise his voice but, just like “The Reverend Mister Black” of the old Kingston Trio song, with his soft but firm tones he could cut ‘em down like a big old tree.

The excerpt from his “Tear down this wall” speech is a great example of Reagan’s vision, his strength, his communications skills – and his successes. After decades of the Soviets talking nice and then doing exactly whatever they wanted to anyway (a hypocrisy similar to today’s US Democratic and Canadian Liberal parties), he threw down the gauntlet and called them on their rhetoric versus their record.

To paraphrase, he told Mikhail Gorbachev that if the Soviets truly wanted to be taken seriously about the new openness he was claiming to support then he should put his money where his mouth was. Standing in front of the guarded and closed Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin wall, he called on Gorbachev to prove his good intentions: open the gate and tear down the Berlin wall – free the people and let them choose how they wanted to live. It's great stuff, very inspiring and it needed to be said.

You knew where Reagan stood, and it was on the side of freedom, of the goodness of the individual person, and of the potential of free people to wortkcreate a better world.

Sounds very much like George W. Bush, in whom I see quite a bit of Reagan.

Anyway, this DVD is definitely worth seeing, especially for the clips. And if you aren’t satisfied with the edited versions on the video portion, a collection of unedited originals is included in audio form on the disc as well.

The DVD itself is okay. Since it’s TV stuff it’s in the 1.33:1 full frame format, which isn’t compatible with the 16x9 TV screen, so you many want to stretch/zoom the picture to prevent burn in on your TV. Audio is also TV standard, so while there’s nothing really wrong with it it certainly won’t be on your list of the top five discs that showcase your home theater.

But that’s not what this disc is about, of course, and that said the picture and sound quality are fine.

You also get a short feature “The Great Communicator.”

Ronald Reagan, His Life and His Legacy, from Paramount Home Entertainment
87 min. full frame (1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital
Producer and editor: Gordon Rothman


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