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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Sixties
The Decade That Changed the World


Narrated by: Tom Hanks
Distributor: FremantleMedia International
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: E
Release Date: 17 November 2014

The sixties were a tumultuous time. The austerity which was left in the wake of World War Two was finally over and as money flooded into people’s pockets, freedom was the idea which drove most individuals onwards - whether it was freedom to create or destroy. The social order which had existed pre-war was gone for good and women, youth and American Negroes were agitating for more change and more social inclusion. In the midst of this young people were finally finding their own voice and creating their own counter culture...

The Sixties (2014) is a ten part documentary which looks at various aspects of the decade. Obviously, with so much change happening the documentary has had to restrict itself to what it feels is the more salient changes, from an American perspective. This is both a strength and weakness of the series, in that it has allowed them access to hundreds of hours of recorded film, but you do get the feeling that the rest of the world barely existed, except, like the Beatles, when it had an impact on America.

The show is spread across three DVDs. Disc one contains The World on the Brink, which looks at the Cuban Missile crisis, so far the closest the world has come to all out thermonuclear war, where the posturing of the leaders of America and the USSR over the choices of an independent country led the two to confrontation. Odd that more than fifty years later not that much has changed. The program also takes in the beginnings of America being dragged into the war in Vietnam.

The Assassination of Kennedy looks at the single most important act which turned America from a land dreaming of Camelot and a new world to one embroiled in a war they couldn’t win and unrest on their own street as the government essentially engaged in civil strife with its own population.

The War in Vietnam details America’s disastrous involvement in the Vietnamese war where America discovered that it is very difficult to beat an enemy who will not play by your rules and refuse to be bombed into submission. Even in World War Two, bomber Harris realised that wars are only won by ground troops, unfortunately Johnson send hundreds of thousands of American boys into a country they were unprepared for.

The British Invasion takes a lighter look at how in the sixties British bands slashed themselves across the American music scene, including some good footage of The Beatles, the Kinks and the Animals. The episode does try and balance things with a look at the Beach Boys who were working on the seminal Pet Sounds.

Disc two starts with The Times they are A-Changin', which looks at the birth of civil rights as well as feminism and the movement to full equality for women. Some burned their bras whereas others, like Gloria Stienham, were able to show that women could be both free and feminine. The show looks at the wider feeling of social unease and the growth of conservatism in the States as well as the desire for both homosexuals and Negroes for greater acceptance.

The Space Race and we are in the race for the moon. Anyone who lived through these years will tell you that they were dominated by two things; the fear that you would die at any time in a nuclear war and the fantastic thought that man would finally break the bonds of our planet and voyage out into the unknown. This episode details the best that man was capable of and the difficulty and tragedy which accompanied this achievement.

Television Come of Age looks at the growth of television in the home. Along with the entertainment it brought, it was the first time that an audience could view foreign war in which their sons were fighting. It challenged the power of the film studios and changed our viewing habits for evermore. It started showing you the world and in the area of politic started to become a powerful tool for both good and evil.

Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll and we're in to a fight against the age of conformity, Kerouac, the summer of love, the growth of LSD and a naive belief that major change can only be for the good, then Charles Manson and the killing of a fan at a Stones concert by the Hells Angels came around and showed the darker underbelly of the movement.

Disc three only has three episodes which commence with A Monumental Year: 1968 a year in which the brutal killing of civilians by American troops saw support for the war disappearing. It was a time when the new generation broke away from their parents, demanding more freedom. Dr King is killed, a tragedy which still has an effect on America today. It is a time when America came closest to open revolt against the government.

A Long March to Freedom looks at the growth of the non-violent demand by the Negroes of America for freedom and equality. This was met with violence and brutality by the civil authorities.

If you accept that this documentary series is told from a specific point of view, that is the changes happening in America, it’s a well-constructed and informative program.


Charles Packer

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