No wonder we love Edgar Allan Poe’s works . . . the Gothic gems deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead and mourning.
No surprise we ate PBS Distribution’s American Master: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive. Missed it on TV? It’s now on DVD. Written and directed by Eric Stange, this new documentary draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author.
Starring Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare and narrated by Oscar- and Tony-nominated, two-time Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner, the program explores the misrepresentations of Poe as a drug-addled madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories. This caricature is thanks, in large part, to a high-profile obituary filled with falsehoods, written by his literary rival Rufus W. Griswold. Determined to re-invent American literature, Poe was an influential–and brutally honest–literary critic and magazine editor, who also invented the detective protagonist with his character C. Auguste Dupin, refined the science fiction genre and popularized short stories, actually writing more comedies than horror.
An orphan in search of family, love and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown.
Filmed in Boston Harbor’s historic Fort Independence at Castle Island, this program combines dramatized re-enactments with O’Hare of key moments in Poe’s life, readings from Poe’s works by O’Hare, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon and actor Ben Schnetzer, and interviews with authors including Marilynne Robinson, Matthew Pearl, Jeffrey Meyers and Zach Dundas, director Roger Corman and others who reveal how Poe tapped into what it means to be human in a modern and sometimes frightening world.
File this DVD under: far Out. PBS Distribution has released The Farthest: Voyager in Space, a new program about NASA’s historic Voyager mission to explore our solar system and beyond. With participation from more than 20 of the original and current mission scientists, engineers and team members, the film tells captivating tales of one of humanity’s greatest achievements in exploration. From supermarket aluminum foil added at the last minute to protect the craft from radiation; to the near disasters at launch; to the emergency maneuvers to fix a crucial frozen instrument platform, viewers will get a sense of how difficult—and rewarding—space exploration can be. The documentary was an official selection in the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival as part of the festival’s Viewpoints program. (DVD includes an 18-minute bonus feature titled Second Genesis, featuring Cassini mission scientist Carolyn Porco (who also worked on Voyager), exploring the possibility of finding life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Featuring a soundtrack of evocative period music including songs from Pink Floyd, stunning cinematography, vivid CGI animations of Voyager traversing the solar system, and original groundbreaking photographs taken by the twin spacecraft, the film tells the story of one of humanity’s most ambitious scientific endeavors. Voyager revolutionized planetary science, resolved key questions about the outer planets and raised intriguing new ones about the evolution of our solar system. Originally approved to travel only to Saturn and Jupiter, the spacecraft used gravity-assisted slingshot trajectories to take advantage of a once-in-176-year planetary alignment to extend their missions, with Voyager 2 also visiting Uranus and Neptune.
After completing its mission to Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 turned its camera inward and, at the insistence of the eloquent and insightful astronomer Carl Sagan, took one of the most famous images of Earth ever captured. As described by Sagan in the film, the image showed Earth as a pale blue dot on which “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives . . . on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
The two spacecraft, equipped with a fraction of the computing power of a modern cell phone, sent back unprecedented images and data from all four outer planets and many of their moons. As they continue their journey into interstellar space, they carry with them a literal record of our existence that may outlive us all. Sagan was one of the masterminds behind perhaps Voyager’s most iconic feature, The Golden Record, which carries greetings, music and images from Earth to intelligent beings they may one day encounter. The program reveals how this famous record was created and how it presents humanity to any creatures that may find it.
Four decades after they left Earth, Voyager 1 has traveled more than 12 billion miles and Voyager 2 more than 10 billion. Both nuclear-powered spacecraft continue to send back data. In 2012, Voyager 1, which is traveling at more than 320 million miles per year, became the first human-made object to leave the bubble of our solar system—ushering humanity into the interstellar age.
Teresa Brewer suggested we put another nickel in the Nickelodeon so we could hear “music, music, music!”
Now Robert Redford steps up to the plate (or platter) by narrating American Epic, the essential that explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology captured the breadth of American music and discovered the artists that would shape our world. PBS Distribution has released this journey back in time to the “Big Bang” of modern popular music.
In the ’20s, as radio took over the pop music business, record companies were forced to leave their studios in major cities in search of new styles and markets. Ranging the mountains, prairies, rural villages, and urban ghettos of America, they discovered a wealth of unexpected talent. The recordings they made of all the ethnic groups of America democratized the nation and gave a voice to everyone. Country singers in the Appalachians, Blues guitarists in the Mississippi Delta, Gospel preachers across the south, Cajun fiddlers in Louisiana, Tejano groups from the Texas Mexico border, Native American drummers in Arizona, and Hawaiian musicians were all recorded. For the first time, a woman picking cotton in Mississippi, a coalminer in Virginia or a tobacco farmer in Tennessee could have their thoughts and feelings heard on records played in living rooms across the country. It was the first time America heard itself.
Virtually no documentation of these extraordinary events survives and nearly ninety percent of the recording masters have been destroyed. A vital part of American cultural history has been lost.
Over three episodes, narrated by Redford, American Epic rescues this history. The remarkable lives of these seminal musicians are revealed through previously unseen film footage and photographs, and exclusive interviews with music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses to the era.
American Epic represents a 10-year odyssey undertaken by director Bernard MacMahon and producers Allison McGourty and Duke Erikson, and audio engineer Nicholas Bergh that involved tracking down countless long forgotten musicians, restoring the music that they recorded and reassembling the technology that created it. Along the way they brought some of the most important figures in contemporary culture to help them on their quest. Executive Producers Jack White, T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford have lent their support to what Redford calls “America’s greatest untold story”.
The DVD also includes the feature-length film The American Epic Sessions for which the team has reassembled the very first electrical sound recording system from the ‘20s, and invited Jack White and T Bone Burnett to produce an album of recordings by twenty of today’s greatest artists. In this beautifully filmed musical feature, these artists are given the chance to pass through the portal that brought the world into the modern era.
Engineer Nicholas Bergh has reassembled this recording system from original parts and it is now the only one left in the world. The system consists of a single microphone, a towering six-foot amplifier rack, and a live record-cutting lathe, powered by a weight-driven pulley system of clockwork gears. The musicians have roughly three minutes to record their song direct to disc before the weight hits the floor. In the ’20s, they called this “catching lightning in a bottle.” All the musical performances in this film are live. The audio you hear is taken directly from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements.
City in the Sky, a three-part BBC-PBS co-production now on DVD, goes behind the scenes with rare access to showcase what keeps hundreds of thousands of flights aloft daily. At any given moment, more than one million people are traveling by airplane, in 100,000 daily flights moving 30,000 feet above the Earth. This airborne metropolis and the armies of professionals needed to make it all work are captured. From hidden cities of luggage below ground to the steady hands guiding flights around the globe, the program goes behind the scenes with rare access to uncover the invisible global networks and complex logistics that have allowed air travel to soar to new heights.
From the coldest airport in the world (in Yakutsk, Russia), to one of the busiest (in Atlanta, Georgia), to the most dangerous (in the Himalayan town of Paro, below), the series takes viewers to remote, little known places such as the world’s largest luggage storage facility and the storage tanks in Europe and southeast America that hold and transport millions of gallons of jet fuel through underground pipes.
Though international in scope, the program highlights key American airports and aviation hot spots coast-to-coast, including:
· Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, one of the three busiest in the world and America’s most advanced in passenger and airline traffic flow
· Phoenix’s MedAire, Inc., at Banner University Medical Center, where a team of doctors and emergency specialists is on-call 24/7 to help cabin crews with mid-air medical crises
· Seattle’s Boeing facility, which has developed a radical new material that has led to the biggest change in airplane design since the ’20s
· The Bangor, Maine International Airport, which boasts the size of a major international hub because it serves as the first U.S. point of arrival for troubled airliners crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
The program gives viewers a new appreciation for the paper stub or digital ticket that unlocks a precisely choreographed journey that starts the moment they walk into an airport terminal. Signage, lighting and flooring are designed to keep travelers on a flowing path to their gates. Vast underground machines give baggage the ride of its life from check-in to pick-up. Even non-consumer-facing parts of the industry bring fascination: the world’s largest cargo storage in China, for example, sees one-fifth of all global shipping come through its facility.
A short recap of each episode follows:
Learn what it takes to get a million people off the ground—from building the world’s biggest passenger plane to controlling the flow of passengers through the busiest airport on the planet to the perils of takeoff in the coldest city on Earth.
Examine the hidden army that keeps your plane safe, and explore just what it takes to keep the “city in the sky” functioning and safe between take-off and landing. Learn why flying has become safer than ever.
What goes up must come down—and getting passengers safely back to earth depends on complex global networks and some astonishing technology. Around the world, 100,000 flights a day make touchdown—almost every one safely. Learn what’s involved.
The election results are in from yesterday . . . but we always knew PBS Distribution would continue being a winner by releasing Poldark Season 3 on DVD and Blu-ray. Does George Warleggan finally have the upper hand against his archenemy, Ross Poldark? Can George’s growing power in Cornwall cement his control over the fate of his populist foe? Dream on! Follow the latest thrilling exploits of Ross Poldark and his fiery partner, Demelza, starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson as the intrepid eighteenth-century duo.
The new season costars Jack Farthing as the dastardly George and Heida Reed as his bewitching wife, Elizabeth, now estranged from her first love, Ross—or is she? Also returning are Caroline Blakiston as Ross’s crusty Aunt Agatha, whose passion in life is tormenting George; Beatie Edney as the irascible servant Prudie; Luke Norris as stalwart Dr. Dwight Enys; and Gabriella Wilde as Dwight’s secret fiancée, the fetching heiress Caroline Penvenen.
Last season, TV Guide was captivated by Poldark’s “myriad pleasures, not the least of which is Aidan Turner’s swarthy charisma as the chivalrous and perilously proud crusader of Cornwall . . . Poldark is the sort of great escape you would be foolish to resist.”
Critics have been equally enthralled with Season 3, which recently aired in the UK. London’s The Independent lauded the “action-filled opener,” with its panoply of plot developments that “helped the atmospheric drama gallop out of the starting blocks.”
And gallop it does. Episode one introduces fresh doubts about the paternity of Elizabeth’s impending baby, along with some consequential new characters, including Ellise Chappell as Elizabeth’s pretty cousin Morwenna. Hired as the governess for Elizabeth’s young son (by her previous marriage to Poldark’s cousin Francis), Morwenna is soon a pawn in George’s grand game to win political influence.
Morwenna would prefer to share company with Demelza’s strapping brother Drake, a lay minister played by Harry Richardson, but George intends her to marry the recently widowed Reverend Whitworth, portrayed with unctuous piety by Christian Brassington. Whitworth gives every indication of being a rank libertine, to the horror of the upright and innocent Morwenna. Meanwhile, George manages to abuse every privilege he accrues in his ruthless climb to power.
Also enlivening the new season are a mysterious plague of frogs, a thwarted famine, and Aunt Agatha’s eagerly anticipated one-hundredth birthday party, which has a catastrophic catch. But the most stirring action involves the French Revolution, which manages to ensnare one of the program’s main characters in its Reign of Terror, prompting Poldark’s most dangerous mission yet.
Perhaps even more perilous—at least for his psyche—is Ross’s cooling attitude toward Demelza. Reckless to a fault, he appears to be throwing it all away—a magistracy, a seat in Parliament, his lands, and even his red-haired beauty. What on earth could he be thinking?
It will be one of those questions . . . Where were you on August 21, 2017?
Millions were watching the first total solar eclipse since 1979, and the first to cross the USA since 1918. This extraordinary cosmic spectacle passed through 14 states and everyone in the continental U.S. had the opportunity to see at least a partial eclipse, possibly making it the most widely viewed American eclipse of all time.
Relive the excitement without those special solar glasses with Nova: Eclipse Over America. PBS Distribution makes the DVD available on November 14. The program will also be available for digital download.
Eclipse Over America is an amazing presentation of this spectacular celestial event. The program followed teams working on the forefront of solar science and solar storm detection, incorporating immersive CGI animation to reveal the sun’s secret mechanisms, stunning sequences of the eclipse itself, NASA footage, and more.
A slew of DVDs have been released by PBS Distribution. We may he been a little late in bringing you the news, but trust us: These releases are must-see, must-own treats!
Enjoy a special night of music from the composer of Mary Poppins a other beloved Disney gems. Richard M. Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime features a landmark solo performance by the legendary Disney composer, whom with his brother Robert, composed some of the most beloved songs of all time, including music for Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Don Hahn brings this once-in-a-lifetime concert to the screen, filmed entirely at historic EastWest Studio in Hollywood where Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and the Beach Boys famously recorded their albums. A brilliant cast of performers joins Richard, including the star of Broadway’s Mary Poppins Ashley Brown, as well as Juliana Hansen, Wesley Alfvin, and The Dapper Dans of Disneyland.
Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark is a captivating three-part series that follows renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore as he documents threatened species at zoos, in nature preserves, and in the wild. Throughout the programscientists and naturalists reveal surprising and important information about why ensuring the future of these animals is so critical.
When complete, the Photo Ark will be one of the most comprehensive records of the world’s biodiversity. Through the film, audiences can journey with Sartore across the globe—to Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania—to chronicle his experiences.
Frontline: Life on Parole is a insightful documentary that explores how Connecticut is rethinking its parole program. More than two years in the making, the program is a remarkable, firsthand look at why some people stay out of jail, why some go back, and how one state is trying to break the cycle of recidivism.
About half of all inmates put on parole in the U.S. end up violating the terms of their release and are sent back to prison. Parole is a condition that offers a taste of freedom but comes with strict prohibitions on whom you can live with, where you can go, what time you have to be home, and more. But across the country, states are trying to change the way their parole systems work in an effort to lower recidivism rates and reduce prison populations.
With unique access inside Connecticut’s corrections system, as well as camera-phone footage filmed by the parolees themselves, the film follows four former prisoners as they navigate the challenges of more than a year on parole—from finding work, to staying sober, to parenting—and doing it all while under intense supervision from the state.
It’s one of the best series on TV.The new season has already garnered lavish praise. During the recent UK broadcast, The Telegraph (London) was delighted to find that “Corfu was still sun-drenched, the titular family of lovable eccentrics remained in perpetual chaos and … the tone was, as before, one of warm nostalgia and deep, abiding silliness.” And The Guardian (London) hailed Season 2 as “sweet, and charming, and pretty, and funny…. [It’s] that rather nice thing: Sunday night family drama entertainment.”
Welcome to the release of The Durrells in Corfu Season 2. Inspired by the beloved memoirs of Gerald Durrell, The Durrells in Corfu features Keeley Hawes as Louisa Durrell, the harried widowed mother of a brood of recalcitrant children (this season ages 12 to 22). Louisa moves the floundering family from England to Corfu in the mid 1930s to recharge their lives—hers included.
The new season finds the family in dire financial straits, as usual. They have a new landlady, Vasilia, an island beauty who holds a mysterious grudge against Louisa and insists on prompt payment of the rent. And then . . . think we’re giving it all away? Tune in!
She’s back. And as spirited a teen as ever. On November 7, PBS Distribution will release Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars on DVD. This is the second installment of the classic best-selling Lucy Maud Montgomery story returns after the successful Thanksgiving 2016 premiere, which reached more than 3.2 million viewers.
In this installment, Anne Shirley turns 13 and faces complex situations with friends, learns from inspirational adults, and experiences an escalating friendship with Gilbert. Her free-spirited nature is challenged by her perceived need to be sensible, a journey fraught with confusion and some unfortunate—albeit amusing—(mis)adventures.
The program, written and directed by John Kent Harrison will once again star a trio of good stars: critically-acclaimed Martin Sheen as Matthew Cuthbert, along with the return of Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley and Sara Botsford as Marilla Cuthbert.
Despite what some idiots insist, there is a strong connection between America and Mexico. The proof can be found in Craft in America: Borders & Neighbors. PBS Distribution releases the DVD on November 21; the programs will also be available for digital download.
Craft in America, the Peabody Award-winning documentary series, is an inspirational journey to the artists, objects, techniques, and origins of American craft. Borders & Neighbors delve into the artistic heritage of Mexico and how it has contributed to our country’s creative landscape. These episodes will shine light on personal stories, cross cultural perspectives and historic context and will provide new avenues for community and understanding, stimulating critical thinking about the relationships between the U.S. and Mexico.
Bordersexplores the relationships and influences that Mexican and American craft artists have on each other and our cultures. We begin in Los Angeles with the Day of the Dead celebration, master altar builder Ofelia Esparza and Self Help Graphics & Art, the organization that first brought this event to the U.S. in the ’70s. We travel to Oaxaca, Mexico to experience Día de Muertos and to meet the Vásquez family of weavers who have revived and continue centuries-old methods in their craft, integrating ancestral Zapotec motifs into their work. American artist Jim Bassler, who lived and worked in Oaxaca for many years, takes us to the Oaxaca Textile Museum where we see contemporary and historical weavings made with feathers.
Jim and his wife, potter Veralee Bassler, then lead us back to Los Angeles, to the colorful Oaxacan Guelaguetza festival and parade. We visit with Jim and Veralee at their home studio in Palm Springs, which is filled with Mexican folk art, long connected to the mid-century design aesthetic in America. Back in Oaxaca we meet Chicago artist Kiff Slemmons who works with maestro Francisco Toledo to create innovative and beautiful paper jewelry at the Art Paper Workshop, where artisans are practicing the ancient art of papermaking using local plants. This episode reveals that art is without borders. It is a pathway for creativity and the connections that make us all human.
Neighborstakes viewers to and from the U.S. and Mexico, exploring the people, history, traditions and crafts, noting how aesthetics cross over from one country to another and back again in a living and ongoing cultural exchange. We meet California ceramic artist Gerardo Monterrubio, whose work is inspired by murals as well as contemporary art forms such as graffiti and prison tattoos and drawings. We travel to Oaxaca, Mexico to meet ceramic artist Magdalena Pedro Martínez at work on her series of black clay female figures dressed in traditional indigenous attire. We also watch as her brother, world-renowned artist Carlomagno Pedro Martínez, creates clay figures of Zapotec characters and stories. Los Angeles glass artist Jaime Guerrero, born of parents who emigrated from Mexico, creates life size glass sculptures that represent children at the border. We film him at his studio in L.A. and at the state-of-the-art facilities at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
We return to Mexico where in the ’30s, Taxco became a center for jewelry production through the entrepreneurship of American architect and designer William Spratling. We meet a new generation of jewelry designers, including Carmen Tapia, Miguel Angel Ortiz Miranda, Cristina Romo and Eduardo Herrera, who are carrying on the art of silversmithing in new and modern ways. We explore murals in Los Angeles with Judy Baca and other artists who carry on the traditions of Mexican maestros Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco.
Anytime we hear that Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are creating a new documentary series, we stand. And cheer. Often and loudly.
Let us tell you about The Vietnam War, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD and Blu-ray on September 19,coinciding with its PBS airing. In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The epic program features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.
Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.
“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns says. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way—from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”
“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy. Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides,” Novick adds. “In addition to dozens of Americans who shared their stories, we interviewed many Vietnamese on both the winning and losing sides, and were surprised to learn that the war remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for us. Within this almost incomprehensibly destructive event, we discovered profound, universal human truths, as well as uncanny resonances with recent events.”
The Vietnam War features new, original music written and recorded by Oscar-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The film also features new music arranged and performed by Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. It is the first time Burns and Novick have worked with Reznor and Ross, as well as with Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. Additional music in the film was composed by David Cieri and Doug Wamble, both of whom are longtime collaborators with Florentine Films.
The series also features more than 120 popular songs that define the era, including tracks from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Ben E. King, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Barry McGuire, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, The Temptations, Booker T. and the M.G.s and Pete Seeger.
The film will be accompanied by an outreach and public engagement program, providing opportunities—facilitated by public television stations—for communities to participate in a national conversation about what happened during the Vietnam War, what went wrong and what lessons are to be learned. In addition, there will be a robust interactive website and an educational initiative designed to engage teachers and students through multiple platforms, including PBS LearningMedia.
Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation: #VietnamWarPBS
The Vietnam War rounds out a trilogy of Florentine Films’ exploration of American wars that began with Burns’s landmark series, The Civil War (1990), followed by Burns and Novick’s acclaimed seven-part series about World War II, The War (2007).
Accompanying the series will be a companion book—written by Geoffrey C. Ward, with an introduction by Burns and Novick—that will be published by Knopf, Burns’ longtime publisher, on September 5.
The Blu-ray and DVD sets contain 10 discs; there are more than 100 minutes of extra bonus footage, including a 45-minute preview program, two pieces on contemporary lives of two of the participants and bonus content. The program will also be available for digital download.
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some