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American Experience - Influenza 1918 (2005)

David McCullough , David Ogden Stiers  |  NR |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: David McCullough, David Ogden Stiers, Michael Murphy, Joe Morton, Linda Hunt
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: June 6, 2006
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000EOTEM2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,857 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American Experience - Influenza 1918" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

As the nation mobilized for war in the spring of 1918, ailing Private Albert Gitchell reported to an army hospital in Kansas. He was diagnosed with the flu, a disease about which doctors knew little. Before the year was out, America would be ravaged by a flu epidemic that killed 675,000 people--more than died in all the wars of this century combined--before disappearing as mysteriously as it began.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Started my interest in pandemic influenza July 5, 2006
When this film was originally broadcast on PBS in 1998, I had not heard of the 1918 Spanish Influenza. I was shocked that I had never heard of the 1918 pandemic, given the impact it had on the 20th century. I've now read every book I coould find that chronicles the outbreak. Some of the historical facts in the film may be disputed in other histories, but it's a solid documentary and I highly recommend it. It is a rivoting film.

Update: Thinking about the impact this had on me, I'm not sure why I docked it a now adjusted accordingly.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite PBS Documentary February 13, 2008
By wen313
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This was my favorite American Experience documentary. I saw it years ago and never forgot it, so I bought it recently from Amazon to see if it still had the same effect on me. It did. A haunting and poignantportrait of our innocence in that era. The filmmakers paid great attention to detail and successfully captured the mood.This is such an engrossing film I had to give it five stars.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing October 4, 2001
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
After much research on the influenza outbreak of 1918, I was looking forward to a nicely done synopsis (which is what the American experience usually does). This wasn't it. The video states as fact items that are not fact and ends the program in October, after the first wave of the flu, when a second wave came in late Nov/ early December. The personal narratives were wonderful, but I would reccomend viewing this video only AFTER gaining a broad knowledge of the epidemic, otherwise, it is doing a great disservice.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Imformative. My students were enthralled. December 31, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I am afraid that I must disagree with the other reviewers. Comparing a video to a book is unfair. An hour video can not be expected cover the length and breadth of such a topic as well as a four hundred page book.

The movie does an excellent job of introducing the uninformed to the terrible experiences of families struck by the flu in 1918. It puts the virus in historical context and shares sad but fascinating interviews with those that lived through it. My students learned a great deal about this virus and the link between history and infectious disease. Viewing this video lead to many interesting discussions. My only complaint is that the editors, obviously pressed to fit everything in, left out the link between this virus and literature. One of the main characters in this video is Katherine Anne Porter. They share her experience with the virus and how she recovers only to find that the soldier boyfriend that helped her through it , has died of the flu. Very touching but they never mention that she went on to become one of the finest American short story writers. Porter won the Pulitzer prize for literature in 1966 for her collected works. One of her stories, titled Pale Horse, Pale Rider, tells a fictional but semi-autobiographical tale of characters in 1918 and their experience with the flu. The video quotes from this story but does not mention that Porter shared her experiences in this fine short story. My students enjoyed the show, learned a great deal and it lead to excellent discussions.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting, Although . . . January 6, 2002
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
I saw this documentary when it came out on PBS several years ago. The individual accounts of the virus and its rapid spread were quite unsettling. I got a good sense of the public's panic as friends and relatives started dying. However, if you want a thorough account of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, I would suggest reading Gina Kolata's "Flu" and "The Forgotten Pandemic" (can't remember the author--sorry). There are other books out there as well.
Overall, I liked this documentary because it takes you back to a time when doctors and scientists were new to viruses. Recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Influenza epidemic / tragedy February 28, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
As a nurse, I was facinated by this incredible event that many of us have perhaps never heard about. It is interesting to me how far we have come both in medicine and nursing care, yet we still don't have all the answers. It was a well put together documentary with footage of the times as well as the interviews that gave a first hand look at how people were affected. One interviewee states, "In the middle of a crisis, you need to do something even if its wrong." This is useful for teaching both history and science and is appropriate for middle and high school students. Teachers will appreciate that it has a teacher guide in Adobe PDF format.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a forgotten tragedy June 14, 2006
I did relatively well in high school American history and yet I never heard of this national crisis. I guess World War I wasn't the only big deal of the 1910s. I am glad to see that the American Experience series not only covers great names, wars, and transportational feats, but also health concerns.

I recall that Charlie Chaplin's sweetheart died in a flu epidemic in Britain, but I didn't know the problem started in the United States. (If our revolution and our stock market crash can have global effects, I guess I should not be surprised.) It's easy to think of the bubonic plague as the world's only human international die-off. However, this film shows that it happened in the recent past too. This shows that savage diseases can be spread widely, unlike the localization of Ebola or SARS. I learned that the Titanic's sinking humbled early 20th-century modernists, but this flu outbreak must have been the same way. Nowadays, incurable diseases are usually associated with stigmatized groups. In contrast, this work clearly points to American soldiers, a well-respected group, as the cause of the spread.

This work proved the problem was cross-regional. This is not example of something on the East Coast being equated with all of America. The epidemic hit Philadelphia, but San Francisco, Nebraska, and the Dakotas as well. This work starts with interviewees waxing nostalgic about the pre-flu period. I thought it was offensive to think of a Jim Crow time as wonderful. However, this work compensates by interviewing an African-American witness to the crisis and a person recalling how a Native American group was affected.

In "Memoirs of a Geisha," one character says, "The interesting thing about wars is that you never know who will survive and who will not.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Documentary On The 1918 Flu Outbreak
Excellent documentary on the flu pandemic of 1918; Sad but an excellent documentary
Published 2 months ago by Oral Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars "Terrible Things Can Happen To Anybody"
Probably no other historical event occurred in the United States that been forgotten in time as the plague of influenza that struck first in the U.S. and then Europe in 1918. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Janet Chandler
3.0 out of 5 stars The interviews were the best part because of the vivid memories that...
As with most of the documentaries in this PBS series, it is very high quality. I understand that it's called "The American Experience," but still, it seemed really limited... Read more
Published 2 months ago by David S.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good documentary on the 1918 flu pandemic
A good documentary for someone interested in this, but a little slow for students.
Published 2 months ago by Jim
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving & Informative
Incorporates many first-hand interviews with survivors. Also includes interviews with scientific authorities on the origins and attributes of the 1918 strain.
Published 3 months ago by A Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Use this in class
I used this in a 9th grade history class. We were studying the Justinian Plague and the Black Plague and I used this to help them understand just what it was really like to be in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Catherin W Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars the epidemic that killed more people in the US than all the wars in...
Besides covering this epidemic and its effects on individuals and groups this film explores the fact that something so devastating does not exist in the national memory. Read more
Published 5 months ago by laura
5.0 out of 5 stars Outbreak
I had some misconceptions about the Great Flu Outbreak of 1918. For one thing, I thought that the disease originated in Europe and was spread in the United States after the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by James D. Crabtree
4.0 out of 5 stars Good documentary to watch during the flu season;
This film was a real eye opener to how vulnerable we are to disease and how lucky we are to live in the 21st century. I recommend every history buff watch the film. Read more
Published 10 months ago by C. Biddle
5.0 out of 5 stars killer germs
The 1918 flu was a tragic moment in American history and this dvd shows that very well , how a virus and flu a microbe can kill millions of people spreading across the earth... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jerry G
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