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Expo - Magic of the White City NR

(118) IMDb 7.4/10
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Narrated by Gene Wilder, "Expo - Magic of the White City" immerses viewers in one of the most unforgettable events in American history, the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

Starring:
Claire Litton, Gene Wilder
Runtime:
1 hour, 56 minutes

Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Mark Bussler
Starring Claire Litton, Gene Wilder
Studio Inecom Entertainment Company
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Mad Midwest Maggie on September 18, 2005
Format: DVD
If you have only read "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson and want to see and know more about the fair you will be happy with this documentary. If you have read many books about the fair and taken advantage of all the resources at the Paul V. Galvin Library Digital History Collection online you may find yourself wanting more.

The focus of this documentary was mostly a tour of the fair. In recent books on the fair there seems to be either a "horray for progress/wasn't the fair pretty?" or a "damn American imperialism, racism, and sexism" route. The tone of this documentary was neutral/celebratory as it largely omitted discussion of racism and sexism (with only a few passing mentions). There were photos I hadn't seen before, and the narration (Gene Wilder) was superlative.

I do have quibbles with the film, which are most likey not the fault of the creators. See, what I really want is a bigger-budget version of this, full of computer reproductions of the fair so that we can "walk through" it instead of just scenes of a camera panning over a still photograph or painting. The live reinactments were limited to a belly dancer, beer drinking, and the murder of Mayor Harrison. There was also some live footage of fish and animals that the fair goers would have seen, which I am ambivalent about. But don't just tell me that the great pyramid would fit inside the Palace of Manufactures and Liberal Arts, drive the idea home with a little graphic, even a simple one, of the pyramid sitting inside it.

All that said, this was worth every penny and contained a lot of great material which I am bound to watch over and over again.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Meredith Towbin on September 16, 2005
Format: DVD
The Columbian Exposition was vast in every way - from the sheer size of its physical location to the number of its visitors to the diversity of its exhibits - yet this film covers it all using a historically responsible and entertaining approach. "EXPO" treats its viewers to a detailed "behind-the-scenes" look into the Exposition with Gene Wilder as a guide. The tour is chock-full of fascinating tidbits, and the period photographs add a whole other dimension that is often absent from texts on the subject. The film truly drops the viewer smack in the middle of the Fair. The quality of the high-definition transfer is stunning, and the picture looks as clear and crisp as a high-definition broadcast. The sound is enveloping and adds depth to the documentary; you actually feel as if you're surrounded by the Fair's bustling crowds. The film is without a doubt satisfying for everyone from the amateur history buff to the well-read historian.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lothar S. Konietzko on June 17, 2009
Format: DVD
Thinking that this film would be a documentary that I could use in teaching economics and U.S. History, I bought it. Well . . . I found it very detailed in terms of explaining the various exhibits and structures, this part of the video I'd give 5 stars to. The rest however, left me hoping the video would come to an end. Gene Wilder, while a fun actor is not the best narrator, he would put a class of teenagers to sleep. The film is very static in that it only uses old photos and artist portrayals with panning in and out of them to tell this story. Then there is the cheesy belly dancer that is put in the video and is about the only thing that moves. This documentary would have been better interviewing Chicago historical society folks, some professors and maybe bringing in the present day site before the end. I was dissappointed in the way this story was presented. Great info for informations sake, but not very good in terms of being watchable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Tresca VINE VOICE on November 5, 2009
Format: DVD
Like so many other viewers, I came round to viewing EXPO - The Magic of the White City ("EXPO") because I read The Devil in the White City (The White City) first. Sort of. Actually, my wife read The White City years after I did and, her curiosity piqued, rented the DVD.

EXPO is about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, an exposition of such majesty, scope, corruption, and expense that it is a feat unparalleled in America today. The closest we have to the Fair is Disney World, a lineage most explicitly drawn in The White City; Walt Disney's father, Elias, was a construction worker on some of the buildings at the fair.

EXPO is narrated by Gene Wilder. I'm admit to a bias - I'm a big fan of Young Frankenstein and he's the only "celebrity sighting" I've ever encountered in real life. Wilder's getting on in age (the DVD was produced in 2005), so there's now a bit of a whistle to his speech. Still, his lilting voice has enough emotion and wry humor to make his narration enjoyable. And there is a lot of narration.

We tend to think of previous American centuries as quaintly backward, where such modern notions as political correctness and global unity didn't exist. And while EXPO is careful to point out that American culture still had its own foibles and intolerance endemic to the time, the World's Fair put all those to shame. It was a global unification of wealth, prosperity, and cultural exchange in a way that's inconceivable in today's contentious world. We can learn a lot from the Chicago World's Fair.

EXPO uses old maps and photographs to detail events at the fair whenever possible, with few computer graphics or animation. There are occasional shots of live actors, none whom particularly add anything of value to the narrative.
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