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Johnstown Flood narrated by Richard Dreyfuss (2003)

Richard Dreyfuss , Patrick Jordan , Mark Bussler  |  NR |  DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Dreyfuss, Patrick Jordan, Jennifer Lee Dake, Charles King (VIII), Matt Hutchinson (III)
  • Directors: Mark Bussler
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Inecom Entertainment Company
  • DVD Release Date: August 26, 2003
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00009PSE2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,257 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Johnstown Flood narrated by Richard Dreyfuss" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 20-minute mini documentary and interview with Richard Burkert providing additional information on the history of the flood
  • "The Johnstown Flood," an 1889 piano illustration by Alberto Rivieri, performed by Patricia Prattis Jennings exclusively for this DVD

Editorial Reviews

Johnstown Flood plays this 1889 disaster for all the drama and suspense of a horror movie. As he describes the factors leading up to the collapse of a dam on a Pennsylvania river, narrator Richard Dreyfuss has an almost ghoulish relish. The flood itself--in which a wall of water 50 feet tall destroyed the town of Johnstown and everything in the vicinity--is chock-full of shocking and engrossing details: personal testimonies describe an entire roundhouse of locomotives being swept away; a mother tells about setting her children afloat on driftwood from the top of her rapidly submerging house. When the debris carried by rushing water reaches a heavy stone bridge, the cataclysm only worsens, leading to a devastating fire. If most documentaries aspire to the cool objectivity of The New York Times, Johnstown Flood dives into the sensationalism of tabloid journalism, and the results are enticing, unsettling, and thoroughly entertaining. --Bret Fetzer

Product Description

Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, "Johnstown Flood" tells a true story of heartbreak, heroism and the courage to survive. On a stormy day in May of 1889, the South Fork Dam explodes, unleashing a 40-foot wall of water. Fiercely thrashing at frightening speeds, the flood devastates the 14-mile valley between the Conemaugh Lake and Johnstown, Pennsylvania under the force of a 20-million-ton tidal wave. "Johnstown Flood" depicts this tragic event which claims more than 2,200 lives and wipes out 99 entire families and is still considered to be one of the worst disasters in American history. Horrified survivors watch as the bustling industrial city of Johnstown is instantly reduced into a wasteland. The deadly torrent overcomes terror-stricken townspeople who are tragically lost in the flood. As the waters recede, people from all over the world rally around the survivors to help victims regain all that is lost. Special Features include a 20-minute documentary with Richard Burkert, Executive Director of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, a feature-length historical commentary track with Richard Burkert and "The Johnstown Flood," an 1889 piano illustration by Alberto Rivieri, performed by Patricia Prattis Jennings exclusively for the DVD.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This is not the show that was broadcast on American Experience by PBS, despite the revised cover art that tries to make it seem more in keeping with the book. This is a rather tepid treatment of the subject matter and suffers from trying to be much more apologetic towards the owners of the sports club that caused the entire disaster with shoddy maintenance of the dam. The original PBS version was much better but PBS will not release that version, preferring to push this pale imitation instead. Please contact PBS and ask them to release the real episode!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow by comparison April 5, 2004
I grew up in Johnstown. I have seen the films at both of the Flood Museums. The film at the downtown museum (the former Carnegie Free Library) is the Guggenheim film that won the academy award. It is an excellent film that far outstrips the one here reviewed. However, the film presented at the damsite is even superior to the Guggenheim film. Unfortunately, it can only be seen at the museum. I found the film narrated by Richard Dreyfuss to be a very "watery" story with some awful cinematography and effects. The dramatizations were terrible: actors with modern accents and mannerisms in Victorian costumes...! I thought this was a very shallow representation of a terrible disaster.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Riddled with Errors March 30, 2006
By Fnord
The real story of the Johnstown Flood is so dramatic and overpowering that you are tempted not to believe all of it. The event is that extraordinary. So why would a documentary try to improve the story by embellishing the facts?

Some examples: There was no "Paul Revere" horse rider warning people of the flood. The dam never resembled a "sprinkler" -- the water poured over the top which quickly undermined the entire structure. The train whistle warning in Mineral Point was not ignored. Fundamental factual errors plague this DVD from beginning to end.

Even if the staggering number of inaccuracies does not put you off, the sappy dialog, poor acting, endless stock footage of waves on the beach, and the inexplicable dearth of source materials should.

If you are interested in the story of the Johnstown Flood read David McCullough's excellent book. You will be amazed. If you buy this DVD the real tragedy will be what you missed out on -- the real story of the nearly incomprehensible human tragedy of the Johnstown Flood.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Johnstown Flood June 17, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This rendition of the tragedy of the Johnstown Flood in 1889 cannot be favorably compared with the first offering from The American Experience on PBS. The 2003 Dreyfuss-narrated version does not use the quantity of archival material available; it barely hints at the social and political pressures, especially by members of the social club situated at the top of the dam, which contributed to the breaking of the dam and the tragedy that followed. Richard Dreyfuss is overly dramatic, seeming to revel in the details of the tragedy in his delivery, and is not at all equal to the terrific David McCullough as a narrator. The use of real actors to repeat quotes from survivors and act out portions of the aftermath is just ludicrous, and none of them show any talent for this portrayal at all. It was very distracting to have these people plopped into the narrative willy-nilly. I was extremely disappointed in the 2003 DVD, and cannot recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An educator's opinion March 17, 2007
As an educator, I found the Johnstown Flood, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, a bit slow and lacking of substance. The characters dressed up in Victorian attire were interesting, however they lacked believability. The short scenes of bubbling water looked like they were filmed from a kitchen sink. The few shots, of what were obviously Niagara Falls, were a poor attempt to show the magnitude of the dam's destruction/socially, politically and emotionally on the people of Johnstown. I preferred the museum's DVD on the Johnstown Flood which didn't stray from the facts. I will say, however, that when I allowed my students to choose between the two DVD's they overwhelminingly preferred the Dreyfuss-narrated version. It seems they were overtaken by the shots of Niagara Falls, and the scenes of dead corpses being robbed. (get more bang for your buck and stick with the museum version)
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Revels in gore February 24, 2005
This documentary feels like it was made by an undegrad film student. Some of the recreations of the flood on what is obviously a limited budget are a noble effort. The panning and scanning over pictures is ok, but doing the same with drawings gets a little tedious and is distracting. The film misses a crucial element of the story: the culpiblility of the wealthy patrons of the hunting club that built the dam and failed to maintain it properly. Actors (acting students from a local college?) look too young for their roles and are overly dramatic. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, went to school for a while in Johnstown. I have yet to see any actor capture the mood and tone of people of Western PA... and I wish someone would.

What bothered me most were the repeated details about the gore of the incident. The documentary takes pleasure and spends far too much time describing the carnage. For example, it devotes about 10 minutes recounting a story, most likely fictional, about a guy who gets caught robbing corpses.

Read the David McCullough book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 2 months ago by dale w. meier
4.0 out of 5 stars Alot Of Water - Real Quick
A zillion books & articles written about this tragedy but narration & photo spread along with the sound effects & period re-enactors give it a more striking effect. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dan Holder
5.0 out of 5 stars "One Scary Occurrence"
Hang on to your hats. This will scare you...Compelling, "in your face" look at a horrid, angry flood...a killer disaster. You will also learn how it happened, etc. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Joanne Jenkins
1.0 out of 5 stars there should be a "NO STAR WHATSOEVER" rating !
If one sees the one hour expanded version of the Charles Guggenheim Academy Award winning 1/2 hour documentary that he produced for the centennial celebration, they will have seen... Read more
Published on November 15, 2008 by E. Burke
1.0 out of 5 stars Biased and incomplete research
I have to say that, after watching this video, I believe this to be one of the most biased and/or incomplete displays of research that I have seen in a while. Read more
Published on June 10, 2008 by Anthony
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad Attempt
What a sad pathetic attempt of a documentary! Do not wast any of your time and money on this. Such an interesting tragic story in our history deserves more respect than this... Read more
Published on February 13, 2008 by Sarah A. Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars The Johnstown Flood
This is an excellent presentation of the facts concerning the great flood which destroyed much of Johnstown, PA, with excellent use of visual materials. Read more
Published on November 6, 2006 by David L. Gassman
1.0 out of 5 stars blows
I waited a long time to see this video. I couldn't find it anywhere and now

I know why. I paid a few bucks to watch it on google video and it just sucks. Read more
Published on October 19, 2006 by Bruce Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Johnstown Flood is one of the best documentaries I've ever watched. I learned a lot about an event that I really never learned about in school. Read more
Published on October 24, 2004 by Annie
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