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Ken Burns: Prohibition (2012)

 NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

List Price: $39.99
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Blu-ray 3-Disc Version $17.49  
DVD 3-Disc Version $14.27  
Ken Burns' "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray
A documentary that weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics. Learn more

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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS (DIRECT)
  • DVD Release Date: October 4, 2011
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004NJC0R0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,269 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ken Burns: Prohibition" on IMDb

Special Features

- Saloons
- The Notion that Man Is Perfectable
- It's Better to Know the Judge
- That's Just the Way Life Was
- Rebels of New York
- Somebody Got a Pineapple
- Kentucky
- Capone
- Roy Olmstead
- Tabloid Heroes
- You People Were Thirsty
- Gangs
- Bad Booze
- Lessons

Extra Scene Titles
- Owled, Edged, Jingled, Piffed...
- Kentucky Bourbon
- And I Caught Hell
- He Never Did Get Caught
- San Francisco Welcomes Visitors from Italy, 1921
- Hoover's Medicine Ball Cabinet
- An Object of Ridicule
- Ten Nights in a Bar Room

- Original music by Wynton Marsalis
- A Spanish Audio Track
- Descriptive Video for the Visually Impaired
- Subtitles in English (SDH)

Editorial Reviews

It's hard to comprehend now, but nearly a century ago, Americans were denied both the pleasures and evils of alcohol for a period of almost 14 years--a strange and tumultuous time chronicled in edifying detail in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's Prohibition, a three-part (and three-disc) documentary first broadcast by PBS. Part One, "A Nation of Drunkards," contemplates the lead-up to Prohibition. And a long lead-up it was, as preachers, women alarmed by their husbands' debilitating drunkenness, and others were railing against the evils of drinking nearly 100 years before the 18th Amendment, which banned "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors," went into effect in January 1920. Calls for temperance in the mid-19th century soon gave way to strident demands for total abstinence, influenced by groups like the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League, along with self-righteous crusaders like Carrie Nation (who wielded a hatchet as she decimated drinking establishments in her home state of Kansas). Once the federal income tax was introduced, thus eliminating government dependence on liquor taxes--which at one point accounted for 70 percent of all US revenue!--the path to passage of the amendment was cleared. But in their zeal to impose their morals on the rest of the country, the "Drys," as they were called, failed to foresee that enforcement of the amendment and its harsh enabling legislation, the Volstead Act, would be nearly impossible. That issue is examined in Part Two, "A Nation of Scofflaws," which describes the deluge of bribery, corruption, defiance of the law by ordinary citizens (the "Wets"), and, perhaps most notably, the enormous amounts of money to be made from the distribution of illegal liquor (which in turn led to the rise of Al Capone and many, many other powerful gangsters) that came in the law's wake. In Part Three, "A Nation of Hypocrites," we witness the ultimate failure of Prohibition, culminating in the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. In the end, we're told, the rigid religious fundamentalism of the Drys, who refused to consider even the slightest modification of the law, was the principal cause of its downfall--accompanied, of course, by the simple fact that people love to drink.

This is a fascinating subject, and Burns, Novick, and their collaborators present it with the precision and flair seen in other Burns documentaries, combining comments from historians and other experts, evocative music, a wealth of photos and film footage, and wonderfully rich personal stories (with period reminiscences read by actors like Sam Waterston, John Lithgow, Philip Bosco, Samuel L. Jackson, Patricia Clarkson, Tom Hanks, and Blythe Danner) in a rich tapestry of information and entertainment. Prohibition is not to be missed. --Sam Graham

Product Description

PROHIBITION, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the story of the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The film starts with the early history of alcohol in America and examines the 19th-century temperance and progressive movements through the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. This 6-hour, three part documentary also includes over 2 hours of bonus content.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating!!!!! October 6, 2011
I am not an historian nor am I usually interested in documentaries. I accidentally turned the channel on the t.v. and was immediately captivated by the history of the prohibition era. I read the last review. I can't dispute the author's factual accounts, but from what I saw and learned the minute details that were missed or left out were irrelevant. I say that because even though the last reviewer tells of inaccuracies I think that the amount of information that was given left me with a passion to want to research more for myself. It's like having bad teachers and wanting to drop out of school then the next semester you have a dedicated teacher. That teacher can't teach you all you'll ever need to learn but gives you the thirst to want to learn more. So much to want to leave a review and purchase the Blu-ray. That's what I got from it.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Ken Burns, the undisputed master of the TV documentary, has done it again. This 3-part 5-1/2 hour PBS series kept my eyes glued to the screen while my own impressions of the world of prohibition, which were mostly gleaned from stories my parents told me, became real through the old film clips and the excellent narration and historical perspective.

Looking back, it seems as if the nation was crazy to actually pass a law that prohibited alcoholic beverages in all its forms. But times were different then. In the small town Americana of 1919 men were getting dead drunk and abusing their families. For the first time in history, women asserted themselves and organized the Women's Christian Temperance Union, marching in the streets and eventually influencing legislation. It was different in the cities however, where an immigrant population did not see liquor as a menace. Thus began the age of Prohibition and the biggest crime wave and social change that America has ever seen.

This documentary tells it all with excellent film clips, fine historical research and clear and focused narration. I loved every minute of it, learned a lot, and revisited old stories told to me as a child. This series is absolutely spectacular, I give it my highest rating and am delighted that it is now available for purchase.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War On Drugs, the Prequel February 19, 2012
Anyone who wants to understand just why the present-day War On Drugs has been such a good-intentioned but simultaneously cataclysmic failure should take a good, long look at this film. It becomes so abundantly clear that sadly so many in this country have not learned valuable lessons from the events from the past. The (correct) point that any attempt to try and legislate human morality is doomed to fail has rarely been made so clear than in Ken Burns' latest triumph. Bravo yet once again to the USA's most important film-maker.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A documentary with a very strong point of view February 26, 2012
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
First -- the images on the blu ray are beautiful. Since much of the story occurs after the advent of motion pictures this program incorporates many moving picture clips and so is much more dynamic than some of the Ken Burns programs that cover earlier historical periods. The story line is compelling. However there is a definite editorial point of view that runs through the entire series which I understand to be "one cannot legislate morality and because of this prohibition did more harm than good" and though not explicit I see a suggestion that the current anti drug laws are similarly flawed and doomed to failure at great cost to the country, its people and the respect for law. I can understand why many would object to this program because of the strong editorial slant.
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33 of 45 people found the following review helpful
PBS documentarian Burns shares the byline credit this time around with his business partner Lynn Novick. The script is again by Geoffrey C. Ward, based on his book. As noted by a previous reviewer here there are factual errors and they should be blamed on Ward. Burns is more interested in the collages he creates from thousands (literally - just look at the ed credits) of stills that he mixes with some silent film footage with newly added sound effects ("talking pictures" were not common until 1927 - except for experimental film). Then he adds famous actors reading quotes from people relevant to the story at hand.

The show is divided into three parts and these are each placed on a separate DVD in the 3-disc package. The parts run about 100 minutes each. There are just over 90 minutes of "bonus features", consisting of a seven-minute "behind the scenes" (music scoring, the celebrity voices), deleted scenes (about 25 minutes) and 16 interview segments (totaling 53 minutes) of raw footage with timing counters.

There is no booklet or other informational insert in the package that is more generic than other Burns DVDs from PBS.

Burns is discussing a subject - not necessarily a time period - and spends the first third of the program just leading up to why prohibition occurred.

While some of the facts are wrong, so is the music - at least for the period. Many of the songs you will hear in the background are from the 1930s, not the `teens or the twenties. But most folks won't notice - as they won't notice the factual inaccuracies.

Burns does "slick" and "visually appealing" films and this is just another one of those. It's worth spending time with and - if you liked what you saw and heard on TV, the DVD gives you more of it; it's just not "dressed up" like it was on TV.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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is there any english subtitles
English yes. Not to embarrass you, but in the product description it clearly says, "English and Spanish".
Feb 1, 2012 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 2 posts
Any soundtrack available?
NO. None are planned - I was told by the PR firm. For great music of this period, check out the new "Boardwalk Empire, Volume 1" Soundtrack. It's the new recreations of period recordings with some great arrangements."

Oct 7, 2011 by Steven I. Ramm |  See all 3 posts
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