Customer Reviews: Liberty - The American Revolution [VHS]
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on March 14, 2001
Perhaps better than any other filmed expedition into the Revolutionary past, LIBERTY! explains the WHY of the American uprising. Others have faulted it for being militarily incomplete, but this is its principle strength, in my view. Far too often, history is comprised of the accounts of battles. Here, though, the producers chose to focus on the dream of liberty more than its attainment. To be sure, important battles get their due, but the emphasis here is on a war won more through propaganda and promises than by musket and steel.
The producers are out to tell a story as much as the truth, and so know they have to start at the beginning. Many accounts of the times seem to skip glibly over the predominant happiness with British rule that most colonists felt, but not LIBERTY! Instead, it goes to great lengths to put viewers back in colonial America, so they can understand how improbable it was that the people of the time would've imagined themselves divorced from England. Unlike many accounts, LIBERTY! Is unafraid to take the opposing British viewpoint, and to include British historians. This documentary, indeed, sees the arguments from all sides, and shows just how reluctance turned to resolve. More to the point, it shows both sides as equally hotheaded and responsible for the war.
Indeed, the commitment to explain the conflict in human terms is so prevalent in this work, that actors hired to play various key figures propel the basic storyline as much as the narrator. Best of all, every word these actors speak comes from a documented primary source. Choosing to have the figures themselves partially tell the story adds great personal interest while moving the drama of the larger conflict swiftly along. Particularly noteworthy is the emphasis on the John and Abagail Adams relationship, which was fortunately well documented by their own letter writing. Their correspondence is one of the great diaries of the time, and lends much to an understanding of the decisions made. The great thing about including such a complete primary source in a history is that viewers get a real sense of what it was like to be unsure that the Revolution would succeed, or what shape the new nation would take.
In fact, it is precisely the decision to look at the events as a rocky rebellion rather than a revered revloution which makes LIBERTY! the pre-eminent documentary on the subject.
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on February 7, 2009
Having spent a good deal of time watching the various DVDs telling the story of the American Revolution, I was definitely most excited by this one. Not everything gets in there, but that's also what helps it to move right along in an intriguing, coherent way that keeps at a high level my interest, excitement and appreciation of what the founders accomplished. I want this DVD set to have in order to loan it far and wide, as I believe there is no longer sufficient awareness of the greatness of what happened in "our revolution."
It's true that "The History Channel Presents the Revolution" is more complete; but it also gets cumbersome--even confusing--in places, AND it completely leaves out the (to me) highly significant role that Thomas Paine played in moving the common man toward supporting the revolution. (I understand how some of his later writings irked the "fundamental religionists"--his religious ideas being much closer to those of Thomas Jefferson than those of the typical colonialist; but I also wonder if it's not current-day fundamentalist views that have kept Paine out of such historical portrayals and out of the praise due him as one of our crucial Founding Fathers.)
The DVD "Founding Fathers" is a good supplement; but it's "Liberty" that really captures my enthusiasm. Let me urge you to buy it to watch and loan on every 4th of July -- as an act of Patriotism !!
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on November 26, 2000
I have found this amazing documentary miniseries to be essential pre-July 4 viewing every year.
Yes, you may feel your favorite battle or historical figure have been given short shrift - but this is the price paid for keeping the story from being bogged down and uneven, and almost every aspect of the revolution is covered to some extent.
The actors giving readings of actual letters written by their characters could hardly have been better - you really feel like you're in the trenches with them. Everyone from generals down to footsoldiers have something to say to us, and we learn about the war from those fighting the war on the battlefields and in Independence Hall.
This is, above all, an eye-opener for those who think the Patriots were all saints and the British all devils. Those on both sides were all just mere mortals, some committing unspeakable atrocities and others trying to do what they thought was right for their countries at a time when it wasn't clear who was guilty of treason. If you're at all interested in the revolution, this one is not to be missed.
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on July 16, 2007
This collection was well researched and well made. The actors portraying the major players of the Revolution were very believable. The set is what it is; a great to start scratching your Revolutionary itch. However, it is glaringly lacking in some areas. For one, the complete brushing over of the entire Philadelphia Campaign. The only battle that even received mention was Brandywine. The rest of the action around Philadelphia went unmentioned, including the infamous winter at Valley Forge. The war in the South could have been more thoroughly addressed, also. Much like the History Channels "American Revolution" these video collections are entertaining and provide some fillers and portraits of human interest but the true Revolutionary enthusiast will come away disappointed. Keep your noses in the books for indepth treatment of this time period.
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on March 21, 2009
I own this set, "The Revolution" by the History Channel, and the "American Revolution" series that A&E ran in the 1990s narrated by Bill Kurtis. This is, far and away, the best of the bunch.

"Liberty" does the best job of outlining the American Revolution in its full scope, giving much focus to the situation in the colonies before the first shots were fired. They pay a lot of attention to the Stamp Act, Boston Tea Party, and the Coercive / Intolerable Acts. By the time the actual war begins, you have a full understanding as to why it did.

They also do a very important service in focusing on what happened after the war. The revolution could very much have gone down in flames if it weren't for the framers of our Constitution. It was a very uncertain time, and "Liberty" does a fine job in showing us how we were able to maintain our republic.

The actors and actresses are fully believable, the background music is very moving, and the illustrations used are first rate.

I should add that if you are interested primarily in the military aspects of the American Revolution (i.e. the war itself), then you may be disappointed with this version and should probably consider one of the other two. This is the best overall view of the conflict - the revolution that was "in the hearts and minds of the people," as John Adams put it - and as a result some elements of the war are not included.
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on July 23, 2006
...if you're at all interested in the fascinating Revolutionary war period. After seeing the series on PBS several years ago, I bought the VHS version, but now I wish I'd waited for DVD. It's an awesome documentary of the Revolutionary war, including politics and battles, with enough details of personalities and strategies to satisfy most. I particularly liked the period music soundtrack.
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on February 27, 2002
A wonderfully acted and directed "period" piece that brings the Revolution and the Revolutionary times to your VCR. Like many of the previous reviewers, I initially was a tad disappointed at some of the short coverage of some of the major events (the Southern theatre, for example...), but soon realized that the main objective of this work is to portray the people (warts and all) behind the push for Independance, and not necessarily view this as a documentary. The "people" aspect here is lively and informative and succeeds overwhelmingly with bringing the feeling of the War and the period to life. Not only are the legendary central figures portrayed (Philip Bosco is extraordinary as Benjamin Franklin...), but the everyday person along with the lowest level soldiers (Philip Hoffman as Joseph Plumb Martin is wonderful...) get presented...each with his/her own unique reading that fully covers the emotion and frustration of this time. For the historians, we get excellent accounts of John Burgoyne's march to defeat at Saratoga, the diplomacy activities of Franklin and others in bringing the French in as allies, the view from England's monarchy and Parliament and the final major battle at Yorktown...all wonderfully acted and plausibly portrayed. If this video set is coupled with the companion book, one gets an excellent and refreshing account of the Revolution which should be counted as required viewing/reading for all Revolutionary War fans. Highly recommended.
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on March 12, 1999
This is an excellent masterpiece documentary series on the American Revolution. It provides a vivid potrait of American life through the American revoultion. It is full of wonderful commentaries from people of the time, and contains nice imagery and music. It also accurately documents the fighting and planning of the war itself, and explains the causes of the war. It is a grat documentary series, that is guranteed to please all that study American history.
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on March 24, 2007
I have to say that this piece is the most comprehensive film about the American Revolution I have ever seen. Important characters and their influence are well depicted. The best part may be the words in this film since they are quoted really from the speaking and diary in that time.

Although the Americans didn't win many battles during the time, the battles they won seem to be decisive. Winning the battle at Saratoga brings the French support. Winning the siege of Yorktown with the French Navy triumphs the revolution, unofficially. Winning the independence, however, doesn't mean forming a nation. There is debate about this for being afraid of taxation. After many efforts persuading people from their fear to form a powerful government, a nation is finally born.

The content from winning the war to form the union seems rush. I am glad they bring out my interest in this but then they leave me more hunger. Another weakness is the French and Indian War. This war has certain importance for the later revolution. It would be good if this film can talk more about its impact.

It may be too much for high school students or someone merely needing an introduction to digest this film. Except for this, you should find this film informative, all-inclusive and delightful to watch.
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on May 16, 2000
Liberty was a well done documentary on the Revolutionary War. It goes into heavy detail on many aspects that led to the outbreak of war and focuses well on the actions of early revolutionaries like Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, it falls short of its account of the battles of the war. The documentary all but ignores the Battle of Saratoga, an instrutmental battle that turned the course of the war. This battle is what led the French to get involved in the war, another aspect that is almost completely ignored. The film does go into great detail on specific campaigns and battles, like Yorktown, but does so at the expense at other important stories. Benedict Arnold is ignored except for about a ten minute segment simply stating that he was a traitor and failed in turning West Point over to the British. I would recommend another documentary, the A&E and History Channel's American Revolution. It provides a much better view of the entire conflict.
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