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3.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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(Mar 28, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description



In 1972, Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern was forced to drop Senator Thomas Eagleton as his running mate when it was revealed that the latter had twice undergone electro-shock therapy for depression. Imagine, then, what the national media (who played a significant role in Eagleton's downfall) would have made of the Abraham Lincoln portrayed in Lincoln. This startling program depicts our 16th president as a man who was not simply depressed, but suicidal; who had dreams portending his own death; who survived a childhood of Dickensian suffering; who endured a loveless marriage in which two of his and wife Mary's sons died young; and who was brooding, tormented, possibly a closet homosexual, and by his own description "the most miserable man living." What's more, some of the historians and other talking heads taking part in director Vikram Jayanti's two-part, 140-minute documentary suggest that Lincoln's greatness came not in spite of these burdens but because of them, as his own "forced introversion" made him supremely empathetic to others. Produced for the History Channel, Lincoln commingles various elements--biography, interviews, re-enactments (especially of the events of April 15, 1865, the day he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth), excerpts of Lincoln's letters and speeches, etc.--to support its thesis, and the results, while sometimes melodramatic, are compelling. The mood lightens up a bit in the second part, which details Lincoln's years as president, when his vehement opposition to slavery engendered his extraordinary oratorical skills, his steely determination to hold the country together through the horrors of the Civil War, and his inevitable death (which is attributed not to his having freed the slaves but to his insistence that they be given the right to vote). Was Lincoln one of our finest presidents, then? No doubt. But it's a safe bet that had he come along in the mid-20th Century or later, given the kind of scrutiny he'd be subjected to, he wouldn't have stood a chance of being elected. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • "History in the Making: Lincoln" featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Gore Vidal
  • Directors: Vikram Jayanti
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: March 28, 2006
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CCW2UM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,913 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Lincoln is probably one of the toughest individuals to grasp. Once you think you have him understood, something else about him comes out of the woodwork to make him more elusive.

Interestingly, this production allows us further insight to him in a unique, dark perspective at times. This production probably isn't correctly named as it's not about Lincoln in the complete form, but it takes a much darker, closeted approach to explaining the man.

I think many people were taken back a bit by this production and were expecting something lighter, more cheerful and triumphant about Lincoln but instead this film is the opposite. I can't say it was totally negative, it just offered strange, unusual insight and possibilities to this complex character. What this show tried to convey was just how some of Lincoln's motivations, considerations and mind state were developed from earlier boyhood years and dealing with depression.

I wasn't too keen on some of the considerations of Lincoln and possible suicidal tendencies. Unfortunately, this production focused a lot on negative things about Lincoln shading him in a dark shroud with shocking misery. It does offer interesting perspective, but the opinions stated are simply that. Opinions without fact. I know Lincoln had issues and had a lot of carry on his shoulders throughout life although I don't think he was so distraught, fearing and suicidal as this documentary portrays.
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Being a historian one can often find themselves focusing on one particular historic event. Lincoln's life, Presidency and death just happens to be mine. This biography is very well organized and deep in detail. Lincoln is painted in a whole different light then what most are used to. For the first time historians and authors of Lincoln Biographies talk about his depression, his marriage to Mary Todd, and how he got started in politics. It's an amazing documentary which I would highly recommend especially for the classroom. If you want to get your students attention about the Civil War, Lincoln and history show them this documentary. You will not be disappointed.
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The History Channel's LINCOLN mixes fact with innuendo, gossip and smear.

Abraham Lincoln's sexual identity is questioned because he shared an illness (depression) and thus a friendship with Joshua Speed. It's implied in this documentary that their several surviving correspondences were love letters, although nothing within these texts even hints at carnality. Much is made of Speed offering to share his bed when Lincoln had no place to sleep. Further casually presented "proof" is an unsubstantiated allegation that the President was caught asleep at the Soldier's Home in D.C. accompanied by a captain, who was wearing Lincoln's nightshirt at the time.

Yet, we have conflicting stories of opposite behavior.
It's suggested that soon after ending his first engagement with Mary, Abe visits a riverside madam. He haggles her price down and when they're finished, she makes it a "freebie," proving (in the opinion of a commenter) the man's absolute charm and thus a good reason he was later elected president!!!

The First Lady (Mary) is said to have furnished her lavish Washington lifestyle with bribes and kickbacks. No definitive documentation given here either, beyond a nice coat of tar.

Our main theme is a lifelong melancholia that first manifested at age nine after young Abe saw his mother suffer for a week and die from tainted milk. His father reportedly slapped the boy around and rented him out as slave labor. A conclusion is made that herein lies the source of Abraham's hatred of this "peculiar institution." No mention at all of his ambivalent remarks on the slavery issue. After every major battle, the President is said to have talked of suicide or wished for death. No specific references given, although this seems quite possible.
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LINCOLN (2005, 3 hours, for the History Channel, video release 2006) is one of the most complete Lincoln documentaries ever produced. I recall it was a big deal when it first aired, since it had ostensibly every Lincoln scholar in existence and then some. Even Gore Vidal - in his last such appearance - weighs in here.

This is not an easy documentary to find, with the dozens of newer films plus the National Geographic "Lincoln" series (which isn't even offered in its entirety but I did review two of them).

I struggled to locate this on Amazon until I realized that the 'top star billing' for the featured experts would be Vidal ... and I was right. In fact I love this documentary because even at that time it was odd to hear whispers about Lincoln's gayness, but here they face it head-on and thoroughly. Vidal, who offers the concluding remarks on the subject, simply says one hopes if Lincoln was gay that he found some happiness in his relationships.

An annoying thing about this documentary is the reenactment that haunts it throughout: the camera is actually Lincoln's point of vision as he wanders the White House on the last day of his life. That is a major bone of contention for me, the historical reenactment, because it is replacing both solid documenting and good journalism. Luckily, this does not stoop to actual reenactments with the full-blown cinematic treatment, though there is one very funny reenactment that does not involve Lincoln.

Considering this is nearly three hours of documentary - though it's neatly divvied up into "chapters" of Lincoln's life - it flows nicely and quickly. Each "chapter" of Lincoln's life is carefully titled as they start to address it, and each part is very well covered as I said.
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