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Oswald's Ghost

2.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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(Jan 15, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 left a psychic wound on America that is with us still today. Few Americans then or now accept that a lone, inconsequential gunman could bring down a president and alter history. In that breach, a culture of conspiracy has arisen that point to sinister forces at work in the shadows. Drawing upon rarely seen archival footage and interviews with key participants, Oswald's Ghost takes a fresh look at Kennedy's assassination, the public's reaction to the tragedy, and the government investigations that instead of calming fears lead to a widespread loss of trust in the institutions that govern our society.


Complex and troubling, the documentary Oswald's Ghost examines what happened after the Kennedy assassination--it is less about possible conspiracies than about how the belief in conspiracies has affected our culture and those who pursued them. The abundance of archival footage of Lee Harvey Oswald after his arrest--sometimes in press conferences, sometimes simply being transported in handcuffs by officers--is startling and fascinating. The interviewees include one-time presidential candidate Gary Hart, former news anchor Dan Rather, author Norman Mailer (who, over the course of researching his book Oswald's Tale, changed his mind about whether Oswald acted alone), and the numerous authors of books on the subject. Oswald's Ghost presents arguments from all sides and may upset anyone with a rigid mind about the issue, but its fluid and hypnotic narrative will engage even viewers with only a casual interest in the topic. The extra features, which are just as compelling as the movie itself, include a much more extensive discourse on the Zapruder film and a thoughtful interview with the director, Robert Stone (Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst), who explains how he wanted to make film that would interest people on either side of the conspiracy question. He succeeded. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • A Visit to the Dealey Plaza
  • The Zapruder Film and Beyond
  • Interview with Robert Stone

Product Details

  • Actors: Hugh Aynesworth, David Bellin, Hale Boggs, Judith Campbell Exner, Fidel Castro
  • Directors: Robert Stone
  • Writers: Robert Stone
  • Producers: Robert Stone, Hazel Gurland
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: January 15, 2008
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,825 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Oswald's Ghost" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Not an investigation and no new insights here, but true to the title, this is a look at the lingering presence of the mystery of Oswald and the assassination that will forever link him with JFK.

The implied conclusion (big surprise) of this PBS broadcast film is that Oswald acted alone but that we are not psychologically able to grasp that fact since recent polls suggest 70% of Americans think otherwise.

None of the big lingering mysteries of that day are explained or explored. Are there high tech forensics that can be used today to look at the event? Not touched on.

Only the varying opinions of those involved as newscasters or lawyer and authors. Some glaring contradictions are not followed up like Dan Rather's incorrect original description of the head-snap of JFK after seeing the Zapruder film. Rather is interviewed for the film but not asked that question even though it is pointed out in a vintage clip.

And has anyone done stress analysis audio tests on Oswald's recorded vocal denial of any involvement in the assassination?

Some of the vintage footage is especially sharp.

Engaging but not revealing.
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Oswald's Ghost is not, on the surface, just another documentary on the assassination of John F. Kennedy seeking to prove one theory or another. Yet while the film ostensibly is not on the whodunit but that question ahs done to us, Oswald's Ghost has a definite bias in it. But even if on disagrees with this interpretation of the facts, there is still something to be watched here.

Director Robert Stone seems to have done his homework. His interviews cover many proponents of both sides of the argument. He also goes a step further to present unseen or rarely seen / heard materials including news clips and the actual Dallas police recordings. Stone also chooses to employ some interesting visual techniques in the film as well. For example there is the whirlpool of Oswald and Warren Commission images at the start of the film, the (apparent) black hole of conspiracy books, and the positive / negative effect on stock footage during the playing of the recording of Perry Russo's sodium pentothal questioning. These make the film visually interesting and watch-able, even if one doesn't agree with the facts as presented.

Thus the film's fault lies in its bias. While Stone does offer the conspiracy theorists plenty of screen time to defend their views and for the most part I'll admit the film is pretty even handed. Yet in the last few minutes of the film, Stone seems convinced that the mystery is solved and has been for nearly forty-five years. The film then proceeds to essentially say that independent researchers (that is to say conspiracy theorists) have led the public on a wild goose chase of truly epic proportions.
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Format: DVD
The above title is a paraphrase of film maker Robert Stone's own explanation about what compelled him to make this seductive and oddly unnerving documentary. He says it at the end of his 16 minute interview which is part of the bonus material on the newly released DVD of 'Oswald's Ghost' The film itself is not so much about who did or did not kill JFK, although Stone comes out, on the wings of some beautifully cadenced articulation from Norman Mailer, with a plausibly reasoned narrative that shows Oswald was far more intelligent, educated, motivated and therefore capable of soley killing one of the most popular presidents of the century than most of us would ever care or dare to suspect. But whether or not this may sway your JFK conspiratorial or anti conspiratorial belief system, his real aim is to look at the nature and actual necessity of the conspiracy theory itself, something which all the anti-establishment and pro establishment theorists never seem to have done

JFK's assasination was a national trauma rivaled only by 911, but what made it most appaling was millions of people like myself, then in high school, had to witness the subsequent assasination of prime suspect Lee Harvey Oswald by some Dallas saloon operator on national live tv. The impact of those four days is immeasurable, but Stone should be applauded for exploring what this meant to a decade, a generation and ultimately an entire society to the present day.
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Format: DVD
To me the most irritating thing about the movie is what I call "genre creep" (It is a relative of the late 1970s tax term bracket creep)

It starts out saying that its purpose it not to takes sides in the debate between LN's and CTers: its supposedly noble purpose is to show the delibilitating effect on the American "left" (Note that the rightwing doesn't seem to NEED such paternalistic gatekeeping)

And the aim is to keep it that way. It does not surprise me that Stone aims his film at left liberals. That is where there has been a history of gatekeeping operations (witness Encounter magazine, before you scoff) And no this does not mean that Stone was a willing collaborator in a dinisinformation campaign. Who knows where along the chain of decision making that allowed this film to be seen by millions the disinformation came in. And no it cannot be said with certain that it was conscious disinformation. Yet the Encounter's focus on a similar left-liberal firewall strategyThe Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters to prevent further left curiosity about the CIA suggests it, as does the new book called The Mighty Wurlitzer about CIA domestic front groups.

Just how many American experience films to you see THAT ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES FURTHER PERSUIT OF A TOPIC? The timing is understandable, what with Harvard University Press about to publish David Kaiser's PRO-CONSPIRACY ANALYSIS and with Jeff Morley of the WaPost offering similar evidence in his new book Our Man in Mexico about the CIA Station Chief in Mexico City Win Scott, things are getting pretty desparate for the Lone Nutters.
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Topic From this Discussion
First impressions of the film
Thanks for that interesting post, Patrick. Your encounter with Stone at the screening gives insight into his closed approach to the subject.

The film came off like a crude experiment in visual hypnosis: showing Oswald repeatedly; showing conspiracy books disappearing into a swirling wortex; and... Read More
Jan 19, 2008 by Randall Sellers |  See all 5 posts
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