Customer Reviews: Sandburg's Lincoln
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on July 17, 2011
This is one Lincoln-fan who is literally ECSTATIC that this wonderful series is finally coming out on DVD. Having loved Lincoln my entire life, and having been totally familiar with all the other movie/TV depictions of him that have been done over the years, Hal Holbrook's depiction of Lincoln is, was, and remains, in my opinion, the very very best ever done. Better than Raymond Masseys's, better than Henry Fonda's The absolute gold standard. While Holbrook may not be as tall as Lincoln actually was, contemporary accounts tell us that Lincoln actually spoke not with the deep-base baritone of a Massey, but with a countrified "twang." He would say "Mr. Cheerman" for "Mr. Chairman," for example. Holbrook totally nails this - giving us, what I think, is probably the closest to the "real" sounding Lincoln that has ever been portrayed.

Note that this series does not present a straight linear forward time-line of Lincoln's life and career. But it is possible, if you watch the episodes in a certain order, to follow along his life in a fairly accurate manner. Let me suggest this order to view the series:

1)Start with "Prairie Lawyer" - which shows him as a young lawyer, having just moved to Springfield, a short time after his New Salem days. Incidentally, while movies have depicted his romance with Ann Rutledge, this episode is, to the best of my knowledge, the only cinematic depiction ever done of his relationship with "another Mary" - a young woman named Mary Owens, whom Lincoln courted after Ann Rutledge died, before he met Mary Todd. Wonderfully presented, as is the prairie court room, with a case that Lincoln is trying against his current (and perennial future) opponent, Stephen A. Douglas.

2)Then catch "Crossing Fox River" - showing the campaign for the Presidency in 1860, and the transition period during which, as Present-Elect, he names his cabinet (covering the story told by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book, Team of Rivals). A very wonderful scene is where Lincoln says good bye to his elderly stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnson, never to see her again...

3)Then see "Mrs. Lincoln's Husband" - depicting the heartbreak the Lincolns faced, as a couple in the White House, and the accusations of treason made against Mrs. Lincoln by political opponents of her husband.

4)Next, catch "Unwilling Warrior" - which shows us Lincoln the War President. Very episodic, it jumps from the "Baltimore Plot" - the attempt to assassinate Lincoln while travelling to Washington to assume the Presidency in 1861; to his grappling with military strategy; his relationship with Gen. McClellan, with Gen Grant, and, in one of the very best scenes involving Lincoln in any medium that I have ever seen - TV or cinema - the story of Lincoln's journey into Richmond, shortly after it fell to Union troops in April 1865, and only a few short days before his death.

5)"Sad Figure Laughing" - this is the interesting tale of the relationship with another member of that "Team Of Rivals" - the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, and Chase's efforts aimed at replacing Lincoln as Republican Party Presidential nominee in 1864.

6) Finally, "The Final Days," tells of Lincoln's last few days in office - very hauntingly done. The opening scene, depicting Lincoln's speech from a White House balcony to a crowd on the lawn, celebrating the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomatix (and where Lincoln asks the band to play "Dixie") is particularly effective.

Again, I cannot praise this series enough. ANYONE at all interested in Lincoln, ANYONE who enjoys reading about him, will find this series both moving and rewarding. My only regret is that there are no "extras" on it - behind the scenes "making of" documentaries, and that sort of thing. Oh well...when one is served lobster, I suppose he should not complain that there is no steak on the plate as well. I am so thrilled to finally have Sandburg's Lincoln on DVD.

Late Addition Re Transfer Issue: I have read the comments regarding the transfer quality. You should know that this David Wolper production, produced in the mid 1970s, was originally filmed, unfortunately, not on high grade 35 mm film, but lower grade 16 mm. The stock deteriorated until, a few years ago, the only source material found was decaying and brown. So, frankly, Lincoln fans should be grateful that ANY fairly viewable source material remained to make this transfer. I will say that I think some of the comments about the absolute "awfulness" of the transfer quality are a little overblown. It is not a 21st century fully digital, pristine, transfer. But, again, this was a TV SERIES IN THE 1970s! Please, please, please - try and get past the fact that this is not a new transfer of a fully digitalized "Avatar," and just enjoy the series - the story, the writing, the characters, and Holbrook's WONDERFUL depiction of Lincoln!

Late Late Addition Re Daniel-Day Lewis Issue: Yes, it is amusing to watch Spielberg's "Lincoln" movie, with D-D-Lewis as Mr. Lincoln, and see him holding conversations with Hal Holbrook (as Maryland politico Preston Blair). Frankly, these scenes make me a little sad - because I know that most of the world - and, in fact, even probably 99% of the audience watching the Spielberg movie - have no idea that Holbrook himself ever played Lincoln! And that makes me feel bad for Holbrook - makes me wish how some sort of time-warp movie meld could take place momentarily during these scenes, and transport a nearly 40 year-younger Holbrook into the Lincoln role, right there into the movie, in front of us. Now, I think DD Lewis was GREAT as Lincoln. Well-deserved Academy Award for his performance! But I still must give highest honors to Holbrook. Something about HH's mannerisms, his laughter, his expressions, and, yes, his voice ("like a barn owl caught in a bear trap") that still gives Holbrook the title - in my book - of "GREATEST Lincoln Ever Done On Film Or TV."
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on June 25, 2011
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, has been portrayed on film more than any other historical figure in American history. From the silent films of 1911, to the upcoming Spielberg movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln has been on film well over two-hundred and sixty times. There have been many great actors in the role, including Sam Waterston (in Gore Vidal's Lincoln, which I feel presents the definitive screen Lincoln), and Gregory Peck (in The Blue and the Gray). One of the few actors to portray him in more than one different film or miniseries has been Hal Holbrook. I first saw him portray Lincoln in Books One and two of the Miniseries North and South. There, Holbrook gave a warm and wonderful portrayal of Honest Abe. But I did not know that those two miniseries were not his first time portraying the character. That came eleven years before in this six-part miniseries from 1974, the first of its kind at the time.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Carl Sandburg, this miniseries presents a really strong portrayal of Lincoln. From his time as a Prairie Lawyer, to his last days as President of the United States, Holbrook shows a wonderful range as Lincoln, capturing his sense of funny storytelling, his strong emotions when confronted with death, and his strong determination to win the war at all costs. The supporting cast does a fantastic job as well. But when one approaches this series, be aware that it is not a straightforward story being told chronologically. The story shifts from various points of Lincoln's life and Presidency from one episode to the other. It is best to be viewed as a series of "vignettes" that take a look at certain aspects of the story of Lincoln. And it does seem that trying to view it in any sort of chronological order will be nearly impossible. Nevertheless, this is a fine look at the life and Presidency of one of America's greatest leaders. If you enjoy American History, then you will enjoy "Sandburg's Lincoln."

Program/DVD Grade: B+
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on May 26, 2011
Hal Holbrook's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is absolutely the best of any other.
It has been a favorite of ours through the years and our VHS tape is unplayable now.
We are thrilled this is now out on DVD! My husband and I are both history teachers,
but we are mainly buying it for our 16 year old son who loves it! Sada Thompson is
incredible as well! You will not be able to stop watching this mini-series!
Incredible! One of my favorite scenes is when Lincoln goes into Richmond with his
young son. A picture is worth a thousand words!
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on February 8, 2012
This work is not as comprehensive presentation as HBO's presentation of John Adams by David McCullough. Both presentations try to depict American historic figures as individuals with the individual's personality and human fragility. The Adam's mini-series is a collection of stories presented about John Adams as narratives that follow one event follows another event. Not so in this 1970's TV Mini-series, the six stories about Lincoln do not build upon each other. The Lincoln presentations are vignettes. Some of the historic events depicting in the stories overlap each other. Each is like a snapshot of Lincoln as the central character. I have never read either book that these mini-series are based, but I speculate the TV biography of Adams more closely follows the book. This does not mean the Sandburg's work adapted to film is not an excellent use of story telling in depicting historic event and what Lincoln may have been like. The Lincoln presentations are vignettes: simple stories.

Hal Holbrook portrays Abraham Lincoln as a thoughtful individual with strength of purpose, dealing with individuals, dealing with vagaries of life and the war situation. The characterization of Lincoln could be nitpicking as to idealistic and not as nuanced, but I think no work could have made that perfect balanced.

If one wants to see a series of short stories about the sixteenth President of the United States that gives you vignettes of a legal case he defended, his courtship of someone who decides not to marry him, his relationship with his children, how he coped with office seekers, the Washington elite, struggles with his cabinet, his victory- triumph and plans for the future-but not his death and his struggle for a victorious plan and General. Six presentations in all and need not be seen in any particular order for your understanding. Each drama equips the viewer a glimpse what type of man he might have been.
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on August 21, 2011
I was impressed with the quality of this package, altho the films from which the transfers were made are slightly pink, from age. There are only two problems with it: The discs will not play on my new bluray machine. These are the only non-bluray DVD's I have bought that won't play on it. I only get the menu, but when I click to play any episodes, there is no response. SO I had to watch it elsewhere, on a regular DVD player. The other problem is more of a puzzlement; these episodes are not in chronological order, as originally aired! They are not in sequence with Lincoln's life. There must have been a reason for doing this, but it is beyond me.
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on July 7, 2012
Carl Sandburg was THE biographer of Lincoln. This mini-series takes small segments from the book, but does a good job of capturing the character of Lincoln. Hal Holbrook is great, and anyone who remembers the 70's will recognize the faces of many supporting actors. I cut one star off the rating because the quality of the DVD transfer is poor (grainy), and mainly because the order that the episodes (not numbered) are shot-gunned onto two disks. If you hit 'play all', you may see the episode where Lincoln walks the streets of captured Richmond, followed by an episode where he sneaks into D.C. before the inauguration.
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on March 3, 2013
An excellent portrayal of Mr Lincoln by Hal Holbrook. Also loved Sada Thompson as Mary Todd Lincoln. I was glued from the start of this mini series. I thought the story left out some key parts in Lincoln's life, but nonetheless it all came together quite nicely. I felt like an up close observer of Mr. Lincoln. It had me in tears, then laughter, then awe as I watched this humble man. Is it any wonder why he is so loved and admired?

I did have problem playing this DVD on my Blu Ray player (even though it is supposed to play regular DVDs and does, except for this one), it never worked, so I ended up viewing on my laptop.
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on January 21, 2013
I usually avoid dramatic representations of historical persons and events since so much of it is necessarily fictional, and I'm talking about the conversations. Face it, nobody who is alive today ever spoke to Lincoln or heard him speak. We have a certain amount of information from his contemporaries, along with a massive amount of his writings, but as to dialogue, the record does not stand up to an awful lot of conversation in the five hours of drama presented in this two disk set.

Having said that, let me qualify the criticism by saying that I didn't see much in this presentation that seemed unreal or unlikely to me. We know a lot about Lincoln and the people who were around him during his presidency, and I found this dramatic presentation quite enjoyable. I'll have to say that I think the appearance of most of the supporting actors was very poorly done. The only one I recognized without hearing his name spoken by one of the other characters was Edwin Stanton.

For those who have not bought or seen this portrayal of Lincoln's years in the White House, the 2 disk set is definitely worth the price. It focuses much more on the emancipation proclamation than on the Civil War, and demonstrates as well as it can both the support for, and the resistance to, Lincoln's determination to both hold the Union together and also honor the belief that "all men are created equal."

From a personal standpoint, having read much about Lincoln, the Civil War and other persons involved in both the war and government of that time, this is probably as close as we're going to get to sharing the events of those turbulent years.
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As a lifelong Civil War buff I cannot recommend too highly the 1974 TV miniseries entitled Carl Sandburg's LINCOLN.
All the chapters are engrossing and the acting top shelf. Hal Holbrook as America's 16th president is simply magnificent.

That said, based on my copy of the MILL CREEK two-DVD set:

Sandburg's Lincoln

...I must say this one's terribly flawed.
Every minute of my copy has good sound and color, no film damage, but for some unknown reason any motion at all beyond mouth movement is terribly spastic, jerky like the image you'd see from a cheap webcam.

Maybe this defect has been corrected by MILL CREEK since my purchase some years ago. Maybe not.
If Carl Sandburg's LINCOLN is available from a different manufacturer, that's how I'd go if I wanted to purchase it.
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on April 17, 2013
Hal Holbrook is an amazing Lincoln and Sada Thompson shines as Mary Todd Lincoln in this classic mini-series. Even though this is an older production, it still captures what many of the other films have left out including his early years before his presidency. Lincoln's wit and charm are masterfully captured by Holbrook's performance like none of the other films I have seen.

The only problem, which has already been noted by others, is the episodes are out of order on the two discs. I was confused when "Mrs. Lincoln's Husband" had them in the White House then the episode following it, "Prairie Lawyer" shows Lincoln prior to moving to the White House. Sometimes Lincoln will be seen with or without the beard so it's a little puzzling.

Overall, I believe this is one of the best films depicting Lincoln. I didn't experience severe color problems as others reported. The film showed its age, but nothing significant. I did discover that the discs do not play well in Analog DVD Dual Layer recorders which I own. After finally purchasing a new Blue Ray DVD player, it played perfectly with no problems.

I highly recommend especially to those who think the 2012 version of Lincoln was amazing.
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