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Showing 1-10 of 134 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 166 reviews
on March 15, 2014
Like most people, I have no direct memory of prohibition. It has always seemed to me a stupid, and ultimately failed attempt to enforce morality by law. Of course, morality is always enforced by law--don't kill, don't steal--but trying to enforce prohibition seemed wrong-headed. For one thing, drinking was common even among "good" people, and would require messy and problematic enforcement. Furthermore, the problem did not seem to be drinking, but rather over drinking. Why not enforce laws against the latter and leave the former alone (as our dwi laws do)?
After watching this documentary, I changed my mind.
I found out I was completely underestimating the ubiquity of alcohol abuse, and the havoc it caused on families and women and children--not to mention animals, prior to prohibition. I was thinking of alcohol abuse as it exists today, which left me unprepared for how it existed then.
Here's what I think after watching the video: Prohibition was a brave, compassionate, and necessary attempt to rescue families and worker productivity and children. It was not a failure, because it changed even to this day the way we view alcohol.
We dropped prohibition, but something valuable stuck with us.
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on November 26, 2014
Any Ken Burns documentary is going to be smart, well made and educational. This one is also fun (in the plus column), but lacks the emotion, ambition and power of his very best work, like "The Civil War" or "The Central Park Five".

Made with a ton of great movie footage and stills, and lots of tid-bits about the history of drinking in America -- it's out of control pervasiveness among men, especially working class men, that led to the push for prohibition that puts the now ridiculous seeming constitutional amendment in a somewhat more understandable light. That in turn explains the odd confluence of its backers, from religious conservatives, to well meaning social progressives looking to save the poor from themselves, to blue-blood WASPS who hated working class immigrants who drank more openly, to women fighting for the right to vote, and who saw how often alcohol contributed to domestic violence.

The film also does a great job in showing how a law that tens of millions of citizens will simply ignore is much worse than no law at all, as it sows the seeds of disregard and contempt for the law, as well creating a fertile ground for criminals to give people what they want in a black market. Much the same arguments are going on in the US right now about other "vice" laws, from marijuana, to prostitution, to proposed laws on fatty and sugary foods.

One of the central questions of any democracy is how much and where does the government have a right to intrude into people's lives for the greater good. It's an important and complicated question, and one the series does a good job of raising.

But at over 5 hours it starts to run a little thin, and the points and stories start to get a bit repetitive. I'm glad I saw it, and enjoyed myself quite a bit, but unlike many documentaries by Burns (and his equally talented brother Ric), I don't think I'll feel a need to re-watch it anytime soon.
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on June 22, 2016
SUPER FANTASTIC program, I never wanted it to end, even in its multi-episode format. So many connections that aren't known even today, and this very complicated issue and interlude in American history, incomprehensible to Europeans and South Americans, but in its context it now makes sense to me, and sense to me why it didn't work and failed so miserably and so quickly. Absorbing, wonderful.
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on April 21, 2017
Fascinating story....it's about more than booze. Old footage and photos alone worth the time.
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on February 6, 2015
I love stories and movies just like everyone else out there..however my favorites are things that are based on truth. This is very well put together and documented and makes for great conversation with coworkers and family members to help pass along history and get through a hard days work. It sheds light on some myths and truths on how things really were in that time era. Keep it coming..I love this stuff.
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on February 26, 2012
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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on January 23, 2017
In my opinion this is Ken Burns finest work yet. Great interviews, wonderful music and a fantastic historical look at the Prohibition movement in the US. The first wire tapping cases in US history leading to a "right to privacy" being articulated by the SCOTUS and the first acquittal of a murder charge due to "temporary insanity" are BOTH related to Prohibition. The massive changes wrought in society by Prohibition and the rise in women' equality were also covered. I was fascinated by the series and can't recommend it highly enough!
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on June 13, 2014
I TIVOed this when it was originally broadcasted on PBS in 2012. I've probably watched it 10 times, so I figured it was time to buy a copy. I always remember my grandmother and parents talking about Prohibition but never really knew the history behind it and how formerly law-abiding citizens became law-breakers in the face of the scofflaw rebellion of this ridiculous amendment. Prohibition was a prime example of how useless it is for a society to address a social problem without looking at root cause...a problem that still exists today among radical political factions. I found the photographs fascinating...especially of the flappers because I saw photos of my grandmother as a young woman wearing clothes like that and immediately understood that she and her girlfriends were most likely among the speakeasy set. This is a well-organized documentary that should be shown in every high school as part of their American History curriculum. Outstanding! I own every Ken Burns documentary...he is, without a doubt, the top documentarian of our time.
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on October 30, 2011
"Prohibition" is a must-see for anyone interested in this documentary directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. This is an in-depth study of how circumstances were right to amend the Constitution and prohibit the sale of alcohol in 1920. Burns and Novick did a thought-provoking job of raising the questions of the role of government versus individual rights, issues we still face today.
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on December 22, 2014
The history of Prohibition is an important subject to reflect about in our 21st century days of war against drugs.
The director Ken Burns presented us with an outstanding documentary, in which the storyline of this radical social and political happening is cleverly structured. The roots, development and consequences of Prohibition are portrayed in an honest and perceptive fashion, showing that one thing is to pass a law, another is to enforce it. All accompanied by a beautiful visual research that makes watching a time travel in High Definition! Enjoyed every second.
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