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The U.S. vs. John Lennon

4.4 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON is a compelling and provocative look at John Lennon's transformation from beloved musical artist to anti-war activist to iconic inspiration for peace that also reveals the true story of why and how the U.S. Government tried to silence him. The film will also show that this was not just an isolated episode in American history but that the issues and struggles of that era remain relevant today.


In retrospect, it seems absurd that the United States government felt so threatened by the presence of John Lennon that they tried to have him deported. But that's what happened, as chronicled in directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld's The U.S. vs. John Lennon. The film starts slowly, with a familiar look at the former Beatle's troubled childhood, his outspokenness as one of the Fabs ("We're more popular now than Jesus Christ," etc.), and his eventual hookup with Yoko Ono, paralleled by the growth of political protest in '60s America, particularly against the Vietnam War. John and Yoko went on to stage their own peaceful demonstrations, like the Canadian "bed-ins," but these were largely harmless media stunts. It was when the Lennons moved to New York in the early '70s and took a more active role in the anti-war movement, making friends with radicals like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale, that the government got interested--and paranoid--and men like President Richard Nixon, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and right-wing Sen. Strom Thurmond began actively looking for ways to silence him (it was Thurmond who came up with the deportation idea). That's also when the film picks up. An array of talking heads weighs in, ranging from Ono and others sympathetic to Lennon's plight (Walter Cronkite, Sen. George McGovern, even Geraldo Rivera) to those on the other side, including Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy. Though The U.S. vs. John Lennon is hardly impartial, it's safe to say that although Lennon was more an idealist than an activist, he was an influential celebrity whom Nixon viewed as a potential nuisance in an election year. And even once Nixon had won the '72 presidential race, the Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to drop its case. Why? "Anybody who sings about love, and harmony, and life, is dangerous to somebody who sings about death," says author Gore Vidal. "Lennon... was a born enemy of the U.S. He was everything they hated." For music fans, Lennon's solo recordings provide the soundtrack. The DVD also contains considerable additional documentary footage. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • Bonus footage
  • DVD-ROM interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  • Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Stew Albert, Tariq Ali, Carl Bernstein
  • Directors: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld
  • Writers: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld
  • Producers: David Leaf, Arlene Wszalek, Bill Royce, Brad Abramson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: February 13, 2007
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000LP5CX4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,535 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on September 24, 2006
Format: Theatrical Release
THE US VS. JOHN LENNON is a riveting documentary that shows how the judicial and immigration system works in the United States. John Lennon was placed under the microscope by President Nixon and the US FBI during the early 1970s because he posed as a threat to Nixon's political campaign, and an intense influence on the youth of America as a result of his music and iconoclastic image. Bottom line, the film focuses on Lennon's activism as well as the controversial and gray aspects of the meaning of activism and dissent.

Director David Leaf interweaves Lennon's music within the documentary with a collage of images of the mop-top Beatle to the bearded-hippie shouting for world peace from an Amsterdam hotel room alongside the press and fellow peers. The core participants and leaders of the late 1960s and early 1970s are presented in the film, such as John Sinclair, Angela Davis, J. Edgar Hoover, President Richard M. Nixon, and various writers and journalists who reported about Lennon. The interesting aspect are the recent interviews of those political activists who attempted to make a mark on society. Within Leaf's documentary is the past, but the political atmosphere of the present appears to parallel or bear similarities to the past.

THE US VS. JOHN LENNON is entertaining. In light of serious events that occurred in Lennon's life, he tend to press on. There are funny moments in the film as well as serious ones. But the film also presents the chilling aspects of the system of government, and the powers that be. Lennon may have been one the last influential figures of the 1960s who spoke and sang a thousand words to a generation that just wanted to be listened and understood, and politics did not stop him from creating his love of music for all to hear.

This film is highly recommended for all Lennon fans as well as those who would like to understand the relationship between politics and music.
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Format: Theatrical Release
Some fans of John Lennon's music couldn't swallow what he eventually became. For such people, hearthrobbing memories of the loveable moptop didn't gel with the later scraggy haired peace toting activist. "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" shows a reporter confronting Lennon on this very issue. She tells him outright that he should take a look at himself and suggests that he should feel ashamed. Lennon tells her that he's all grown up, and when she asks "to what?" he answers simply "29."

That answer should perk brows. It's easy to forget that Lennon, a larger than life figure in life and in death, was rather young during the most controversial part of his life. Fresh from the breakup of the Beatles, the incomprehensibly famous twenty-something focused his energies on activism. His life as the "intelligent" Beatle may have made him feel somewhat infallible - and in some ways he was untouchable. The head-on clash he had with the United States government, documented in this film, probably bolstered that feeling. That he accomplished what he did at such a young age remains astonishing.

Anyone familiar with Lennon's career knows that he had a penchant for making bold statements. Some of these led to public outcry. After a brief overview of Lennon's childhood, the film shows the fallout from his 1966 "we're more popular than Jesus" statement. Beatle bonfires, condemnation in the press, boycotts, and defamation resulted. The band survived, of course. But that controversy failed to staple his tongue. With almost unprecedented candor for a rock star, Lennon began to speak out against the Vietnam war. One scene shows the Beatles poised press-conference style. An interviewer throws out a question about the United States' involvement in Vietnam.
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Format: DVD
When former Beatle John Lennon changed from "entertainer" to political activist, he suddenly found himself under investigation by the United States Government. In a move that evokes the "Red scare" of the 50's, the Nixon administration pushed the Department of Immigration and Naturalization to deport Lennon, wiretap his phone lines, be followed by FBI agents and declared an enemy of the United States because of who he chose to associate with and his opposition to the Vietnam War.

Lennon relocated to New York and applied for a Green Card hoping to settle in the country that he had grown to love. This documentary presents comments from both sides; we hear from political activists such as Bobby Seale that Lennon knew at the time as well as his political opponents that worked for the Nixon Administration such as G. Gordon Liddy, John Dean and some of the former FBI agents charged with bringing in incriminating evidence to eliminate Lennon as a threat. Filled with footage of Lennon on "The Mike Douglas Show" and interviews throughout the 60's and 70's, the film presents a pretty even handed look at what happened to Lennon when he chose to try and help the various political causes he supported.

The one area that the film skimps on is the early indication that he wanted to become political active. The film glosses over most of Lennon's life prior to his meeting Yoko. While this is more background, it would give more information and context. Likewise, ignoring Lennon's "lost weekend" where he fell into alcohol abuse, saw his marriage to Yoko fall apart. This bit of information shows the personal cost to Lennon for political activism and the green card situation. These moments would have humanized Lennon even more.
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