MPI // 1999 // 140 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge George Hatch (Retired) // February 28th, 2006
"Because of the unfortunate incident that happened here during the visit of Ambassador Adlai Stevenson people everywhere in the world will be hyper-critical of our behavior. Nothing must occur that is disrespectful or degrading to the President of the United States when he arrives in Dallas." -- Jess Curry, Dallas Police Chief
"We were only about five minutes from the Trademark, where the luncheon was to be held. I heard this shot and I knew it was a rifle shot...Then I felt the impact of the second bullet that had hit me in my back shoulder and came out my chest. I was lying there and I heard a third shot very distinctly. I assumed it hit the President and when I looked around, the evidence was splattered all over the car. -- John Connally, Governor of Texas.
"The eyes of the nation and the hearts of the nation are with Mrs. Kennedy today. And the eyes of Dallas, Texas, are held in shame." -- Dallas News Reporter
The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History is an informative, if lopsided, documentary about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and particularly the "lone gunman" theory that was imposed upon the American public almost immediately by J. Edgar Hoover, then-director of the FBI. In an interview, investigative journalist Jack Anderson notes that the country was in a panic, believing that the murder of President Kennedy was the result of an international conspiracy between the Russians, the Cubans, and the Mafia, and that a thermo-nuclear war was inevitable. To quell the anxiety and apprehension that was rapidly permeating the American mindset, Anderson asserts that the "accidental President-elect," Lyndon B. Johnson, called Hoover and pleaded, "Edgar, please save your country."
Hoover would be required to provide a singular, non-political motive for the alleged lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and he determined that Oswald's actions were "not ideological but psychological." Hoover was able to find a monster greater than Oswald: Oswald's mother, Marguerite, and he concluded that Oswald was "suffering the impact of existing emotional isolation and deprivation, lack of attention, absence of a family life, and rejection by self-involved, manipulative and conflicted mother. There was no international conspiracy, no right-wing menace...just a crazed lone gunman -- a psycho with a rifle and a mother. Case closed!"
Rumors of a cabal, however, continued to run rampant, so President Johnson appointed the Warren Commission to officially investigate the assassination. The problem here was that Hoover had already leaked his theory to select members of the press, so the Warren Commission was boxed in and had no alternative but to reach the same conclusion. Reporter Anderson points out that the American people looked up to Hoover as "a latter-day Christ when, in fact, he was a blackmailer, a manipulator, a man with no morals, and a person who represented everything that was wrong with the United States of America."
U.S. citizens were displeased and dissatisfied with Hoover's explanation and the "findings" of the Warren Commission, and in 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison indicted international businessman Clay Shaw, implicating him as a conspirator in the murder of JFK. Using a bootlegged copy of the notorious home movie footage shot by Abraham Zapruder, Garrison attempted to discredit the "lone gunman" theory, but the trial was ridiculed as a "cockeyed caper" and a miscarriage of justice. Garrison himself was dismissed as "an investigator who couldn't find a pubic hair in a whorehouse." This trial is the basis for Oliver Stone's brilliant 1991 film, JFK, based on Garrison's On the Trail of an Assassin and Jim Marrs's Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy.
(Toward the conclusion of this documentary, director John Frankenheimer (Seven Days in May) asserts that Stone's JFK "is a great film because it makes people think and ask questions again." However, like Garrison, both Stone and the film have been criticized and denigrated by angry politicians who find it "a sham, inflammatory, and morally, intellectually, and politically bankrupt.")
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a conspiracy and that there was at least one other rifleman who shot President Kennedy in the throat from the front, while Oswald was shooting from behind hitting Gov. Connally in the back. In several polls, most Americans have more faith in the results of the HSCA than those of the Warren Commission.
The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History is an excellent primer or refresher course for conspiracy buffs, but it's top-heavy in its "revisionist" approach. It spends an entire hour putting the future President Kennedy and his ultimate assassination in the context of the pre-existing U.S. political and cultural climate and the global context of the Cold War.
The documentary opens in Cuba during the Eisenhower administration: "Havana in the 1950s was like no other place in the world. Well-known as a city of pleasure, it was actually a type of political and criminal 'free-zone' under the rule of Dictator Fulgencio Batista where mobsters mingled freely with businessmen and politicians, most of them from America."
Fidel Castro's revolution against Batista gradually comes into play, along with revelations about self-appointed Prime Minister Castro's flirtation with the Russians and his ultimate declaration that Cuba was now an official communist state. This naturally segues into the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and the Nuclear Test Ban treaty, during which many Americans suspected that President Kennedy had made a more secret pact with Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev and was, in fact, a communist "mole" positioned at the highest government level.
I found this background fascinating because I grew up during the era but was too young to understand the international politics. Newbies, though, may find this information overworked and tedious. The lopsidedness I referred to earlier stems from the difference in the running time listed on the keep case, 180 minutes, with that displayed on my DVD player, 140 minutes. Although The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History feels complete and unpadded in its goals, another 40 minutes in the second half may have given more balance to the presentation.
While not considered extras, the documentary does boast the following content:
* The first digital rendering of the Zapruder film, mastered from the original;
* The only known color footage of Lee Harvey Oswald;
* Cuban source material on the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis;
* First-time use of audio material from Robert F. Kennedy's oral history;
* Interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, John Frankenheimer, Jack Anderson, and Sam Halpern;
* A link between the film Psycho and the FBI's report on Oswald, and
* Newly-discovered footage from local television archives and foreign news sources, including Lyndon B. Johnson's thoughts concerning a conspiracy.
This material, beautifully integrated into The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History, made it the winner of the 1999 IDA/ABCNews VideoSource Award for the Best Use of News Footage in a Documentary.
Taking this archival news footage into account, MPI Home Video's full-screen transfer is quite good considering the age of the film and its occasionally unconventional sources. Save for some taped phone conversations full of static and background noise, most of the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is excellent and subtitles are provided.
Overall, The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History is well worth a look for conspiracy enthusiasts and anyone interested in what is, perhaps, the most tragic and suspicious event in this country's past.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Kennedy Assassination and the Conspiracy
* An Introduction to Conspiracy Theories
* Kennedy Assassination Theories
* A Primer for JFK Conspiracy Theories
* The Jim Garrison Investigation