History Channel // 1997 // 46 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // March 15th, 2004
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
-Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"
You may have seen this History Channel special when it was originally called Modern Marvels: The Statue of Liberty. Now, it's been jazzed up a bit and renamed The Statue of Liberty: Enlightening the World. How many of you (non-history buffs or non-New York City residents) knew that this "new" title is actually the complete title of the sculpture on Liberty Island? How many of you know that Liberty Island used to be called Bedloe's Island. These are just two of the curious little tidbits that I picked up from this disc.
Though I've never watched a lot of the History Channel, every time I've tuned in, I felt that I could count on them to have put together an impressive documentary on a subject. Each show would be crammed full of information but still put together so that it made it fascinating to learn about history. Unfortunately, I'm afraid to say that they missed the mark on this one. During the 46 minute presentation, I picked up the occasional fact -- like the full title, original name of the island, original timeline from idea to creation, sculptor's name and technique, and so forth -- but I don't feel I learned enough. It was too superficial an examination of the subject, which ironically reminded me that there is quite a bit that I don't know about history in general.
The heart of the problem is that this special about the Statue of Liberty strays too far from the topic by going into a long sidebar about the history of Ellis Island. I understand how the two are so closely intertwined, but we need to remember the title of this special. Nowhere does it state it's about the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. No. It's solely supposed to talk about the statue. The 15 or so minutes that were spent detailing Ellis Island's history should have been used to tell me more facts, more tidbits, more historical nuggets about this beautiful lady. I was craving to know more. Once I start on a topic, I really want to get the most bang for my buck, and that's not what happened here.
Further muddling the message is what's included in the bonus materials. While there are several pages of text detailing facts and trivia about the Statue of Liberty, the other item included is the "Save Our History: Ellis Island" special (12 minutes), which I believe was also aired on the History Channel. Now we have a double-dose of Ellis Island history on this Statue of Liberty set; further, there is a great deal of overlap between the two.
For those of you who need to take measure of all discs you may purchase, the transfers are a bit below average for this TV special. The combination of old black and white and newer color footage is replete with all manner of errors, mostly dirt and artifacting. Colors are extremely subdued, and the video is lacking any sharpness or detail. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is exceptionally ordinary but acceptable for this dialogue-intensive feature.
Don't misunderstand me: both of these specials are nicely crafted and well done. I just wish we had not lost focus on the primary topic, allowing the viewer to have a chance to take a deeper look at one fascinating historical topic.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 46 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Save Our History: Ellis Island"
* Statue of Liberty Facts
* National Park Service--Statue of Liberty