Judge Kerry Birmingham is so distraught over the passing of Charlton Heston that we aren't even going to make a joke about it here.
"Chuck and I are good friends, and we have been for a long time. […] Chuck does these spots on television for the National Rifle Association, and I don't understand why he does that. On the other hand, I'm a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and I'm sure Chuck doesn't understand that very well."—Gregory Peck, politely explaining the ideological differences between himself and his friend, Charlton Heston
It's tempting to say that this quickie profile of the late screen legend, Charlton Heston, is a rushed cash-in on his passing on April 5, 2008. But this release is actually part of a larger rollout of the "The Hollywood Collection," a series of nearly forty documentaries on celebrity icons by the husband and wife team of Gene Feldman and Suzette Winter for various cable outlets. Produced in 1995, Charlton Heston: For All Seasons suffers from being a bit dated, though cinematically it ends where it should (1994's True Lies) and we're spared latter-day projects (a voice in the talking animal movie Cats & Dogs). Despite its mid-90s pedigree, everything about this film seems pulled from the late 80s, from the titling to picture quality to the fashions and hairstyles of its mostly geriatric interview subjects (Gregory Peck, Atticus Finch himself, in his dotage looks a bit like your Grandpa Frank).
Despite its dated quality, For All Seasons does provide a brisk, if hardly thorough, overview of Heston's life and career in just over 45 minutes. Through interviews with co-stars like Peck and Carroll Baker, as well as Heston's own wife and daughter and assorted commentators, Feldman and Winter run through Heston's life from his childhood in rural Michigan to his late-life projects and activism. Heston himself is interviewed and provides only occasional commentary on his films and philosophies, proving himself to be as amicable and warm a speaker as one would expect from the man who was Moses. Though in his later life Heston became famous/infamous for his vocal support of the NRA, eventually serving as its president, his political views are given only a few minutes' lip service, and great care is taken to point out Heston's support of the Civil Rights Movement, including the Selma, Alabama, marches of 1965.
Not just his political life is given short shrift: in its rush to hit as many significant points in Heston's career as possible, the film practically careens through his sixty-plus film career, with a scant few minutes devoted to undisputed classics like Planet of the Apes and The Ten Commandments while the majority of his filmography is given little more than a still frame in acknowledgement. Coupled with the meager details of Heston's personal life and even less time spent analyzing it all, the end result is a rushed, uneven portrait. Intimations are made that Heston was, if nothing else, a complicated individual, a man "born at the wrong time" who made a living playing men who didn't fit in to their times, often Biblical or still more explicitly apocalyptic (he was, after all, the last remnant of a dead world on at least two occasions). But these are never more than intimations: in service to the running time, only the broadest, most basic facts are emphasized over things that would result in a more meaningful portrait of its subject. For All Seasons is respectful of Heston, but a life as long and rich as Heston's, with the testimony of his family and colleagues on film, could have fueled a much longer, richer documentary; this isn't it. Whatever your stance on his personal politics, Heston as a performer and the last of a breed of Hollywood royalty deserves a much weightier, substantial portrait. For All Seasons is made for casual viewing on cable on a Sunday afternoon; this is a fine introduction for casual fans or those intrigued by Heston's life in the wake of his passing, but anyone expecting anything more in-depth will have to look elsewhere.
The bonus features are trailers for other releases in "The Hollywood Collection" and an extended preview thereof. The "Photo Gallery" is really just a long featurette of still photos set to music, as is "Meet the Producers," showcasing snapshots of Winter and Feldman with their celebrity interviewees. These are all uninformative and tedious features and one suspects that everything save the Heston photo gallery is generic to all releases in the collection. The "Gene Feldman Interview on All About TV" promised on the back of the package is not included.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Janson Media
• "Meet the Producers" Slideshow
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