Judge Steve Power still remembers Waco, Texas.
"We didn't nail him on the cross…we burned him to the ground."—FBI Negotiator Clint Van Zandt
Until now, my experience with Final 24 has been exclusively in the realm of dead rock stars who had taken the lifestyle beyond the point of no return. Call it morbid fascination on society's part, but we never grow tired of stories where celebrities stick junk in their veins or drink until their body decides they've had enough. This particular volume was a game changer for me. The fall of the Branch Davidians and their compound at Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas was something of a shocking event in April of 1993. David Koresh had become an international figure, and most of the public just didn't, and probably still don't understand why over 50 people, including 21 children, had to die at what appeared to be the hands of the United States Government. This wasn't some overdosing celebrity; this was a religious figure, a powerful speaker and motivator who, at least to many those on the outside, was a man of peace and faith rather than some nutjob with a Messiah complex. Mount Carmel wasn't Jonestown, and David Koresh didn't plan on any sort of mass suicide.
What David Koresh: His Final Hours does exceptionally well, is present a detailed look at the dwindling days of this man and his flock. The approach is careful consideration and facts, authenticity over drama, reality over Hollywood. Koresh's past is explored, and we're given detailed interviews with everyone from the man's own mother to his closest followers (and some of the few survivors of what can only be described as a massacre.) The show remains objective throughout, neither laying the blame on Koresh and his leadership or on the failings of the Federal Government's attempts to negotiate. Some of the interviewees certainly give their thoughts, and the opinions may surprise you. It's an amazing hour of television, with great dramatizations mixed in with a truckload of incredible archival footage. The events returned to me with the same vivid clarity they had back in 1993 when I was following the standoff, and the fateful final outcome on live TV.
MVD does a great job with this disc; the anamorphic transfer is clean and sharp, with just the right amount of grain and no apparent authoring errors. The archival footage is of varying quality, but is well presented. The stereo track is deep and resonant, with voices that come through loud and clear and ambiance that sets the mood well. There are no extras included, but the technical quality of the main program is to be commended.
The Final 24 series continues to shine with its best entry yet. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
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