THE LINCOLN CHRONICLES (DVD) Image

So, you can’t get enough of Abraham Lincoln? Well, this 10-disc DVD collection will provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about our 16th president – along with a few tall tales thrown in for good measure.

The best part of this collection is the re-issue of the 1974 TV mini-series “Sandburg’s Lincoln,” in which Hal Holbrook gives the definitive dramatic interpretation of Lincoln. Yes, there are classic big screen Lincolns – Walter Huston, Raymond Massey, Henry Fonda and (most recently) Daniel Day-Lewis – but Holbrook’s Lincoln captures the complexity and humanity of the Civil War commander-in-chief with an extraordinary mix of uncommon subtlety and raw emotion.  Indeed, this entire production is blessed with a rich maturity – the flashback sequence where Lincoln visits his near-blind stepmother (played by veteran actress Beulah Bondi) is a masterwork of intelligence and compassion.

The aforementioned Walter Huston interpretation of Lincoln is here, too, via the 1930 D.W. Griffith feature “Abraham Lincoln.” Griffith took some rather zany liberties with Lincoln’s story, but the film has historic value as one of the great director’s last efforts.

The remainder of the series focuses on documentaries.  An eight-part “America: The Birth of Freedom” mixes the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, with Lincoln only arriving in the second half of the presentation.  “The Civil War: America Divided” takes up three discs and “Lincoln: Trial by Fire” takes up two discs. None of these offerings provides unique insight into the historical conflicts, but they are more than adequate as introductory lessons for those who need to get up to speed on American history.

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