Plot: What’s it about?
The murder trial of O.J. Simpson captured the attention of America on a wide scale, via television broadcasts, news reports, interviews, and pretty much any kind of information the press could issue. The story behind the trial is well known, as Simpson was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, in a most brutal, blood soaked fashion. He maintained his innocence and with a top notch defense team, he pushed into court to defend his name and freedom. His legal counsel was led by Johnny Cochrane (Ving Rhames) and also included F. Lee Bailey (Christopher Plummer), Barry Schreck (Bruno Kirby), and Bob Shapiro (Ron Silver), some of the finest lawyers in the world. As you can expect, having all these high profile lawyers on one team caused some problems and while we never saw the trouble on television, behind the scenes, there was serious turmoil. In American Tragedy, we take a look behind this star studded legal team, to find out what really happened, as these four men defended Simpson in one of the most famous cases of all time.
I have to admit, I was quite taken with O.J. Simpson’s trial and all the circus around it, so I was pleased to learn American Tragedy had been released on DVD. This television miniseries touted a look behind the curtain, to see what happened behind the scenes of Simpson’s trial. I was interested from the start, but the writing here is pretty weak, although the cast is quite good and often more than compensates for the lacking material. Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction), Ron Silver (The Arrival), Bruno Kirby (Donnie Brasco), and Christopher Plummer (Dracula 2000) all seem in fine form, especially if judged on the miniseries scale, to be sure. This miniseries had a lot of factual material to work from, but even with Norman Mailer as writer, it doesn’t live up the potential, at least not often enough. It is as good or perhaps better than most miniseries I’ve seen, but it could have been better, I think. This is, but flawed miniseries and since Trimark has issued a nice two disc edition, I think this is more than worth a look, if you’re at all interested.
Video: How does it look?
American Tragedy is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is as good as you can expect from a television miniseries, a sharp and very pleasant overall visual presentation. The intended visual style is not always film, so some of this looks like it was shot on television cameras, some stock footage is used, and various other visual methods are used, to create a wealth of different visual patterns. It all looks good here and just as it should, plus I commend Trimark for issuing this in anamorphic widescreen, as it benefits from the added enhancement, to be sure. A terrific looking visual effort, this looks a million times better than it ever could on television, so fans should be thrilled.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included audio track is more than decent, considering the material and made for television approach used. This is a dialogue driven feature, so you don’t need much in terms of range or such, but you do need a solid, clean presentation. And we have that here, as the elements are crisp and well presented, with no serious flaws in the least. The music and sound effects are as good as stereo allows, while dialogue is rich and never falters at all. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Trimark has issued American Tragedy as a two disc release, which was a surprise, but a most welcome one. The first disc (Disc O) houses the feature and a promotional trailer, while the second disc (Disc J) contains the rest of the extras. In the Evidence Locker, you’ll find crime scene photos, a police video, a slideshow of various crime scene photos and materials, a selection of aerial photos & drawings, letters, and various courtroom displays. This is a very well made archive of evidence materials, a wise inclusion on this release, given the nature of the feature and the material it involves. You’ll also find Juice on the Loose, a fifty minute vintage documentary from Simpson’s football days. This might not be directly connected to his trial, but it paints a certain picture of Simpson, so it makes a welcome inclusion here, to be sure.