Mark Twain

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

His real name was Samuel Clemens, but he is known to most of the world as Mark Twain, one of the greatest authors of all time. And while he did write some impeccable, and often misunderstood works of literature, this was not all Twain was about. His sharp wit was also presented in person, not just in his writings and as a result, he was held up as one of the funniest, most insightful people of his time. His word were memorable to the people of his era and perhaps even more today, as his characters and phrases remain alive and well in modern times. In Mark Twain, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns opens up the world of this man and lets us take a look inside, to discover more about Twain than we’d ever known before. A lot of Twain’s own words are used to reveal his intentions, his inner thoughts, and such, but we’re also shown a selection of interviews, with folks who share their feelings on the man’s life. This excellent documentary takes us back to Twain’s childhood, through his best times & worst times, a most in depth look at Twain’s life indeed.

The documentary films of Ken Burns have become modern treasures, thanks to how skilled Burns is with his work, as well as his obvious passion. I have enjoyed several of his projects and while Mark Twain is not his best work, it is an informative and worthwhile piece, if you’re at all interested in the material. The topic of Mark Twain is a perfect one for Burns to tackle, since Burns is so adept at Americana, which Twain certainly belongs within. If you’ve seen any of Burns’ previous films, then you know about what to expect here, even though Mark Twain is short than Burns’ best known works. This piece runs about two hundred and twenty minutes, not a second of which is wasted by Burns, nor does it ever slow down much. The pace remains brisk enough to keep your mind from wandering, but also slow enough to allow us to take in all information, the perfect balance for this kind of picture. The interviews are enlightening and very entertaining, but the story of Twain’s life is often told in his own words, which makes it that much more powerful. I highly recommend this movie to all those interested and since PBS has issued this terrific disc, I see no reason to pass by this release.

Video: How does it look?

Mark Twain is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. As expected, the image here is clean and looks like a new documentary should, no real flaws to make note of here. I saw no compression errors of any kind, while color & contrast seem on the mark as well, nary a spot of blooming or oversaturation to report. I knew this would look good, as PBS has done some great DVD work to date and this release continues that trend.

Audio: How does it sound?

This is not the kind of title you slide in for audio demonstration purposes, so the included 2.0 surround option is more than adequate. As this is mostly dialogue of one kind or another, the front channels bolster the elements well enough, with no complaints to be made. I found the dialogue to be clean and crisp throughout, with no clarity issues in the least and as far as volume balance, never had trouble there, either. The musical score adds a lot to the mix also, often using the surrounds to enhance the audio atmosphere.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes a collection of outtakes from the various interview sessions, a bonus interview with Burns himself, a look behind the scenes at how Mark Twain was created, a featurette on how Burns works, and some Twain photos & quotes.

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