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MPI Networks presents
Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film (1998)

"Zapruder never took his eye from the viewfinder as he shot the film. As the horrifying news of the shooting traveled through the streets, a stunned Zapruder began walking to his office."
- Narrator (Peter Dean)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: July 15, 2000

Stars: Peter Dean, Abraham Zapruder
Other Stars: John F. Kennedy, Geraldo Rivera
Director: H.D. Motyl

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic assassination footage)
Run Time: 01h:28m:00s
Release Date: August 04, 1998
UPC: 030306728223
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-CC- B+

DVD Review

MPI's Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film is a documentary about Abraham Zapruder's famous 8mm home movie of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963. This is a narrowly focused production, providing detailed coverage and analysis of what is perhaps the most historically significant piece of celluloid in existence. Interviews with people involved in the film's creation, development, acquisition, analysis and recent digital capture are mixed with archival footage and scientific diagrams covering everything from Zapruder's camera to the geometry of the assassination.

Four versions of the digitally restored version are shown (at standard and slow-motion speeds), with new "wide" versions that include imagery from the normally unprojected sprocket-hole area of the film, "never seen before."

The documentary is well-structured and coherently presented, though some assumptions are made about the viewer's familiarity with the events surrounding the assassination. The Zapruder film itself is covered quite thoroughly, and some supplemental video clips flesh out the context (see the Extras Review.) Keep in mind that this is a documentary about the Zapruder Film of the Kennedy assassination, not the assassination itself. It achieves its modest goals successfully and captures a fascinating moment in media history.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MPI's DVD transfer copes reasonably well with greatly varying sources. Print and photographic material is generally clean and sharp, while video interview and historical videotape footage is often soft with color bleeding, videotape glitches and moire effects. Various versions of the 8mm Zapruder Film itself exhibit degrees of scratching and wear, and even the carefully restored versions that are the main attraction here are unsteady and soft. Compression artifacts turn up in a lot of scenes, with some i-frame "pulsing" here and there. But this is still a watchable transfer, and its flaws do not compromise the informational content to any degree.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Image of an Assassination is presented in Dolby Digital 2.1 audio, though most of the material is in "big fat mono" (decoded to play through the center speaker) and the .1 LFE channel appears to be unused. The DVD has some odd audio dropouts here and there, and older sources carry light hiss, though I suspect MPI may have processed the audio to clean it up. This is an undramatic but solid documentary sound transfer that preserves the content successfully.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, German with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Chronology
  2. Additional Historical Video
Extras Review: MPI counts Image of an Assassination's extras towards the disc's approximately 88-minute running time, but that's fair in this case as they run almost as long as the main attraction. The varied supplements are all germane to the subject—this is a fine use of the interactive DVD format for documentary purposes. 6 chapter stops are provided for the main documentary, with subtitles available in Spanish, French, German and English. Supplements include:


Detailed text-screen timelines of significant events in the history of the Zapruder film.

Additional Historical Video:

4 complete video clips, excerpts of which are seen in the documentary proper.

WFAA-TV Interview:

Breaking news clip from a local Dallas/Fort Worth TV station, complete with a bit of the talk show the news interrupted. Lengthy clip includes an interview with Abraham Zapruder and quite a bit of coverage of the Kennedy assassination.

Rights Negotiations with LIFE:

Longer version of an interview with LIFE Magazine staffer Richard Stolley (in front of an audience) discussing the original negotiations with Zapruder for rights to the film.

Good Night America:

Geraldo Rivera and civil rights leader/humorist Dick Gregory discuss the Kennedy assassination with Robert Groden, who puts forth a multiple-assassin/CIA conspiracy theory a few years after the event, and historian Ralph Schoenmann. Tabloid journalism, to be sure, but also historically significant—it was the first time the Zapruder film had been shown on television.

Kennedy's Arrival in Dallas:

Brief, silent color film footage of the President's landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and the parade prior to the assassination.


Text/photo biographies of Abraham Zapruder, LMH Company (holders of the Zapruder Film copyright) and DVD producer MPI Media Group.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film is an interesting, in-depth look at Abraham Zapruder's 26 seconds of 8mm celluloid film that captured one of the most famous and tragic images in U.S. history. Conspiracy theorists and history buffs alike will find the restored/widened footage an invaluable research tool. Released in 1998, MPI's DVD has some technical glitches but makes intelligent, creative use of the format. Recommended.


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