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A&E Home Video presents
Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered (2002)

"When we asked him what kind of governor he'd be, he said, 'I don't know, I've never played a governor.'"
- Lou Cannon

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: August 28, 2003

Stars: Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan
Other Stars: George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Casper Weinberger, Ed Meese, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pat Buchanan
Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing offensive)
Run Time: 01h:31m:28s
Release Date: March 25, 2003
UPC: 733961707366
Genre: documentary

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

DVD Review

Ronald Reagan is, depending on your political stance, either one of the best presidents the U.S. has ever seen, or one of the very worst. Few men have been able to inspire as much ire and admiration, been as deified and demonized. Such a character would seem like a perfect choice from an intimate documentary, and Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered promises just that, a look at the man away from the glare of television cameras and the judgmental eyes of public perception. Sadly, it turns out to be a rather one-sided memoir of an influential man, with lots of comments from those who knew him best, but little real depth.

His kids get the first crack at their father, but all admit that he was a private man, and difficult to get to know. Michael Reagan complains that his dad never said he loved him. His daughter Patty offers some banal recollections ("Water was a big thing in our house. He taught me to respect the ocean."), and Ron Jr. describes him as someone who thought himself a savior, "but not in a religious way." This program was produced recently, long after Alzheimer's had ravaged the former president's mind, and it's kind of disconcerting to hear his friends and loved ones (wife Nancy in particular) speak about him in the past tense. When Nancy says, "You could never sit Ron down and make him talk about himself," she might as well be talking about a dead man.

The narration that bridges historical periods in Reagan's life is fairly ham-handed ("In his career, as in life, Reagan seemed to know when to dive under the wave, and when to ride the crest..."), and there is a lot of it—this thing moves pretty fast. All the major events are covered briefly, bringing together archival footage, Reagan's own words, and commentary from those close to him. He moves from acting, to meeting Nancy Davis, to politics and his election in California, to his participation in the presidential debates ("I'm paying for this microphone!"), to the assassination attempt following his election, "Reaganomics," the Iran-Contra scandal, and his relations with the Soviet Union.

More controversial aspects of his life tend to be brushed aside, and so the program ends up feeling incomplete, or even biased. The narration states that he became active in the Screen Actor's Guild, for example, and that he participated in the government hearings on communism in Hollywood. That Reagan "participated" by naming names is not mentioned. The Iran-Contra scandal warrants a mere five minutes of screen time (and no real blame is placed on Reagan's shoulders), yet a full ten minutes is spent on his downward spiral due to Alzheimer's Disease. The final segments do provide an interesting, emotional look into his private life, but to define the man by his twilight years by spending so much time on his illness seems rather foolish.

An archival program like this is all about the editing, and A Legacy Remembered moves along fairly well, but there are a few problems. Much time is wasted on minor details while major, interesting elements (like Reagan's relationship with Mikel Gorbachev) seem to get short shrift. His speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!") was one of the most electrifying moments in recent political history, and I would have liked a more in-depth discussion of its impact. Another minor quibble: when interview footage is used, the name of the speaker is given only once, which makes it hard to keep things straight after a while.

Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered is an interesting biography, slickly produced, informative, and worth watching, but it isn't comprehensive enough to warrant anything more than a rental.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Video quality is fine, but unimpressive. The image is clear and mostly free of compression artifacts and aliasing. It doesn't really look better or worse than a VHS copy or a good cable broadcast, but it gets the job done.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Stereono

Audio Transfer Review: The same can be said of the included English stereo mix (which might as well have been mono). Speech is clear, and musical accompaniment is fairly well presented, but it's basically just a lot of talking.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Ronald Reagan Family Tree
Extras Review: Though the extras included are by no means insignificant, I think the History Channel missed an opportunity by not including much in the way of archival footage in the bonus features section. I would have liked to see some footage of the major speeches of his career, or at least transcriptions of said. His speechwriters worked wonders, and they aren't given their due.

Otherwise, there's the Ronald Reagan episode of A&E's popular series Biography. It's an even glossier summation of the man's political career than the main feature, an interesting hour, but not particularly substantial.

Finally, there is a very meager presentation of the Reagan family tree that goes back only two generations.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered is a nice enough biography piece, but it's a bit glossy and surface, and the skirting of controversial events will annoy both history buffs and those hoping for a critical look at one of the most divisive political careers of the modern age.


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