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Click above to purchase "The Life And Times Of Hank
Greenberg" at amazon.com
The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 95 minutes
Written and Directed by Aviva Kempner
Retail Price: $29.98
Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Writer/Editor
Aviva Kempner, Hank Greenberg Stats, Filmmaker's Biography,
Additional Interviews, Director's Notes, Reviews, Hank
Greenberg Biography, Trailer
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 2.0,
English Subtitles, Yiddish Subtitles (in English
transliteration), Spanish Subtitles, English Closed
Captions, Scene Selection
Released: October 16th, 2001
I'd say I'm a pretty big sports fan, and I do really
enjoy baseball. I also happen to really like documentaries.
I also happen to be Jewish, which I do talk about here and
there on the site. While there aren't too many professional
athletes out there who are Jewish, Hank Greenberg is
probably one of the most memorable players out there who
happens to be of the Jewish faith. While he was before my
time, I have heard of him before as he has quite a rich
history. Family members of mine (the older ones basically)
remember him quite well. While I really related to this
documentary since I am Jewish, and the themes that it
brought, anyone can get something out of it and really enjoy
it. This really does rank as one of the best documentaries
I've ever seen. With old interviews, film clips and a
variety of footage, it's very informative, offers a lot of
perspective and is really, really entertaining. This
documentary just sucked me right in.
So who was Hank Greenberg exactly? Again, he was
baseball's first Jewish star who played during the 1930s.
This documentary, which took over a decade to complete,
literally offers the whole history of Greenberg pretty much.
While I didn't know so much about him, I learned a
tremendous amount. I don't know why, but people don't really
know who he is. With a strong batting average and nearly
breaking some famous world records, it baffles me somewhat
why he's not looked upon highly as an "old school" star. He
was really an incredible player.
Despite his good looks and his drive to succeed, poor old
Hank faced a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism. It was a
bad era for Jews when he did play, but this documentary
shows him moving forward and trying to not let remarks get
to him. This documentary, as also said, covers pretty much
everything. People idolizing this sports great, his
schooling, his playing and how his baseball career came to
an end. Many personalities are interviewed here about the
man, including the late great Walter Matthau, Detroit News
sports columnist Joe Falls and all sorts of others. Kempner
has done a tremendous job here. She edited, directed and
wrote this film all by herself. Her effort truly shows, as
she presents a seamless documentary about an incredible man.
This really is one of the best documentaries I've seen. Go
out and check this documentary out, no matter what. Even if
you don't like baseball, it's still worth seeing. It's
highly engrossing and it captures so much. It brims with
quality. Very impressive... don't ignore this one. And then
tell your friends and spread the history of Hank. This is
one for the library. Brilliantly executed and detailed. I
expect a lot of older baseball fans to enjoy this one.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect
ratio, the documentary has an old look to it and due to the
variety of sources, the quality varies. There's a lot of old
newsreel footage, old film footage and filmed interviews.
There are scratches and blemishes as expected, but this
direct to film transfer ruins the look of what seems to be
videotaped interviews. Still, none of this is ever
distracting. A lot is meant to be this way. So, it's fine
for what it is... and you won't notice this documentary
really grabs hold of you.
An English stereo track is included. It's decent.
Basically, the new stuff is crisper and the older stuff is
more distorted and harder to hear. But I didn't find
anything too hard to hear... you can understand what people
are saying and what's being heard a very good deal of the
time. It's just the sources used, so it all depends. Spanish
and English subtitles are included, plus Yiddish ones in
their English transliteration (YES!).
This is no bare bones release, thankfully. The Audio
Commentary with Aviva Kempner is pretty great. It's
straight forward, it has a great flow and it's rather
insightful. Kempner offers a lot more background information
on the times and her subject, and while I wish there was
more focus on making the documentary, she sits down and
doesn't stop. Worth hearing for sure.
Additional Interviews, I guess, are stuff that
didn't make the documentary (it's all fully edited). The
interviews are all scratchy and look terrible... but it's
still worth watching. Hal Newhouser, Walter Matthau, Harry
Eisenstat and others are featured here.
The rest is basically text. Hank Greenberg Stats,
a Hank Greenberg Biography (very well written) plus a
Filmmaker's Biography on Kempner and her well-written
and fascinating Director's Notes. There are four
Reviews you can read (from the San Fransisco
Chronicle, The Dallas Observer, USA Today Baseball Weekly
and Entertainment Weekly) plus a Trailer.
"The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg" is an astounding,
entertaining and really informative documentary. While the
presentation is average, this isn't a film that's supposed
to show off your home theater. It just fits. The supplements
are great. Again, this is one title worth looking into for
sure. Don't ignore it!
(4.5/5 - NOT included in
(3.5/5, NOT an average)