Film Reviewed by Kam Williams
30th Anniversary Edition of Emmy-Winning Miniseries Arrives on DVD
Roots (Four-Disc -30th Anniversary Edition) (1977)
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Directors: Marvin J. Chomsky, John Erman
Format: Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
Number of discs: 4
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
Run Time: 573 minutes
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Excellent (4 stars)
Originally airing on television in 1977, the miniseries Roots was based on Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning best seller of the same name. The groundbreaking, autobiographical adventure introduced Levar Burton in the lead role as Kunta Kinte, and featured far too many co-stars to list them all, including O.J. Simpson, Lou Gossett, Jr., John Amos, Ed Asner, Ben Vereen, Maya Angelou, Roxie Roker, Scatman Crothers, Lloyd Bridges, George Hamilton, Todd Bridges, Burl Ives, Chuck Connors, Yvonne De Carlo, Lorne Greene, Yaphet Kotto, Cicely Tyson, and Haley himself, to name a few.
The sweeping, genealogical saga sought to encapsulate the black experience by telescoping in on the author’s own family tree, starting in Africa in 1750 and ending in Arkansas a couple of centuries later. The show served as an eye-opening expose’ on the evils of slavery, as it forced the U.S. for the first time to face that long-suppressed aspect of its legacy.
Among the critically-acclaimed program’s accolades were nine Emmys, a Golden Globe, a Peabody, and over one hundred other awards.
Unfortunately, the production later lost a bit of its luster when Haley was sued successfully for plagiarizing parts of what was supposed to be his own very personal journey of self-discovery.
Though appearing a bit melodramatic in spots by today’s standards, this adaptation holds up enough to remain heartily recommended as a valuable history lesson and as a juxtaposition to demeaning satires of the series over the intervening years by shock comics such as Dave Chappelle.
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