Feature: 5 Films That Understand November 22, 1963

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CHICAGO – Tomorrow, November 22nd, 2013, is the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Beyond the numerous TV programs and tributes expected for the memory, which films have lent the best perspective over the years regarding that Day in Dallas? The following offers five films for consideration.

Films and the cinema also figured in the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald. The alleged assassin ducked into Texas Theater in Dallas as he was on the run from the murder scene, and was apprehended inside the theater. A war film double feature was playing there – “Cry of Battle” (1963) and “War is Hell” (1963). It was the second film that was interrupted when police descended on Oswald.

The following five films – available for digital download, Blu-ray and DVD – provides different observations and objectives regarding November 22nd, 1963, and submits the facts, conspiracy theories and background players that were present in Dallas on that day.

StarFour Days in November (1964)

Four Days in November
Title Card from ‘Four Days in November’
Photo credit: MediaOutlet.com

From famed documentary producer David L. Wolper, “Four Days in November” is remarkable because it was released one year after the events of the assassination, and is still one of the best Kennedy films regarding that day – and the days following the shocking tragedy. What stands out is the appearances Kennedy made in the other cities on his Texas trip (Houston and San Antonio), where every word and gesture becomes ironic. Wolper also recreates some significant moments through eyewitness testimony and actual locations, which had yet to be marred by time. An essential, exquisitely composed document regarding the assassination in its own time, and it’s almost impossible not to shed some tears by the time the funeral is shown. Available on DVD through MediaOutlet.com.

StarJFK (1991)

The Magic Bullet Demonstration from ‘JFK
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

Director Oliver Stone’s paranoid classic, and the JFK film that all others aspire to be. The outrageous editing, re-creations and conspiracy presentations are all manifested through the unique vision of Stone, who has expressed that he made the film so extreme because he felt that the government’s Warren Commission – the official conclusion that Oswald acted alone – was on their side an extreme obscuring of the truth. No matter what your opinion is about the assassination, Stone’s view touched a raw nerve, because it seemed to create havoc when released in 1991 – especially within the mainstream press – who really didn’t do their job back in 1963. Flamboyant, controversial and essential. Available on Blu-ray and DVD through Warner Home Video.

StarExecutive Action (1973)

Executive Action
The Assassination Scene: An Overview of Dealey Plaza, Dallas, in ‘Executive Action’
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

Regarding assassination conspiracy theory, this film almost achieves as much as “JFK,” even though it was released twenty years prior and with a decidedly lower budget. Co-written by famed blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and early conspiracy advocate Mark Lane (“Rush to Judgment”), the film depicts the assassination as ordered – like in Stone’s film – by oligarch forces behind Big Oil and the military industrial complex. These shadowy figures are represented by veteran actors Robert Ryan and Will “Grandpa Walton” Geer, and in an intriguing late career role, Burt Lancaster as leader of the black ops team that accomplishes the hit. The film lacks the ability and budget to maintain the 1963 period – several anachronisms exist – and is a bit claustrophobic, as most of the plans are realized indoors, but the step-by-step carrying out of the mission chillingly makes sense. Kennedy had to be be stopped, because he was progressive, wealthy – and didn’t really care for his fellow millionaires – and increasingly popular. Available on DVD through Warner Home Video.

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