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David C. Taylor
Richard Nixon
Writing Credits:

Imbued with both remarkable triumph and unprecedented scandal, the legacy of Richard Milhous Nixon is one of the most complex and enduring of all former U.S. Presidents. In this feature-length special, The History Channel® takes a fresh look at one of America’s most controversial leaders more than thirty years after his infamous resignation. Drawing on previously unseen footage and only recently released audio tapes, Nixon: A Presidency Revealed sheds new light on the man who brought both progress and shame to the presidential office. Some of his greatest achievements included ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War; forging historic peacekeeping relations with the Soviet Union, China, and the Middle East; and implementing innovative social and environmental initiatives at home. However, Nixon’s accomplishments were ultimately overshadowed by his secrecy, lies, and gross abuse of power, which undermined America’s faith in the integrity of the presidency.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 6/26/2007

• “Inside the Presidency: Eisenhower Vs. Nixon” Documentary


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Nixon: A Presidency Revealed (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 12, 2007)

More than a decade after his death and over 30 years since he became the first – and only – president to resign from office, does anything new remain to be said about Richard Nixon? Someone must think so, or else we’d not find a new documentary called Nixon: A Presidency Revealed.

This show uses standard methods to tell its tale. We get archival elements along with interviews. We get notes from Nixon: A Life author Jonathan Aitken, presidential historian Robert Dallek, Poisoning the Press: Nixon and Anderson author Mark Feldstein, President Nixon: Alone in the White House author Richard Reeves, former Nixon Senior White House Military Advisor and Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig, former Nixon Deputy Assistant to the President Alexander Butterfield, Kissinger: A Biography author Walter Isaacson, former Nixon National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Washington Post managing editor Ben Bradlee, former Nixon Counsel to the President Charles Colson, former Nixon chief speechwriter Ray Price, former Nixon Deputy Counsel to the President Egil “Bud” Krogh, former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, Senator Robert Dole, and former Nixon assistant (1990-94) Monica Crowley.

Revealed takes a pretty standard biographical path. We get information about Nixon’s childhood and his ups and downs as a politician. We watch Nixon’s ascendancy to the presidency in 1969, its challenges, and how Nixon dealt with them. The show examines the structure of Nixon’s White House and its unusual elements as well as Nixon’s manifestations of paranoia. It also goes through Nixon’s actions in the Vietnam War, domestic issues, Nixon’s trip to China, détente with the Soviet Union, the operations that culminated in Watergate, and the 1972 election. From there we follow the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s downfall and his life after the presidency.

Earlier I wondered if Revealed could add anything new to the never-ending discussion of Nixon. The answer to that question would be “no”, but that doesn’t make the show a waste of time.

Despite the title, Revealed acts as a good discussion of Nixon as a person and not just a politician. Nixon’s desire for control and his personality come to the forefront here in this psychological portrait of the president. Can I regard this as a piece with a lot of deep insight? Not really, but it goes farther than usual for this sort of program. I expected something more “nuts and bolts”, so the attempt to delve into Nixon’s psyche makes it more interesting.

This doesn’t mean Revealed skimps on facts. I think it fails as a biography, especially since it zips through the early years. We get a very basic take on his life and career without much detail about his political career.

That makes the program’s early moments thin and unremarkable, but Revealed manages to pick up as it progresses. The show gets into its best pieces once the Watergate scandal occurs and we dig into the significant problems in his presidency. That’s when matters become meatier.

I also like the fact that Revealed gives Nixon credit for his successes. Would Nixon have become a great president if he’d lacked his destructive paranoia? That remains unknown, but the program at least accentuates Nixon’s positives.

That factor lends a tragic tone to Revealed. He possessed some real strengths but his psychological and personality flaws undid those. This documentary offers a nice portrait of the man with all his problems.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Nixon: A Presidency Revealed appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Revealed offered an erratic presentation, but it generally seemed satisfying.

Much of the documentary came from archival material. I didn’t factor those elements into my grade, as that didn’t seem fair. The quality of those pieces varied quite a lot but seemed fine given the nature of the program.

Since most of the newly filmed interviews focused on close-ups, the majority of it came across as fairly well-defined. However, shots that broadened out from there seemed less solid. Some of the wider images presented moderately weak delineation and clarity. Jagged edges and light shimmering occasionally appeared, and I noticed some edge enhancement. Other than some video artifacting in low-light shots, the new images seemed free from source defects.

Colors generally looked fine. The hues never became terrifically vivid or dynamic, but they only rarely came across as a bit bland or muddy. For the most part, the tones appeared clear and accurate. Black levels were a little thin but usually seemed acceptably deep. Low-light images were a bit iffier, as they usually looked somewhat dense. Revealed presented an acceptable image.

Don’t expect a whole lot from the Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack of Nixon, either. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the score also spread nicely to the rear at times. Some effects also spread to the sides and rears. For instance, war footage came with blasts and gunfire that emanated from the various channels. This wasn’t all that well delineated, but it added some pizzazz to the package.

As one might expect from a documentary presentation, audio quality varied, but the piece usually sounded fine. Dialogue appeared acceptably clear and intelligible. Effects remained fairly natural and distinct, and a few louder bits showed good bass. Music fared nicely. The score presented good clarity and low-end response. Though this wasn’t an exceptional piece, it was acceptable.

One extra pops up here: a program entitled Inside the Presidency: Eisenhower Vs. Nixon. Hosted by Roger Mudd, this 45-minute and 41-second show presents archival materials and interviews. We hear from presidential historian and biographer Richard Norton Smith, political analyst and author Monica Crowley, historian/Eisenhower grandson/Nixon son-in-law David Eisenhower, Nixon biographer and historian Irwin Gellman, political columnist David Broder, author/Nixon daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Eisenhower staff secretary General Andrew J. Goodpaster, and former UPI White House bureau chief Helen Thomas.

We learn how Eisenhower and Nixon came together for the 1952 Republican ticket, the development of their relationship and their work together in office, and aspects of their upbringing that influenced their personalities. The show also covers the 1952 campaign, problems faced during their first term, Nixon’s role in the administration, Nixon’s run for the president in 1960 and Eisenhower’s involvement, and their relationship after Nixon’s loss to Kennedy.

“Inside” offers a fascinating look at the Eisenhower/Nixon relationship. It proves quite insightful and interesting as it covers the two men and how they dealt with each other. Honestly, I think this show works better than the disc’s main documentary, as it becomes consistently involving.

Though not a concise summary of his political career, Nixon: A Presidency Revealed offers a satisfying psychological look at the former president. It delves into the issues that caused his problems and derailed his presidency along with other interesting elements. The DVD features pretty ordinary picture and audio as well as a very good bonus documentary. With a list price of almost $25, this disc seems a little steep for purchase purposes, but it’s at least worth a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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