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Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided

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-- Video Business, 8/27/2001

PBS, color and B&W;, NR, 360 min. plus supplements, 5.1 Surround Stereo, fullscreen, $59.98, First Run: PBS

The supplements found on the DVD of last year's critically lauded "American Experience" examination of the personal lives of the nation's greatest president and his wife--Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided--are suitably intelligent and helpful in getting a clearer view of Civil War-era America. The Time of the Lincolns bonus offers a collection of first-person narratives by soldiers, women and abolitionists, all recounted over a backdrop of period music and photos. The photography played the trickiest role in the production, according to eight-time Emmy-winning producer David Grubin, who offers his thoughts in a brief on-camera interview. Since much of the Lincoln story predates photography, Grubin and his team (which includes cinematographer James Callanan, who's also interview here) had to fill their six hours with recreations of key events, interviews and illustrations, which all work wonderfully. Part of PBS's "Gold Title" line, Abraham is the first commercially produced disc to offer Descriptive Video Service (DVS) for people who are blind or visually impaired. Accessed on the main menu, the function provides unobtrusive narrated descriptions of the key visual elements--action, settings, graphics--in the program. It's an ambitious, well-intentioned process that truly makes the presentation accessible to everyone. --Cyril Pearl

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