HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Roots: The Original Series
HTS Overall Score:86
“Roots” has to be one of the single most powerful and record breaking mini-series about the African enslavement period that has ever been created. Rivalling the greats such as “Amistad” for potency, “Roots” was a smash hit in an era that was coming down from decades of racial tension, and a time period where film was hitting its stride when tackling tough issues like this. The phrase “I am Kunta Kinte” was a cry of honor back in the 70s and rightfully so. Taken from Alex Haley’s book from the same title, the series chronicles the true story of Kunta Kinte, a slave taken from Africa and transplanted in the states, and his journey through several generations of slaves. “Roots” was never expected to take off like it did, and it was shocking when the 12 hour miniseries (played over 8 nights with commercials) clocked in with a record breaking number of 130 million viewers. Not to mention that it garnered 37 Oscar nominations (and it won 9 of them) and a golden globe award. Some of the TV records that it broke are even still in effect today.
I admit to not having seen the new remake of “Roots”, but I am thankful for its existence just for the fact that Warner decided to bring out a remastered version of the original classic for Blu-ray audiences. Warner is known for doing one of two things in regards to classic films. Put out a barebones edition or bring out the works with a fully decked out special edition. “Roots” is actually surprisingly “slim” in terms of extra swag, but Warner did not skimp on the extras at all and the packaging is top notch. The film comes in a 3 disc Viva Elite case and is packaged with a black and white booklet showcasing stills from the movie, original photos from back in the day and little tidbits of information. Now wrap both of those up in a chipboard slip box and there we have it. One of the best looking and solidly packaged releases that warner has done for a while. Myself personally, I’m rather glad WB did not go full out and do the massive boxset with statues and other commemorative swag like “Gone with the Wind” and “Lawrence of Arabia” simply because I’m running out of shelf space!
The series starts out with a young Kunta Kinte (a 19 year old Levar Burton, back before he was ever in “Reading Rainbow” or “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) living by the Gambian river with his family in Africa during 1750. He’s just come to manhood that month and has moved out of his parent’s hut and into his own. Sadly that day is short lived as he is captured by white slavers and taken back across the ocean to America where he is sold and given the name “Toby” (as he grows up Toby is played by John Amos), although he still always remembers his true identity. The series is long and sprawling, but it continues to follow “Toby” and his new life ,losing part of his foot and his descendants life through the civil war, and the aftermath of emancipation.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=72241[/img]“Roots” is easily one of the best miniseries, or films in general, relating to the issues of slavery. The series, for its time, was extremely brutal and shocking in its depiction of African slave treatment. Back then seeing nudity on ABC was a shocking thing and while it never reaches “Amistad” levels of brutality, the series is able to get across the inhuman humiliation and pain they suffered at the hands of the white slavers. The juxtaposition between the newly captained Thomas Davies and his mate Slater, show the differing opinions and peel back the layers of how calloused some of the people were in regards to human trafficking back then. Watching their interactions brings some inner turmoils to light and while Davies continues on his mission to bring the slaves back, you can see the seeds of humanity peeking through despite the culture of the time mostly accepting the practice.
What makes “Roots” so perfect is not only a magnificent screenplay, but the incredible star studded cast. We have everyone form Levar Burton, John Amos, Robert Reed, Louis Gossett Jr. Chuck Connors, Lorne Greene, Scatman Crothers, Lloyd Bridges, Richard Roundtree, O.J. Simpson, George Hamilton, Thayer David, and the list goes on. While I enjoy “Roots” IMMENSELY, I can also see why some people wanted a remake. Some of the dialog and special effects are certainly dated, and that while it is a massively successful series that must be preserved, I’m honestly curious to check out the new 2016 mini-series that just finished wrapping up about a week ago. Hopefully it can retain the same powerful storytelling that this version did.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=72249[/img]Wow! I don’t think I’ve EVER seen “Roots” look this good! Given a new master it seems, Warner has cleaned up the old print that was the last version I saw and given it a beautiful transfer. High bitrates in the upper 20’s and lower 30s gives us a wonderfully clear image with a nice, natural grain structure. There’s a few clickers on the negative as well as a bit of dirt here or there, but overall the image looks spectacular. Colors are warm and inviting, and despite the fact that the old effects for blood look like fire engine red and orange blended together, the primaries are striking. Contrast levels are well balanced and the black levels simply superb. If it were not for the fact that the old fashioned 70’s effects and filming styles were at play, the clarity alone would make one think the film was just shot a few years ago.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=72257[/img]The 2.0 DTS-HD MA track sounds just as good as the video looks. I could detect no distortions or clarity issues with the track at all, and the balance across the front sound stage is superb. Vocals are crisp and clear, with a nice balance between the roaring of the ocean, and the rumbling of stage wagons vs. the dialog levels, and the only real negative that the track has is the fact that it’s not a natural 5.1 sonic assault like modern blockbusters (which of course is no fault in the encoding or mix at all. It is a byproduct of its time).
• Roots: The American Story Continues (New Feature)
• The Cast Looks Back (New Feature)
• Crossing Over: How Roots Captivated an Entire Nation (Featurette)
• Connecting With the Past (Featurette)
• The Struggle to Make Roots (Featurette)
• LeVar Burton: Original Screen Test (Screen Test)
• Alex Haley Interview by David Frost (Featurette)
• Roots: One Year Later (Featurette)
“Roots” is a truly stellar mini-series, one of my personal favorites for many a year, despite my lack of seeing in since the VHS days. Constantly poignant, and incredibly touching, the show manages to delicately treat a very indelicate situation in a way that makes it accessible for people of all races and creeds. Not to mention the fact that it’s a very humbling experience to watch some of your countries past sins on the screen and reflect on where we came from. Warner brothers has outdone themselves with the release, as the audio and video are incredibly well done, and the extras are well worth digging in to. Definitely a must buy.
Starring: Levar Burton, Lorne Greene, John Amos
Directed By: David Greene, Marvin J. Chomsky, John Erman, Gilbert Moses
Written By: William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, Alex Haley, Ernest Kinoy, James Lee
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese DD 2.0 (Japanese is a hidden track not listed in the menu)
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 587 Minutes
Blu-rayRelease Date: June 7th, 2016
Buy Roots: The Original Series On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Must Buy
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