Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States DVD review

Ambitious 10-part documentary series lifts the lid on Uncle Sam's secrets

‘This is the side of history we didn’t learn in school’ says filmmaker Oliver Stone in his introduction to this fascinating 10-part documentary series that he describes as ‘a legacy to my children and a way to understand the times I’ve lived through’. Four years in the making and written in conjunction with historian Professor Peter Kuznick, the series takes an alternate look at the key events – both domestic and foreign - that have shaped the United States over the past 100 years, from World War II up to the modern-day ‘War on Terror’.

As anybody who has listened to any of his other documentaries or feature film audio commentaries will know, Stone makes for an excellent narrator, his soothing voice guiding us through a complex maze of geo-political twists and turns. However the real stars of the series are the researchers who sourced the countless hours of archive footage the show is made up from (there are no talking heads here), and editor Alex Marquez who weaves it all together along with some astute and frequently funny movie clips to provide a visual backdrop every bit as fascinating as the narration that accompanies it.

Split across three DVDs, the show’s 10 anamorphic 1.78:1 transfers are perfectly acceptable given the source material. Indeed, pretty much all the complaints you could possibly have about the look of the series stems back to the age and condition of the archive footage each episode is comprised of. The decision to limit the show’s audio to a Dolby Digital 2.0 track is a little surprising in this day and age, but doesn’t really affect things too much as the bulk of what it has to deal with is Stone’s narration.

There are no extras included on any of the set's three DVD platters.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, FremantleMedia International, R2 DVD, £30 Approx