On the Road with Charles Kuralt, Set 3
by Jef Burnham
Available on DVD October 26, 2010 from Acorn Media.
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In my previous reviews of the On the Road sets from Acorn, I referred to Kuralt as “Mark Twain in a motor home” and stated with no amount of uncertainty that in this series “he assembled one of the greatest bodies of work ever composed on the subject of the American people.” High praise indeed, but it is by no means unwarranted. Kuralt traveled the back roads of America for 25 years, chronicling the amazing deeds of ordinary people for CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and later CBS News Sunday Morning. This latest set contains 57 pieces spanning 14 episodes compiled by the Travel Channel. And although this makes it 4 episodes short of its predecessors, Acorn compensates with an exclusive 55-minute interview with Kuralt’s longtime On the Road cameraman, Isadore Bleckman.
Set 3 features a handful of pieces from late in the 25-year run that find Kuralt and crew overseas in places such as Switzerland and Norway, but the majority of the stories are still those of small town America. Included in this set are pieces about the oldest park ranger in America, the last of the manned lighthouses, and the last foal to be bred from legendary Triple Crown-Winning racehorse, Secretariat. But perhaps the most stirring piece is that of a group of retired fishermen who meet regularly to keep alive the shanties they would sing while hauling in the nets. In this piece, Kuralt speaks of these men as coming together like the strands of a net, giving them strength and unity— an analogy I found apt in describing Kuralt’s own accomplishment with On the Road. For through the medium of television he wove the exceptional stories of the unknown American into the unified net of the nation’s greater consciousness that we might be stronger for it.
Bonus features on this set include the aforementioned interview with Isadore Bleckman, the handy and obligatory Road updates, About On the Road, and a text biography of Charles Kuralt.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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