I have very few DVD’s in my possession. I used to own hundreds. But I sold almost the lot of them in 2005. Why keep a bunch of discs that I’ll never bother watching again? I kept just a handful. Amongst them is the box set of the 1983 production ‘Kennedy’, starring Martin Sheen. I watched it at the time and was instantly fascinated by the JFK story. Especially, of course, the assassination. And the multitude of conspiracies that belong to that event.
I remember the trailers for Kennedy. A gravelly voice, with all the forced incredulity that could be mustered, asked the viewer, ‘Was it really twenty years ago?’. I was ten years old, and completely missed the gist of the question. To a ten year old it was already ancient history. We’re coming up to the fifty year anniversary in a few days. We’re further away from that 1983 production now that we were to the assassination back then. I don’t know the owner of that gravelly voice, but if he ever comes along to these parts….then now I get you.
I bought into several of the conspiracy theories, and remained so for a long time. It was, perhaps, only in the earlier part of this century that I began to grasp the concept of the US conspiracy theory. There are lots of unanswered questions about the assassination, just as one would expect. But I disengaged myself from the theories a long time ago. Oswald almost certainly killed Kennedy. End of story.
But I still remain fascinated by the man, the family, the presidency and the assassination. The whole era, in fact. I’m instantly drawn to anything new. The newest is Parkland, a 90 minute film loosely based around the hospital for those three days in November 1963. It’s tough to fill ninety minutes just in a hospital. So there’s filler material, from the offices of the FBI, the life of Abraham Zapruder and the family of Lee Oswald.
It’s not the most compelling production I’ve ever watched on the Kennedy theme. Once the drama of the the killing is done, there’s more than one dull moment. Perhaps that’s actually a commendation, not a criticism. This is not a film examining who killed him. Just the act and the immediate aftermath. This isn’t a film designed to bring in new adherents to the Kennedy myth, ala Oliver Stones’ JFK. This is very much a film for those who are already interested in Kennedy. Which, it must be acknowledged, is hardly a niche market. Even after all this time.
What the film does do well, is to put a more human face on that fateful day. To put the event into the context of it’s era, and to strip away the myth, the hyperbole and the other-worldly atmosphere that you’ll find in most JFK movies. Such as Stone’s fanciful but entertaining flick. There were real doctors and nurses in a real hospital suddenly faced with the lifeless body that had, until minutes earlier, embodied the hopes and aspirations of millions.
There was a normal guy behind the Bell video camera that was shooting from the knoll that day. Run of the mill cops patrolling the streets. It was just another day in Dallas up till those shots rang out. It was the same real life cast involved in the most dramatic televised event after those shots were fired. This is their story. You feel for them. Especially, perhaps, for LHO’s brother. Who’d be in his shoes?
Is there anything for the conspiracy theorist though, to get their teeth into? Really, no. But perhaps this is the sort of film that might have some who are wavering coming to their senses. There is an expectation amongst them that there should be no missing pieces in the jigsaw of this crime. No unturned corners. No flaws in the investigation. A slick and well oiled procedure put into place the moment things go pear shaped. Life is never like that. Ever.