Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zaptruder Film (1998)

As a kid, one of the books in our home library that I remember thumbing through over and over was one called “Four Days”. The book covered the four days between John F. Kennedy’s assassination and his burial, including Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest (and murder), and Jack Ruby’s arrest for the murder of Oswald. “Four Days” started me down the road of a life long fascination with the murder of a president and the conspiracies surrounding that day’s events.

The single most important piece of evidence in the Kennedy assassination (and arguably the most important piece of video ever recorded) was Abraham Zapruder’s 26 seconds of home video 8mm footage he shot. Zapruder’s film, while shaky and raw, shows in graphic detail the death of a president.

Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film is a documentary about the actual Zapruder film itself. It begins by explaining how Abraham Zapruder came to be standing where he was with his camera (which incidently he had left at home that day, before coworkers persuaded him to go home and retrieve it).

The documentary follows the trail of the film — from having it processed, to selling the rights to LIFE magazine (for $50k) and eventually the motion picture rights (for another $100k), the sale of the film back to the Zapruder family for $1 (after Abraham’s death), the movement of the film to the National Archives for preservation, the first time the film was shown on television (by Geraldo Rivera, in 1980) and the restoration effort spent on the film which culminates in the copying of the film frame by frame from 8mm to digital media, where it was eventually cleaned up.

The highlights of the disc are the several versions of the Zapruder film shown. From worst to best, you get all known qualities — second hand copies, a view of the original, and the beautifully redone digital version. The 1998 digitally repaired version shows amazing detail, and that version is shown several times, once normal, once at half speed, and once at half speed and zoomed in tight. This is probably the best quality version of the Zapruder film I have ever seen. With digital editing, the crew was also able to “stabalize” the picture, providing a completely clear vision of those 30 seconds in time. It’s awesome and disturbing at the same time.

Those of you looking for insight into Kennedy’s death or the many theories surrounding it will be disappointed in this film. This DVD presents very little evidence for either side of the fence (lone gunman vs. conspiracy). This movie focuses solely on the life of the film itself.

Worth the price of rental just to see the remastered version of the Zapruder film. Those interested in learning more about what happened that day should either head to the public library or keep an eye on the History channel. Those looking for some interesting fiction should rent Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK.

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