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Mainstream - King

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Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson, Ossie Davis
Steven Hill, Al Freeman jr., Roscoe Lee Browne
Written and directed by Abby Mann
2 DVDs 3 Episodes
Made for TV 1978
MGM 1979
300 minutes

King is an excellent made for TV biographical movie DVD about Martin Luther King Jr. The movie begins with a violent incident in Memphis and flashes back to King’s college days and his meeting with Coretta Scott (Cicely Tyson). It then fairly quickly moves forward to the Montgomery bus boycott and the rest is history. King is a three episode production on 2 DVD s with extra features.

Paul Winfield carries this movie in the title role. Writer / director Abby Mann is very, very straightforward about getting the job done in this made for TV production so there is a certain “just the facts, ma’am” feel to King. However, you are shown some of King’s most intimate and personal struggles and Winfield does an absolutely great job in getting every last bit of meaning out of these scenes.

The first episode shows some much lesser known moments in King’s life and struggle. Informative may be damning praise but King is that too. The second episode of the King DVD features the most important moments of the movement including the march on Washington and the march from Selma from Montgomery.

King does have its weak moments. Some of the confrontation scenes in the first episode are very low budget, and look absolutely fake with a bunch of locals who are having a hard time being white racists. The actors playing the Kennedys are basically atrocious; one looks like Robert Kennedy and tries to sound like him but fails, the other does not look like JFK and does not sound like him and still fails to be presidential.

Various narrative voices are also used and this gets a little distracting as you try to figure out who is speaking. Particularly awful for some reason is the singing in the church.

Overall, King is an excellent biographical drama well worth watching.

Special features on the King DVD are In Conversation with Tony Bennett and Abby Mann; two documentaries, “The Struggle” and “The Civil Rights Movement”; and Recreating History: The Making of King.

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