Expo: Magic of the White City
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
This documentary about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago is the perfect companion to the book The Devil in the White City. While the latter's serial murderer is never mentioned in the documentary, the visual splendor of the Fair is portrayed in a detailed and awesome manner on the screen.
What emerges here is even more amazing and fantastic than what the book describes. The research and care the creators have taken is significant.
A very positive factor is the narration, read by Gene Wilder. Unlike so many other documentaries that we now see on the various cable channels, Wilder sounds both intelligent and incredibly interested in what he is describing. An excellent job!
But the Fair is the star here in every way. It was truly an awesome and vast assemblage of culture, technology, and industry. The extensive collection of photographs shown here literally bring the Fair to life. The authors do a wonderful job with historical context by showing and telling us what happened before and after the Fair. Sparing use of color and live action sequences provide both visual punctuation and variety. A map of the Fairgrounds is used throughout the program in a subtle manner to help orient the viewer to what is being shown. I view this documentary as a model for others to follow.
Granted, the Fair was well documented with splendid photographs still being available. The extras on the DVD discuss the labor involved in digitizing and organizing them.
Perhaps someday we will see a widescreen movie that incorporates state of the art computerized graphics to bring this Fair to life. Till then we have this.
Review copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald