The History Of The Machine Gun

The History Of The Machine Gun (1999)
Focus Film

Now with this DVD I suddenly found myself in a strange dilemma. "The History Of The Machine Gun" looks and sounds like and intriguing release, especially as the package proclaims "As seen on Discovery channel." As such I was willing to give it a look, although even before I inserted the disc I had to ask myself, who would actually buy such a DVD as the last thing the world needs is probably an advertising reel for machine guns.

That notin however quickly changed into a "I hope no one buys this disc" when I actually did watch this 150 minute three-part "documentary."

You see, the problem with it is not that it's poorly done and not worth your money. The problem with this release is that it has an agenda. Presenting itself as a seemingly neutral documentary, this film is actually propaganda at its worst. It is filled with inaccuracies, lies and deception in order to paint a picture of the unholiness of how American society in particular has adopted the machine gun.

Don't get me wrong – I am not an NRA proponent. Quite the opposite, in fact, but I think if a documentary claims to "Tell the story of the world's deadliest inventions" then it should do so properly.

Calling the 1930 mobsters during the prohibition era that used the Tommy gun to make their point in case "misfits" is indicative for the liberties the films that make up this documentary takes with reality. Mass murderers would be more like it, I suppose. And then how about the Vietcong, which the films refer to as "freedom fighters" during the Vietnam war? I'm not sure anyone but the communists that run Vietnam these days would agree with that statement. Despite describing the Americans as primal animals during that war, the film may have been better served by describing the atrocities committed on both sides using the machine gun as leverage.

These are just two examples of many that you can find throughout the presentation of this film. Consisting to a large degree of archival footage – which is very interesting to see I admit – the film creates the illusion of a neutral discussion of the subject matter but constantly drifts into one direction only with its narration.
The film completely lacks real insight into the development of the machine gun in terms of its underlying technology and many such aspects are done away with in a single sentence so that the treatment itself becomes a mere showreel of machine-gun induced incidents.

The video quality on this release is as expected all across the board. From grainy archival footage to clean interview shots, it contains everything. Presented in fullframe the overall presentation is good for a documentary of this sort and the English stereo audio track also serves its purpose.

As I mentioned in my opening, I hope no one really buys this disc, not because of technical deficiencies but because of its contents. If you are looking for a proper dissertation of the history of the machine gun, look somewhere else, as this film is nothing more but a self-serving piece of opinion without the distance to properly cover its subject matter. Do yourself a favor and stay away from this release.