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Expo: Magic of the White City - documentary DVD review
EXPO: MAGIC OF THE WHITE CITY Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Gene Wilder, Claire Litton
Director: Mark Bussler   Studio: Inecom Entertainment
DVD release: 13 Sept. 2005   Runtime: 116 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Digital Sound, Dolby, DVD-Video, Surround Sound, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (English, Dolby Digital 5.1), Feature Length Commentary track w/ World's Fair historian David Cope, Making the Fair, Art of the Fair, Storyboards of the Fair, Pictures of the Fair, Commentary tracks on Special Features by director Mark Bussler & writer Brian Connelly, Deleted scenes, Trailers for Gettysburg and Stories of Valor, Johnstown Flood, Horses of Gettysburg, Winters of War, Civil War Minutes - Confederate, Shot to Pieces, Video transfer from the Director's Cut High Definition master

The World's Fair of 1893, also known as the Columbian Expo, was an event of epic proportion. At the time, America was looking to show France how it was really done after France knocked the world's socks off in 1889 with their Eiffel Tower (flash in the pan, if you ask me). Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and St. Louis all fought over the right to host; Chicago won out. They went to work to honor Columbus on the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas. Alas, the bureaucracy hampering the decision on where to put it pushed the opening date back into 1893.

Here there were wonders to behold! The world's first Ferris Wheel made its appearance here -the first and recordholder to this day as the largest. Each of its 36 cars could hold 60 passengers (2160 total). Aunt Jemima made her debut; the confection which later became known as Cracker Jack hit the scene; Cream of Wheat and Shredded Wheat invigorated breakfasts; America's inaugural hamburgers came off the grill; the first picture postcard was released by the post office; and the Arts and Crafts movement found its roots.

An entire city was constructed in two years, and it was glorious. There were immense buildings in European Classical style with glorious white columns. There were huge statues and lighted fountains, all covering more than 600 acres. Most of the Expo was designed to be temporary, however. Many of the buildings were relocated after the fair, but the Fine Arts Building stands to this day and houses the Museum of Science and Industry.

There was violence, corruption, debauchery, intrigue, and balloon rides, all brought to life with photographs, the musing narration of Gene Wilder, and reenactments. The reenactments I could do without, but they were brief and devoid of artificial film scratches.

The abundance of information in this film brings the Columbian Expo to life. Events in the 1800s seem as distant and as static as the pictures and drawings that represent them; director Mark Bussler generates excitement like the pictures alone never could. It made me ponder why they don't do World's Fairs anymore. A little research reveals that they do. I wonder if any of them will reveal such advancements to the world as the Columbian Expo did.
reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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