Historic Films News

New DVD Releases - The Panic is On

Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy

Leonard Maltin - July 1, 2009

THE PANIC IS ON (Shanachie) — It’s sobering to look back at the Great Depression of the 1930s and see parallels to problems we’re facing today. This excellent compilation illuminates that period with precious newsreel and actuality footage, some of it quite rare and presented “raw.” From a Zuni Indian criticizing the white man’s excesses to a Detroit march for “cash relief” there is much food for thought here, as well as amusing sidelights involving entertainers like Fanny Brice, The Boswell Sisters, and Jimmy Durante. Excerpts from such seminal documentaries as The Plow that Broke the Plains and The Power and the Land offer views of the country’s great challenges, while great TV shows from the 1950s like The Jazz Age and Life in the Thirties provide perspective.

The DVD is accompanied by an illustrated booklet featuring letters, thoughts, and essays from the period, and a music CD including such timely songs as “The Panic is On” by Hezekiah Jenkins, “If I Ever Get a Job Again” by Dick Robertson and his Orchestra, “NRA Blues” by Bill Cox, “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” by Eddy Duchin and his Orchestra, “Headin’ for Better Times” by Ted Lewis and his Band, “The Great Dust Storm” by Woody Guthrie, and “Starvation Blues” by Eddie Cantor.

We have producers Joe Lauro, Sherwin Dunner and Richard Nevins to thank for this excellent compilation of film, music and historical commentary. I like to think I know a bit about this period and I was mesmerized; its potential as a teaching tool is enormous.