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In Their Own Words

Release Year:      2010, 2011
Studio:      Acorn Media
Format:      Colour; NTSC; Widescreen
Rated:      Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:      2/ 6
Running Time:      351 minutes
DVD Release Date:      March 13, 2012

DVD Features:      16-page viewer’s guide with visionary ideas in retrospect, profiles of the interviewers, perspectives on seminal novels, an article on the Bloomsbury group, and the history of the BBC; biographies of people features in the program, plus discussion questions and more. SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:      8/10

Acorn Media Write-up: 
Featuring archival BBC interviews with some of the greatest minds of the modern era including Sigmund Freud and J.R.R. Tolkien, IN THEIR OWN WORDS offers insights into the works and lives of these bright minds. Available to US audiences for the first time, this remarkable set gathers archival footage from BBC interviews, documentaries and films – much of it available for the first time since its original airing – with two programs British Novelists  and Great Thinkers. The DVD 2-volume boxed set includes six episodes with rarities such as the only surviving voice recording of Virginia Woolf, and segments on Susan Sontag, Margaret Mead and many others, plus a 16-page viewer’s guide, biographies on the presenters and much more.

With rarities such as J.R.R. Tolkien reading in his invented Elvish language, disquieting footage of participants in Stanley Milgram’s experiments in the human capacity for cruelty, and Jane Goodall discovering behavioral links between humans and chimpanzees, IN THEIR OWN WORDS serves as a real-life compilation of historical moments. As an overview of the social and political forces of the 20th century, it’s beyond compare as compelling viewing and an exceptional glimpse of the geniuses who have shaped the modern world.

Featured in British Novelists: Virginia Woolf, J.R.R. Tolkien, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Doris Lessing, and Fay Weldon, among others.

Featured in Great Thinkers: Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, Margaret Mead, Susan Sontag, Jane Goodall, and Edward Said, among others.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
IN THEIR OWN WORDS is a real curio. At times absolutely fascinating because of its presentation of archival interviews with great intellectuals of the 20th-Century, and equally frustrating at its hodgepodge approach to presenting the themes suggested (or is that dictated) by the available interviews, IN THEIR OWN WORDS isn’t strictly what its title suggests. When listening to the only surviving voice recording of Virginian Woolf, or J.R.R. Tolkien reading in his invented LORD OF THE RINGS language, the series is captivating. When listening to “great thinkers” such as John Maynard Keynes talking about economics, the appeal is perhaps less obvious.

At six episodes and 351 minutes in length, it may be that the viewer has to pick and choose from among the many interviews and film clips to find what interests most. Fortunately this is easily done with the help of the 16-page viewer’s guide which gives the backgrounds of the various authors, activists and intellectuals who are on hand.

Still, it must be remembered that programs of this type are going to have limited appeal to begin with. That they are created and made available at all, through specialized distributors such as Athena (a sub-group of Acorn Media), is something to be commended. This is the type of programming that has considerable historical and educational value, but it is not for everyone. There is no doubting, however, the need for this type of product and for that, as well as the captioning and superb packaging, one must be thankful.