Put together by filmmakers Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz and producer Ely Landau, KING: A FILMED RECORD looks at the place that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holds in American history. Having gone from a relatively unknown preacher in the early 1950s to national prominence as a result of Rosa Parks' breaking the segregation barrier on transit buses in Montgomery Alabama, King became one of the great figures of our history by making it his mission in life to see that all men, women, and children in America would be judged by what's in their heart and not by what their skin color was. In the original uncut form that had gotten it an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 1970 (it lost to WOODSTOCK), KING: A FILMED RECORD looks at all the important moments in Dr. King's non-violent revolution that would forever change the American landscape, even if it didn't change everybody's perceptions of those different from themselves. He fought non-violently against racist governors like George Wallace, bigoted police chiefs like Birmingham, Alabama's infamous Bill Connor, led the march on Selma, and managed to get long-stalled civil rights and voting rights legislation through Congress onto the books through the signature of then-president Lyndon Johnson . All of his most important speeches are included in their full, unexpurgated form here, including the monumental "I Have A Dream" speech he made during the March on Washington of August 28, 1963, and his final "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech he made in Memphis on the night of April 3, 1968, the night before he was felled by an assassin's bullet.
We also see how tough the struggle could be, what with the murder of Malcolm X, the formation of militaristic groups like the Black Panthers, the urban rioting, White resistance in the South, and, perhaps most important of all, the war in Vietnam, which would eventually destroy Johnson's achievements as a crusader alongside King for civil rights and also be responsible for sending thousands of poor and working-class young men, white and Negro alike, to their deaths. These are important reminders of where America was during the 1960s, how far it has come since then with the election of our first African-American president in Barack Obama, and how, in many other ways, we still have a long way to go towards full acceptance of difference and diversity in America.
All of this makes KING:A FILMED RECORD an epic film to match any that Hollywood itself ever did, but that is because the real-life story it tells is a true American epic of modern times. Martin Luther King was one of the greatest American citizens who ever lived, and this documentary ensures that his legacy will never be forgotten.