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Tesla: Master of Lightning (2000)

TV-PG | | Documentary, Biography, History | TV Movie
Biography of electrical inventor and visionary genius Nikola Tesla.


Robert Uth




Credited cast:
Stacy Keach ... Nikola Tesla (voice)
Elisabeth Noone ... Narrator (voice)
Nikola Tesla ... Self (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Leland I. Anderson Leland I. Anderson ... Self
John Jacob Astor ... Self (archive footage)
Charles W. Batchelor ... Self (archive footage)
Sarah Bernhardt ... Self (archive footage)
William H. Bragg ... Self (archive footage)
Joseph Butler Joseph Butler ... Self
Margaret Cheney ... Self
William Crookes ... Self (archive footage)
Flora Dodge ... Self (archive footage)
Thomas A. Edison ... Self (archive footage)
Albert Einstein ... Self (archive footage)
Michael Faraday ... Self (archive footage)


Nikola Tesla invented or developed many of the electrical technologies which form the basis of modern life, including: alternating-current (AC) power transmission and electric motors; high-frequency (HF) communications, the basis for radio and television; neon lighting; remote radio-control; and X-rays. But his visionary genius and technical skill was countered by his lack of business acumen and eccentric personality. After dying penniless in 1943, his "missing papers" regarding the construction of a 'death ray' became the focus of international intrigue. His research on particle beam weapons led to several American and Soviet military research programs, including the Strategic Defense Initiative, known as SDI or "Star Wars". Written by yortsnave

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Who Was Nikola Tesla?
9 November 2012 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Tesla was an immigrant from Yugoslavia, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, and a brilliant but erratic inventor of electrical apparatus. It's difficult to summarize his life because, well, it had so many ups and downs, some of them reaching clinical levels. He may have been a genius but he was no businessman, in an era of cut-throat businessmen, and he became something of a fantasist in his later years.

I have a limited background in electronics but some of this material was presented a little to fast for me to grasp. What's the good of telling us that Tesla invented the generator when you don't know what a generator is. (It's a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy, if I remember.) He filed a number of patents, important in the development of alternating current -- the kind that turns your light and this computer on -- and in radio, but the credit and the income were largely ripped off by more cunning types like Westinghouse, Edison, and Marconi.

Tesla was pretty neurotic, when you come right down to it. He couldn't touch hair, for instance, and couldn't manage to hook up with any beauties of the period despite his celebrity and wealth. He wasn't a mathematical wizard but, like Einstein, he came to waste a lot of time on scientific canards -- Einstein on the unified field theory, Tesla on a means of transporting electrical energy without wires. It would have been nice if Tesla succeeded. We can all do without electrical cables, utility poles, and those giant towers of electrical power that mar our landscapes and interfere with flying kites. However, with the best will in the world, we cannot light a bulb in London with a beam of electrical power originating in New York.

The film brings up the so-called Star Wars Initiative and the atomic bomb and some other modern wonders but is finally forced to admit that they owe little to Tesla. What we do owe to Tesla, at least in part, is Times Square and Osaka, where the lights never dim and it's always as bright as day. In fact, almost everything that runs on electricity owes something to Tesla. Even the electric chair, but not flashlights.

In his old age, Tesla received a stipend from Westinghouse that enabled him to live in modest comfort in the Hotel New Yorker. He spent most of his time in the park, feeding pigeons, and died at 87. It was a tumultuous and productive life. Whether or not Tesla found it satisfying, no one can say for sure, including this documentary.

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