Al Capone is one of the most revered and reviled figures in American history. He has been the inspiration behind countless biographies and crime histories and some of the most well-known gangsters and mobsters throughout Hollywood’s rich history. And that is just the tip of the massive iceberg that is Capone’s life. There is much more to his life that many people might not know going all the way back to his childhood. Now thanks to PBS, the world will finally get a much deeper look at Capone, his meteoric rise to the top of the crime world, and his equally surprising end in the new documentary Al Capone: Icon. The amount of information shared through the course of this documentary is the central point of its success. It doesn’t just focus on his legend. Rather it goes behind that legend and shows how the man became the myth. Al Capone: Icon boasts quite a bit of background on Capone, his life, and legacy. Another reason that audiences will take to Al Capone: Icon is the program’s pacing. The program’s pacing does move at a somewhat fast pace. But it isn’t so fast as to lose audiences along the way. And last to note is the inclusion of actual photos and footage to help illustrate the story. All three aspects noted here are important in their own way to the success of the overall presentation that is Al Capone: Icon. Collectively, they make the documentary in whole one that any lover of crime history will enjoy.
The central point of success in Al Capone: Icon is the amount of information shared throughout the program. To say that there is a lot of content here would be an understatement. The program starts at Capone’s childhood, growing up in one of New York’s poorer areas and proceeds to follow his life all the way to his adult life and his eventual, surprising end. Needless to say, Capone didn’t go out in a blaze of glory unlike perhaps John Dillinger. Rather his end came with a proverbial whimper. But during his life, he was seen both as a man of the people and as one of America’s most reviled figures at another point. That image was all thanks to the work of law enforcement and government officials alike. And audiences will learn all about that, too. From the image of Capone himself to the glorification of mobsters in the movies, the government played a big role in how America viewed Capone then and even today. Speaking of movies, the “experts” brought in to discuss Capone also break the myth of Elliot Ness and the famed “Untouchables.” Again, there is a lot of information shared throughout the course of this program. There is in fact, so much information, that those behind the documentary’s creation are forced to move at a somewhat quick pace. The pace isn’t too fast for viewers to keep up. But it is fast nonetheless. And that is the second aspect of this documentary that makes it work.
Al Capone: Icon is a very deep presentation in terms of the amount of information provided throughout the program’s roughly hour-long run time. It doesn’t just focus on Capone as an individual. It focuses on his impact on the nation’s culture, and on how that impact led to the government’s focus on him. It goes without saying that with all of that information, there is a lot to go through. That forces the program to move at a relatively brisk pace. As fast as it moves, it doesn’t move so fast as to lose audiences along the way. Though, audiences shouldn’t go into the presentation thinking that they can just sit back and watch it. They will have to invest themselves at least to some level. Keeping everything noted in mind, it might actually have better in hindsight for all involved to spread the program across two discs rather than try to get it all into a single disc. But it is what it is. And for what it is, the end product still works well enough to be worth the watch.
The amount of information included over the course of Al Capone: Icon and the pace at which that information is discussed are both important to the overall success of the program. Somehow, those behind the program managed to balance the two elements. One element that didn’t require such attention but still helped the overall presentation was the inclusion of actual prohibition-era footage along with photos of Capone throughout the stages of his life. The use of these elements enhanced the overall presentation to make the story all the richer for those that might not know but so much of Al Capone’s life and how he and the country influenced one another. Gritty pictures from the now infamous St Valentines Day Massacre are included as are pictures of Capone throughout his life from childhood to adulthood. There is also footage of the speakeasies that Capone helped run and even a soup kitchen that it was said Capone helped open and operate with his ill-gotten gains. Interestingly enough, audiences will learn as part of the documentary’s included mass of information, that the soup kitchen in question was used solely as a prop of sorts to help his public image. That goes right back to the rather impressive amount of information shared throughout the program. And that information along with the program’s pacing and the included footage and pictures collectively make the program worth a watch by any lover of crime history.
The amount of information that spans this program’s roughly hour-long run time is impressive to say the least. Those that are less familiar with the life and times of Al Capone will appreciate just how much information fills that run-time. In watching the program, those same audiences will appreciate the brisk but not too fast pace at which the program advances. And last but not least, the inclusion of actual prohibition-era footage and photos enhances the overall viewing experience. Each aspect by itself is important to the whole that is Al Capone: Icon. Collectively, they make this documentary a welcome watch for any lover of crime history. Al Capone: Icon will be available Tuesday, September 30th on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=43506236&cp=&kw=icon+al+capone&origkw=Icon%3A+Al+Capone&sr=1. More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.