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Mark Twain's Hannibal: A Homecoming DVD Review by Kathy Gelzer

Bennett-Watt HD Productions, Inc.
13021 244 th Avenue SE
Issaquah, WA 98027

Watch Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) in this dramatic reenactment of his return to Hannibal, Missouri, his boyhood hometown. Actor Richard Garey is very convincing, looking every bit the part in his period wardrobe complete with various hats. We see Samuel Clemens in his study by the fire, at the waterfront, on the street in a horse and buggy, and in various establishments as well as childhood and novel landmarks. A priceless feature of the documentary is Samuel Clemens's humor and anecdotes, which are woven throughout. This provides students with a distinct flavor for the author and humorist.

Street scenes and views of the Mark Twain Riverboat add to the authenticity of the 66-minute video. Frequently, other people seen in the production are also wearing period costumes. However, plenty of tourists are also filmed, and this is a bit jolting. It would have been nice if the mood had been consistent throughout or if smoother transitions between scenes had been provided.

With the exception of one scene with Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, most of the video is Mark Twain speaking. My children, ages 10, 11, and 15, found this a little tedious. Some more scenes with other actors, or perhaps some interviews with residents and shopkeepers, or even some narration could have been included to help break up the monologue. Or perhaps some longer sections from his works could have been read or recited.

At times, the documentary seems to be more of a promotional video for the town, as the viewer is introduced to bed and breakfasts, shops, entertainment, and restaurants in Hannibal. Integrating more of the history or significance of the featured places of business may have downplayed the commercialism. An unfortunate error occurs when Mark Twain refers to Tom Sawyer's father as the town drunk; that should have been Huckleberry Finn's father.

If you are reading and studying one of Mark Twain's classics, especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, this video would be a wonderful way to enhance your studies. Of course, it would also be a great film to watch if you are planning a trip to Hannibal, Missouri.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010