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Filmography - Documentaries, 500 Essential: N-R

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of November 2017

Filmography - 500 Essential Documentaries (and Mockumentaries) to Watch Before You Graduate

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of November 2017.

See also: Films for Teaching School of Communication Topics

Most streaming videos listed are available exclusively to AU students, staff and faculty after an online authentication by AUID#.

 

This is a selective list of video holdings in the American University Library. Filmographies are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the library catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible.  All DVDs listed below are located in Media Services on the Lower Level of Bender Library. To search the library’s complete video holdings search the library catalog at: http://www.american.edu/library/mediaservices/index.cfm

 

 

N!ai the story of a !Kung woman. 1980.  1 videodisc (60 min.). A compilation of footage of the !Kung people of Namibia from 1951 through 1978. Focuses on the changes in the life of these people as seen through the reflections of one woman, N!ai.  DVD 6456

Nanook of the North: A story of life and love in the actual Arctic. 1922.  1 videodisc  (79 min.). Presents a documentary on the life of an Eskimo family pitting their strength against a vast and inhospitable Arctic.  Juxtaposes their struggle for survival against the elements with the warmth of the little family as they go about their daily affairs.  DVD 209

Nanook revisited. 1990.  1 videodisc (55 min.). The filmmakers revisit Inukjuak, the Inuit village where Flaherty filmed Nanook of the North. Examines the realities behind the ground-breaking documentary and the changes since it was made almost 70 years ago. Shows the reactions of the Inuit living in the village, to the film, and also looks at the inaccuracies and staged scenes in the original.  DVD 6795

Newtown 2016. 1 videodisc (84 min.). Three years after the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT that took the lives of twenty elementary school children and six educators on December 14, 2012, the small New England town is a complex psychological web in the wake of yet another act of mass killing at the hands of a disturbed young gunman. Documentary of a traumatized community three years after the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT that took the lives of twenty elementary school children and six educators. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13974

The new Americans. 2004.  2 videodiscs (411 min.). Follows four years of the lives of a group of contemporary immigrants as they journey to start new lives in America, including a couple from India in Silicon Valley, a Mexican meatpacker in rural Kansas, two families of Nigerian refugees, two baseball players from the Dominican Republic joining the L.A. Dodgers, and a newly-wed Palestinian woman in Chicago. The detailed portraits of these immigrants not only result in a kaleidoscope of immigrant life but offer 'first impressions' of America.  DVD 5704

New York: A documentary film. 1999-2003.  8 videodiscs (840 min.). This series chronicles the history of New York City from its beginnings in 1609 as a Dutch trading post, through the depression, onto the turbulent years of change in the following decades after WWII, to its present day status as one of the most important and influential cities in the world. The final episode was created in response to the destruction of the World Trade Center.  DVD 4801-4808

Night and fog. 1956.  1 videodisc (31 min.). Ten years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, this piece documents the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek. One of the first cinematic reflections on the horrors of the Holocaust and contrasts the stillness of the abandoned camps' quiet, empty buildings with haunting wartime footage.  DVD 948

No direction home: Bob Dylan. 2005.  2 videodiscs (ca. 102 min.). Bonus features including never before seen footage and rare concert performances by Bob Dylan. Includes everyone's prolific favorites: 'Like a Rolling Stone,' 'Blowing In The Wind,' 'Mr. Tambourine Man' & others.  Directed by Martin Scorsese.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1534

No end in sight. 2007.  1 videodisc (102 min.). An insider's look at the decisions that led to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the handling of the occupation. Based on over 200 hours of footage, the film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials, as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers and prominent analysts. Examines the manner in which the principal errors of U.S. policy - the use of insufficient troop levels, allowing the looting of Baghdad, the purging of professionals from the Iraqi government and the disbanding of the Iraqi military - largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2786

No home movie. 2015. 1 videodisc (approximately 117 min.).  The final film from groundbreaking auteur Chantal Akerman is a portrait of her relationship with her mother, Natalia, a Holocaust survivor and familiar presence in many of her daughter's films. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13382 

Nobody's business. 1996. 1 videodisc (58 min.).  The Alan Berliner collection: Alan Berliner collection. "Alan Berliner takes on his reclusive father as the reluctant subject of this poignant and graceful study of family history and memory. What emerges is a uniquely cinematic biography that finds both humor and pathos in the swirl of conflicts and affections that bind father and son. Ultimately this complex portrait is a meeting of the minds - where the past meets the present, where generations collide, and where the boundaries of family life are pushed, pulled, stretched, torn and surprisingly at times, also healed."--Container. DVD 7838

Nostalgia for the light. 2010.  1 videodisc (90 min.). Director Patricio Guzman travels to the driest place on earth, Chile's Atacama Desert, where astronomers examine distant galaxies, archaeologists uncover traces of ancient civilizations, and women dig for the remains of disappeared relatives.  DVD 9119

Notfilm. 2015. 2 videodiscs (129 min.).  Explores the making and meaning of Film, a 1965 short film starring Buster Keaton, that was written by Samuel Beckett, directed by Alan Schneider, and produced by Barney Rosset. Topics covered include the circumstances leading to the film's production, the production process itself, and the film's critical reception. Includes outtakes, never-before-heard audio recordings of production meetings, interviews, and other archival information. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13850 

OJ, made in America . 2016. 5 videodiscs (463 min.).  ESPN 30 for 30. An essential examination of the rise and fall of Orenthal James Simpson, and parallels between his incredible story with that of race in America. This critically-acclaimed documentary series reveals how he first became a football star, why America fell in love with him off the field, what happened in the trial for his ex-wife's murder, and finally, why he is now sitting in jail for another crime 20 years later. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13289

Olympia. 1938.  1 videodisc (165 min.). Commissioned by the 1936 Olympic Committee as a documentary on the Berlin Olympics, Riefenstahl combines the poetry of bodies in motion with close-ups of athletes in the heat of competition, including American track star Jesse Owen's sprint races. Some say that the production tends to glorify the young male body and express the Nazi attitude toward athletic prowess.  DVD 1663

One day in September. 1999.  1 videodisc (91 min.). This is the shocking and incredibly true story of the brutal massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by a team of extreme Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. From terrorist training in Libya to the terrorists sneaking into the Olympic Village to the tension-filled negotiations to the shocking conclusion at a German airport. Told with actual video shot during the crisis.  DVD 450

The order of myths. 2008.  1 videodisc (80 min.). The first Mardi Gras in America was celebrated in Mobile, Alabama in 1703. In 2008, the celebration is still racially segregated. Go into the parallel hearts of the city's two carnivals. With unprecedented access, the director traces the exotic world of secret mystic societies and centuries-old traditions and pageantry. From the crowns, the gowns, the surreal masks, to the enormous paper mache floats. Uncover a tangled web of historical violence and power dynamics, both of which are elusive forces that keep this hallowed tradition organized along color lines.  DVD 5237

Orson Welles's f for fake. 1973.  2 videodiscs (88 min.). Trickery. Deceit. Magic. In this free-form documentary, the legendary filmmaker gleefully engages the central preoccupation of his career: the tenuous line between truth and illusion, art and lies.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1439

OT: our town. 2002.  1 videodisc (77 min.). "Against all odds, the students at Dominguez High School set out to put on the school's first theatrical production in more than 20 years. But what does Thornton Wilder's famous play about life in rural Grover's Corners have to do with Compton, California? [This film] follows the students on their discovery of the power of art and the human spirit."--Container.  DVD 1740

Our daily bread. 1934.  1 videodisc (92 min.). Welcome to the world of industrial food production and high-tech farming. Produced between October 2003 and October 2005 the film looks into the places where food is produced in European farms, greenhouses, processing plants and other places where crops and animals are cultivated and processed to become food for people. The images of food and animals treated as an industrial products are presented without comment.  DVD 2359

Our Nixon. 2013. 1 videodisc (84 min.).  Throughout Richard Nixon's presidency, three of his top White House aides obsessively documented their experiences with Super 8 home movie cameras. Young, idealistic and dedicated, they had no idea that a few years later they'd all be in prison. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 11255

The overnighters. 2014. 1 videodisc (102 min.).  Drafthouse Films: Drafthouse Films (Series). An intimate portrait of job-seekers desperately chasing the broken American Dream to the tiny oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota. With the town lacking the infrastructure to house the overflow of migrants, pastor Jay Reinke starts the controversial 'overnighters' program, allowing down-and-out workers a place to sleep at the church. His well-meaning project immediately runs into resistance with his community, forcing the clergyman to make a decision which leads to profound consequences. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12225

Page one: Inside the New York times. 2011.  1 videodisc (92 min.). This documentary chronicles the transformation of The New York Times newsroom and the inner workings of the Media Desk, as the Internet redefines the media industry by surpassing print as the main source of news. At the heart of the film is the burning question on the minds of everyone who cares about a rigorous American press, Times lover or not: what will happen if the fast-moving future of media leaves behind the fact-based, original reporting that helps to define our society? This up-close look at factors and actors that produce the "daily miracle" of a great news organization is a nuanced portrait of journalists continuing to produce extraordinary work under increasingly difficult circumstances.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 9227

Painters painting: A candid history of the New York art scene, 1940-1970. 1973. 1 videodisc (116 min.). Emile de Antonio was a close friend to many New York painters who later went on to become famous. He filmed and interviewed them informally in their studios. Artists included are Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Larry Poons, Phillip Pavia, and Hans Hoffman.  DVD 9052

The Panama deception. 1992.  1 videodisc (ca. 91 min.). Offers a view of the U.S. invasion of Panama that was not given by the American media. Presents evidence of mass burials of civilian casualties and internment of homeless civilians which was concealed by the U.S. military or went unreported. Also claims to reveal President George Bush's "secret agenda" behind the invasion: To keep U.S. military bases in Panama after the year 2000 in defiance of canal treaties.  DVD 2254

Paradise lost: The child murders at Robin Hood Hills. 1996.  1 videodisc (150 min.). Damien Echols is a teen who dresses in all black and listens to heavy metal. He and his two friends are accused of the murder of three little boys, and are instantly condemned by a retribution-hungry public. Now they try to defend themselves against a dubious lack of proof.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 4771

Paradise lost 2: Revelations. 2000.  1 videodisc (130 min.). Returns to West Memphis, Ark. to re-examine the controversial story of the child murders at Robin Hood Hills, the most notorious murder case in the state's history, revealing startling new evidence and exploring the ironies and ambiguities of a mystery that refuses to go away.  DVD 4772

Paradise lost 3 Purgatory. 2011. 1 videodisc (121 min.).  A further investigation into the arrest of three teenagers convicted of killing three young boys in Arkansas who spent nearly 20 years in prison before being released after new DNA evidence indicated they may be innocent. DVD 4773

Paragraph 175. 2000.  1 videodisc (81 min.). Historian Klaus Müller interviews survivors of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, many of whom were interred in concentration camps during World War II because of the German Penal Code of 1871, Paragraph 175, which states: An unnatural sex act committed between persons of the male sex or by humans with animals is punishable by imprisonment; the loss of civil rights may also be imposed.  DVD 542

Paris is burning. 1990.  1 videodisc (76 min.). A documentary about the young homosexual men of Harlem who originated "voguing" and turned these stylized dance competitions into glittering expressions of fierce personal pride. A story of street-wise urban survival, gay self-affirmation, and the pursuit of a desperate dream.  DVD 1650

The parking lot movie. 2010.  1 videodisc (71 min.). "A brotherhood of eccentric attendants who man a unique parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. From grad students to middle-age slackers, indie-rock musicians to surly philosophers, these overeducated part-timers wax profoundly about car culture and capitalism"--Container.  DVD 9165

Partisans of Vilna: The untold story of Jewish resistance during World War II. 1986.  1 videodisc (130 min.). Skillfully blended songs, newsreels, and archival footage with interviews of over forty Holocaust survivors to paint an eye-opening portrait of the courageous Jewish resistance who staged a sabotage offensive against the Nazis in the Polish city of Vilna.  DVD 5864

People like us: Social class in America. 2001.  1 videodisc (124 min.). How do income, family background, education, attitudes, aspirations, and even appearance mark someone as a member of a particular social class? Discusses how social class plays a role in the lives of all Americans, whether they live in Park Avenue penthouses, Appalachian trailer parks, bayou houseboats or suburban gated communities. Travels across the U.S. to present stories of family traditions, class mobility, and different lifestyle choices.  DVD 3728

A perfect candidate.  1996.  1 videodisc (105 min.). What can you say about a campaign that offers no issues of real substance but does offer lying, demagoguery, negative advertising and manipulation of public opinion? Film is a revealing, chilling and darkly funny look into the modern American political process that focuses on the 1994 U.S. Senate race in Virginia that pitted former Marine Oliver North against incumbent Charles Robb.  DVD 5909

A place called Chiapas. 1998.  1 videodisc (ca. 92 min.). Documentary on the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico filmed over an eight month period.  DVD 1312

Planet Earth. 2006.  5 videodiscs (550 min.). A stunning 11-part series that captures rare action, impossible locations, and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest, and most elusive creatures.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2721-2725

The plow that broke the plains; The river . 1936.  1 videodisc (113 min.). "The plow that broke the plains" depicts the social and economic history of the Great Plains from the settlement of the prairies by cattlemen and farmers through the World War I boom to drought and depression.  "The river" traces life in the Mississippi River Valley during the previous 150 years, showing the consequences of sharecropping, soil exhaustion, unchecked erosion and floods, and concludes with scenes of regional planning, TVA development and federal efforts.  DVD 5859

Point of order. 1964.  1 videodisc (97 min.). A compilation of TV clips from the 1954 McCarthy-Army hearings, where the Army accuses Senator McCarthy of improperly pressuring the Army for special treatment of one of the senator's aides.  DVD 1587

The police tapes. 1977.  1 videodisc (88 min.). Documenting the real-life autopsy of dangerous nighttime work of off-beat cops in the South Bronx.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 4448

Portrait of Jason. 1967. 1 videodisc (ca. 108 min.).  Milestone Cinematheque: Project Shirley: Milestone cinematheque: Project Shirley. This portrait of Jason Holliday, a black gay prostitute who dreams of a career as a nightclub performer, is drawn from twelve consecutive hours of filming in a New York City apartment. As he reminisces about his life, Holliday discusses his homosexuality and the gay subcultures in San Francisco and New York. He jokes with the off-screen filmmaker and crew and maintains a sense of humor even as he recalls hustling, heroin addiction, and jail time. Holliday also performs for the camera, impersonating female entertainers and movie personalities such as Mae West, Butterfly McQueen, and Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the wind. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 11677

Powaqqatsi: Life in transformation. 1988.  1 videodisc (100 min.). This film calls into question everything we think we know about contemporary society.  By juxtaposing images of ancient cultures with those of modern life, Powaqqatsi masterfully portrays the human cost of progress.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 8632

The power of nightmares: The rise of the politics of fear. 2004.  1 videodisc (180 min.). Explores the origins of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, and neo-conservatism in America, the parallels between these movements, and their effect on the world today. It also looks at the use of these movements by the other to manipulate public opinion.  DVD 2347

Pray the Devil back to hell. 2008.  1 videodisc (72 min.). Documentary about a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a  bloody civil war, violent warlords and a corrupt Charles Taylor regime. Includes interviews, archival images, and scenes of present-day Liberia together to recount the experiences and memories of the women who were instrumental in bringing lasting peace to their country.  DVD 6297

Prelude to war / world at the brink. 1942.  World War II Chronicles Series: Frank Capra's World War II why we fight series.  1 videodisc (54 min.). Portrays events leading up to the entry of the U.S. into WWII: the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the rise of fascism in Europe, and the lack of military preparedness of the U.S.  DVD 2159

Primary. 1960.  The Robert Drew archive.  1 videodisc (53 min.). A political documentary of the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary campaigns in which Senator John F. Kennedy upset Senator Hubert H. Humphrey.  DVD 663

Profit motive and the whispering wind. 2007.  1 videodisc (58 min.). An extraordinary meditation on the nature of democratic progress in the United States, a one-of-a-kind documentary journeys from the gravesites to the public markers that document the people and incidents that make up over 400 years of struggle against economic oppression.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 5923

Project Nim. 2011.  1 videodisc (93 min.). The story of Nim, the chimpanzee who became the focus of a landmark 1970s experiment to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. But as Nim's natural instincts take over and the humans trusted with his well-being fail to protect him, Project Nim uncovers the unflinching and extraordinary journey of one animal thrust into human society.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 9714

Pumping iron. 1977.  1 videodisc (85 min.). In 1977, an independent documentary movie shed light on the world of bodybuilding, becoming a huge box office hit and creating an international sensation. It launched one man's multi-million dollar career. It changed the world of bodybuilding and physical exercise forever. Follows 5-time Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he gets ready to compete for his 6th titles.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2756

The punk singer: A documentary film about Kathleen Hanna. 2013. 1 videodisc (82 min.).  A look at the life of activist, musician, and cultural icon Kathleen Hanna, who formed the punk band Bikini Kill and pioneered the "riot grrrl" movement of the 1990s. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 11936

Pussy Riot: A punk prayer. 2013. 1 videodisc (approximately 88 min.).  Founded in 2011 after Vladimir Putin was given a third term as Russian president, Pussy Riot is an anonymous feminist art collective/punk band based in Moscow. The group's protest inside the cathedral was intended to protest Putin's union of church and state. On Feb. 21, 2012 they participated in a 40-second "punk prayer protest" on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral before being detained. Arrested and tried for trespassing, wearing "inappropriate" sleeveless dresses and disrupting social order, Nadia, Masha, and Katia were accused of religious hatred in a trial that reverberated around the world and transformed the face of Russian society. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 11260

Le quattro volte = Four times. 2010.  1 videodisc (88 min.). An ineffably beautiful meditation on the mysterious cycles of life. Set in Italy's mountainous region of Calabria, it traces the path of one goatherder's soul as it passes from human to animal to vegetable to mineral. Director Michelangelo Frammartino was inspired by Pythagoras' belief in 'four-fold transmigration' of souls, but his film is far more physical than philosophical.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 9294

The queen of Versailles. 2012, 1 videodisc (ca. 100 min.).  The Queen of Versailles is a character-driven documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis. The film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches-to-rags success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 4553
 

Radio bikini. 1988.  1 videodisc (56 min.). Using extraordinary and rarely seen archival footage, director Robert Stone brings to light the largely untold story of Bikini Atoll. A peaceful, tropical island in the Pacific, it was the sight of a series of atomic bomb tests in 1946.  DVD 6295

The rape of Europa. 2006.  1 videodisc (117 min.). Imagine the world without our masterpieces. Interviews with eyewitnesses and historians and newsreel footage show how heroic Europeans, Russians, and Americans worked to save the art of Europe during World War II.  DVD 4909

The real dirt on farmer John. 2008.  1 videodisc (82 min.). The award-winning true story of third-generation American farmer John Peterson's hero's journey of success, tribulation, failure and rebirth. He's not only a farmer, he's an artist too.  DVD 3619

Red Hollywood. 1995. 1 videodisc (112 min.).  A compilation of clips from over 50 Hollywood films by blacklisted screenwriters & directors, with expert commentary and other period footage. DVD 3398

Religulous. 2008.  1 videodisc (101 min.). Comedian and TV host Bill Maher takes a pilgrimage across the globe on a mind-opening journey into the ultimate taboo: questioning religion. Meeting the high and low from different religions, Maher asks questions, like 'Why is faith good?' and more.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 5500

Restrepo: One platoon, one valley, one year. 2010.  1 videodisc (93 min.). This documentary chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats.  DVD 7965

Rich Hill. 2013. 1 videodisc (93 min.).  Rich Hill, Missouri (population 1,393) could be any of the countless small towns that blanket America's heartland. But to teenagers Andrew, Harley and Appachey, it's home. They are like millions of other boys coming of age the world over, but face unfortunate circumstances an imprisoned mother, isolation, instability, and parental unemployment. Adolescence can be a day-to-day struggle just to survive. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12333

Riding giants. 2005.  1 videodisc (ca. 101 min.). From its early Hawaiian roots to its current status as a recreational lifestyle enjoyed worldwide, big wave surfing is given the definitive exploration by acclaimed director Stacy Peralta.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2080

Riding the rails. 2003.  1 video file (72 min.). "Tells the unforgettable story of the 250,000 teenagers who left their homes and hopped freight trains during the Great Depression"--Container.  DVD 1487

Rip! a remix manifesto. 2009.  1 videodisc (86 min.). Presents a documentary exploring the complexities of intellectual property in the era of peer-to-peer file sharing.  DVD 6355

Rivers and tides: Andy Goldsworthy working with time. 2004.  1 videodisc (90 min.). Follows Andy Goldsworthy's bohemian free spirit all over the world as he demonstrates and opens up about his creative process. From his long-winding rock walls and icicle sculptures to his interlocking leaf chains and multi-colored pools of flowers. Goldsworthy's painstakingly intricate masterpieces are made entirely of materials found in Mother Nature - who threatens and often succeeds in destroying his art, sometime before it is even finished.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1056

Rize. 2005.  1 videodisc (ca. 84 min.). An intimate, completely fresh portrayal of inner city youth who have created art where before there was none. Surrounded by drug addiction, gangs and impoverishment, they have developed a completely unique style of dance, krumping, that evolves on a daily basis.  DVD 1734

The road to Guantánamo. 2006.  1 videodisc (ca. 95 min.). A trio of British Muslims, known as the Tipton Three, were held in Guantánamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.  DVD 2415

Roger & me. 1989.  1 videodisc (90 min.). A documentary about Flint, Michigan native Michael Moore and his efforts to meet with General Motors' president Roger Smith in order to persuade the executive to visit Flint, a city which is economically depressed due to the closure of a General Motors plant.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1166

Room 237. 2012, 2 videodiscs (approximately 102 minutes).  In 1980 Stanley Kubrick released his masterpiece of modern horror, The Shining. Over 30 years later we're still struggling to understand its hidden meanings. Rodney Ascher's wry and provocative documentary fuses fact and fiction through interviews with both fanatics and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick's still-controversial classic. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 4626