Those interested in the broadcast media, whether to praise them for broadcasting without fear or favour or to condemn them for manufacturing news and for bias toward the sensational, will find Medium Cool a thought-provoking film.

This is ultimately set against the backdrop of the protests, and subsequent Chicago police rioting and mindless brutality at the city’s Democratic National Convention of August 1968, and features the attacks on journalists and camera operators by police who were keen not to be identified. As it turned out they needn’t have worried since police violence had gone unpunished before in the Windy City, and it was to be no different this time, even if the whole world was watching.

Prior to all this however the film intelligently builds the case for and against the media as a news camera crew covers incidents around the city and raises the usual questions of how far they should go in depicting scenes of violence, how much behaviour is altered and spontaneity orchestrated when the cameras are turned on and pointed and how much is encouraged and manufactured by the journalists to get a dramatic story with pics.

Medium Cool was written and directed by cameraman Haskell Wexler, stars Robert Forster and Verna Bloom and was released in 1969 praised as ” a penetrating look at America’s continuing fascination with sensationalism and violence” and “American Cinema at its very best” It was released at the end of last month in a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD format by Eureka Entertainment as part of their award-winning Masters of Cinema series. Included is an audio commentary by Haskell Wexler and others, excerpts from documentaries, a demonstration by Haskell Wexler of the cameras he used to shoot his film and an infomative 28-page booklet on the facts behind the police brutality featured.

Leave a Reply