THE BLOG
08/28/2013 07:46 am ET Updated Oct 28, 2013

Movie Review: Our Nixon

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A fascinating patchwork of news footage and home movies, Our Nixon is at once intriguing and compelling, an inside peek at people who seemed to make secrecy a watchword.

Indeed, Richard Nixon's presidential administration was as secretive as they came -- at least until the Reagan years (and then the Bush years and then...). What's amazing is how benign this film makes Nixon's presidency seem -- indeed, how benign it seems seen from the distance of 40-plus years. That's both a strength and a weakness of this film by Penny Lane.

The filmmakers discovered that there was a treasure trove of home movies, shot by three of Nixon's key underlings: Dwight Chapin, John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman. Seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigation, they'd been sitting in the National Archive, available to the public but untouched. At one point, they had been considered evidence in the various criminal proceedings that Nixon's CREEP creeps spun off. Talk about brand extension.

Chapin and the late Haldeman and Ehrlichman were inveterate home-movie shooters. They carried their Super-8 cameras with them everywhere, filming behind the scenes during the 1968 campaign and during Nixon's Oval Office days, including his historic trips to Russia and China.

Lane finds archival footage of Haldeman and Ehrlichman talking about their behind-the-scenes roles in the White House (though neither was particularly happy as a public figure in those days). Chapin is still alive and seemingly both unrepentant and nostalgic for his old pals, offering his reminiscences about the period.

History tells us that Nixon resigned in disgrace, having helped orchestrate the cover-up of the Watergate burglary, though he supposedly wasn't involved with its planning.

This review continues on my website.