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'Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)

Overview: Combative, provocative, and searingly blunt, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was a flamboyant maverick and a unique American hero. When few thought it possible, then-Captain Rickover harnessed the power of the atom to drive the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, whose trip under the polar ice pack was one of the great adventure stories of the 1950s.

DVD Verdict: 'Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power' is, simply put, a profile of Hyman G. Rickover (1900-86), the Navy admiral who oversaw the development and expansion of the nuclear-powered navy. But, as I'm sure you'll already know and understand, there was so much more going on at the time.

Rickover built the world's first nuclear aircraft carrier and the first commercial nuclear power plant at Shippingport, PA. Rickover's achievements made him into a national celebrity, and he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Today, questions about nuclear power have arisen again, in the wake of the disaster in Japan, yet nuclear power remains one of the main alternatives to fossil fuels.

The film has a good mix of dramatizations and archival footage. Both Rickover's supporters and critics were given a strong hearing. My only quibble is that there should have been some discussion of the Thresher accident and its impact on the program. Nevertheless, this biographical film on Admiral Rickover is long overdue and does great justice to this important historical figure. I recommend this to anyone interested in the history of the nuclear Navy or nuclear technology in general.

Many wonder whether America can maintain its technological pre-eminence and whether we can still build and manage large-scale projects. To understand these issues, RICKOVER considers the story of the man who created the Nuclear Navy.

Filmmaker Michael Pack is President of Manifold Productions, Inc., an independent film and television production company, which he founded in 1977. Through Manifold Productions, Mr. Pack has written, directed, and produced numerous award-winning nationally broadcast documentaries as well as corporate and educational films. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.