Thirty-five years ago, a dressmaker with vertigo climbed a wall so he could get a clear vantage point to film President John F. Kennedy's motorcade through downtown Dallas.
When Abraham Zapruder aimed the telephoto lens of his Bell & Howell home movie camera, he hoped to capture something to show his grandchildren. Instead, he gave the nation a visceral close-up of one of its most horrific moments.For years, conspiracy theorists have played and replayed bootleg copies of Zapruder's 26-second film of Kennedy's assassination. Starting today, anyone can buy a digitally enhanced videotape for $19.98 at a local video store and watch the murder at home.
Some suggest Zapruder's family and the video producer are trying to profit from the crime. But the family wants the film to be available to historians and others who frequently request access, and they also hope to recoup the estimated $350,000 cost of enhancing and preserving the film, said James Silverberg, the family attorney.
The 45-minute video, called "Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film," consists of a 40-minute preamble and six separate showings of Kennedy's head exploding when it's hit by a bullet.
If the comments of tourists visiting Dallas' Dealey Plaza on Sunday is any indication, the Zapruder film still provokes strong reactions.
"I don't think it should go on sale, just out of respect and consideration for (Kennedy's) family," said Pamela Tate of Glenwood Springs, Colo., visiting the scene of the crime for the first time. "It kind of cheapens the situation."
Dale Strickland of Los Angeles, standing about 100 feet from where Kennedy was shot, said the film should be made public.
"I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long to become available," Strickland said. "I don't know that it really tells you anything, but how can you restrict something like that from the public, with what we believe about the dissemination of information?"