Best of Enemies

 

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The long-running antipathy between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley is depicted in this documentary on their televised Presidential debates of 1968.

 

Best of Enemies

Battle royal: William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal

 

The fact that the charming and deeply charismatic novelist and social historian Gore Vidal was a liberal political analyst, and that the deeply unlikable and more than usually repellent journalist William F. Buckley was a staunch Conservative blabbermouth, proved that together they were a match made in heaven – or at least on the US ABC television channel during the 1968 Presidential Campaign. While the other, major TV stations had the money to cover the campaign at greater length and on the road, the less well-off ABC stuck with just nightly debates between these two celebrated commentators. Director-producers Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville have taken the television debates, augmented them with interviews with other pundits of the time and fashioned them into an eye-opening and extremely entertaining documentary.

 

While Buckley wastes no opportunity in badmouthing Vidal and even threatens him with physical harm, the moderate Vidal always keeps his cool when offering criticism to his appalling opponent. Whereas Vidal had wit on his side whenever he felt like putting Buckley in his place, his opposite number could only shower abuse in the crudest fashion imaginable. For all his egotistical stances Vidal seems, on the face of it, a human being who cares deeply about his country and its people. Buckley on the other hand, in being so objectionable to anything that smacks of liberalism, just loses the plot and in effect digs his own grave. Either way it’s a fascinating battle of the century between two heavyweight political personalities and a fight not to be missed. Both parties went to their graves still troubled by their part in the proceedings.

 

MICHAEL DARVELL

 

Featuring Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, Dick Cavett, Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Wald, Todd Gitlin, Fred Kaplan. Readings by John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammer.

        

Dir, Written and Pro Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, Ph David Leonard, Mark Schwartzbard and Graham Willoughby, Ed Eileen Meyer and Aaron Wickenden, Music Jonathan Kirkscey.

 

Media Ranch/Motto Pictures/Tremolo Productions-Dogwoof Pictures.

87 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 7 June 2015. Cert. 15.