Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. point fingers in Best of Enemies.

Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. point fingers in Best of Enemies.

Film follows sparring pundits

Best of Enemies is the story of the 1968 televised debates between arch rivals Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr.

The Vernon Film Society’s next offering is the only documentary the VFS is showing this fall season.

Best of Enemies is the story of the 1968 televised debates between arch rivals Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr.

Not just a running of the 10 debates, the film highlights, in depth, the views of the men, their ideas and backgrounds against a backdrop of the tense 1968 Democratic and Republican conventions.

With the morality of the Vietnam War still being fiercely debated, violence was always a possibility.

These were the first TV conventions  shown  in colour and it is estimated 80 per cent of the U.S. population followed them.

The ABC network was far less popular than the other three networks at the time,  and needed to bring something different to the table to cover the conventions. The network’s executives hired these most vitriolic of enemies – left-wing pundit Vidal and staunch conservative Buckley Jr. – to argue the issues alive and unscripted.

By the ninth debate, the men erupted on air,  threatening physical violence, which shocked both TV executives as well as the audience with their actions.

Using explosive archival footage and commentary, the film charts the infamous origin of the trash-talk format of today’s news from this event.

The film is a must see for all those interested in history, politics and watching two intellectuals spar and debate with all the wit and rancor they were well known for.

Best of Enemies screens at the Towne Cinema Monday, Nov. 30 at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $7 (cash only), at the Bean Scene and the theatre. The film is rated PG for coarse language.