Combining excerpts from many vintage 1950s and '60s film clips, performances, and interviews with the Kingston Trio's Bob Shane, John Stewart, and Nick Reynolds (original member Dave Guard having died years before this DVD was made), this is a fine documentary of the most successful folk group of its era (if not any) era. The disc's hour-long breezily paced principal feature has excerpts of TV and concert presentations of most of their hits, although "The Reverend Mr. Black" somehow doesn't make it, and a few (though not many) of the performances are from post-'70s clips with different or "reunion" versions of the band, not their classic '50s and '60s lineups. The '50s and '60s clips in particular present a zany, comic energy that didn't always come through as strongly on their records, and even if it seems a little dated and corny several decades later, it does help explain their enormous in-person appeal. Unfortunately, the interview segments with Reynolds (showing effects of a stroke) are less extensive than those with Shane and Stewart, but gaps are filled in by comments from Reynolds' son, Kingston Trio biographer William J. Bush, and celebrities such as Al Jardine of the Beach Boys and Tom Smothers. There may not be many revelations for those familiar with the group's career, but it's a well-done general survey, with occasional surprising bits like Jardine's admission that the Beach Boys' early striped-shirt look was inspired by the Kingston Trio; a clip of the relatively obscure "Raspberries, Strawberries" that showcases the sweetest side of their three-part harmonies; tantalizingly brief clips of the group doing a 7 Up commercial, and a pilot for a TV series (Young Men in a Hurry), featuring the Stewart lineup playing fictional characters, that never aired; and even a very brief scene from the Australian TV series Dave Guard hosted after leaving the group, Dave's Place.
Some viewers might feel the documentary skips over the basic details of their career a little lightly, but if you want more detail, a lot's provided by no less than about 90 minutes or so of bonus features. While it's true these are more for the dedicated fan than the viewer looking for an entertaining, concise history, these segments are not at all superfluous, though they emphasize talking heads more than the main documentary does. One section has the ex-members and others discussing the specific stories behind many of their more celebrated songs; another goes into their sound, personalities, and image in some depth; another profiles their manager, Frank Werber. Some very interesting interview subjects and vintage clips not in the principle feature show up in these supplemental sections, including scenes from the Hollywood film adaptation of "Tom Dooley" and a quirky jukebox jury program in which four young adults explain why they think "Raspberries, Strawberries" will be a substantial hit (though it wasn't). There are even three of their original, reasonably amusing 7 Up commercials in their entirety. The part on obsessed Kingston Trio fans (some of whom even go to a Kingston Trio "fantasy camp" that allows them to meet and play with surviving ex-members) will be too much for even many committed admirers of the group, but fortunately the DVD doesn't go any more overboard than that.