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American Experience: Panama Canal

30 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

American Experience: Panama Canal + NOVA: A Man, a Plan, a Canal - Panama + The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
Price for all three: $37.61

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Editorial Reviews

On August 15th, 1914, the Panama Canal opened, connecting the world s two largest oceans and signaling America s emergence as a global superpower. This AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film using an extraordinary archive of photographs and footage, interviews with canal workers and firsthand accounts of life in the Canal Zone, unravels the remarkable story of one of the world s most significant technological achievements.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Narrated by Michael Murphy
  • Directors: Stephen Ives
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: February 8, 2011
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0047H7Q0O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,296 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. Travis on April 23, 2012
The movie provides a fascinating overview of one the greatest construction feats in history, the building of the 48 mile long Panama Canal. Construction of the canal took 10 years and cost the U.S. more than $350 million dollars, the largest single federal expenditure in history to that time. More than 5,000 lives were lost.

The move follows the sequence of events in the book "The Path between the Seas" by David McCullough (which is a great book). In fact, the dialogue is the same in both the movie and the book. What is nice, is by watching the movie, you get to see pictures of the events. The movie is full of great shots related to all aspects of the building of the canal; it has pictures of the main and minor characters and their families, the housing, the construction equipment, the railroads, the digging, the workers, and Present Teddy Roosevelt visiting the canal.

In recent years the amount of cargo shipped through the canal has continued to increase, a growth driven in part by rapidly expanding economies in Asia. In fact, nearly 70% of all cargo to and from the U.S. passes through the Panama Canal. Panama is currently planning to double the capacity of the canal. By 2025, the Panama Canal is projected to earn more than $6 billion annually. The movie is 90 minutes long and does not have a dull moment. You will enjoy it.
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The above quote is from President Theodore Roosevelt.

Prior to seeing the 90 minute AMERICAN EXPERIENCE program about the building of the Panama Canal, I wasn't aware that Roosevelt abetted Panamanian rebels in their fight to gain independence from Colombia. TR did so for less than altruistic reasons. The Colombian government had refused to negotiate a treaty with the US to allow the Canal's construction. It was a bloodless coup. Colombian soldiers went home peacefully after they received American bribe money. Roosevelt got his right of way from the new nation's grateful leaders.

In the long years it took to construct this amazing waterway ladder system, hundreds died from pneumonia, malaria and especially yellow fever. A military doctor named William C. Gorgas acted upon a previous unproven theory of Dr. Carlos Finlay that the two illnesses were transmitted by mosquitoes. Gorgas's aggressive mosquito eradication program soon stopped yellow fever and malaria and contributed to their prevention the world over.

Full length of the canal, plus the arificially created Gatun Lake, is 51 miles. Entering ships are raised one step at a time to the level of the higher altitude lake, and on the other side lowered in similar fashion, via one lock after the other. The gargantuan watertight swinging doors along each step of the way are brilliantly constructed; so perfectly counterbalanced that 40 HP motors can operate them.

Just a few of the trivia morsels contained in this always interesting documentary. News articles, photos and 100-plus year old films help tell a story that's fleshed out by expert commentators, plus interview footage of workers made decades after the canal's 1914 completion.

Most definitely recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bobbi on April 2, 2011
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Excellent, entertaining, lots of history and background info. Elderly folks can enjoy it also because of CC (Closed Captioned). Highly recommended for all ages.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RCG on July 29, 2011
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Just got back from spending 9 days down at the Panama Canal for my job. I learned allot about the Canal and its history awhile I was down there so I thought I would order a video to learn even more. The video was very informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Baudrand on March 19, 2014
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It was a very interesting film and was recommended to me because I am going on a cruise through the canal. It cannot cover the entire, complicated, political, and messy history of getting that thing built, but it was a good overview.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By pjPonzo on October 27, 2011
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Awesome photos, engaging commentary
... and a necessary video for anyone cruising the Panama Canal (as we are).

Several friends and relatives have borrowed the video with similar experience.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By McCook on March 26, 2011
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Would highly recommend for both students of history or anyone planning to either cruise thru the Canal or travel in the area. Very well done,
with excellent highlights.
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Verified Purchase
We bought this video after we took a cruise through the Panama Canal. Our only regret was that we didn't see it BEFORE we traversed the canal. This documentary brings to life an amazing period in US history, and it highlights a fantastic accomplishment. Thousands of people lost their lives trying to build the canal, and others lost their wealth and their sanity. The building of the Panama Canal was a monumental feat, and one could rightly argue that it was foolhardy in the extreme and far, far too costly in terms of human life. Never-the-less, the account of its building makes for high drama. This documentary captures the tension, the heroics, the brashness, and the triumph of a singular AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.
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