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American Experience: Panama Canal (2011)

Narrated by Michael Murphy , Stephen Ives  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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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: $38.47

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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: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0047H7Q0O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,620 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great America Success Story 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Panama DVD with Closed Captioned feature April 2, 2011
By Bobbi
Verified Purchase
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful documentary but.. a big but June 15, 2012
I was glad to see a documentary about the Canal from the "American" point of view. How the journey to create the Canal was for them and a little bit of history of the many pioneers, courageous men and women that participated on the construction of the Canal. But when I got to the point in where they explain how they actually got the Panamanian into accepting the American into building the Canal in their land, I just couldn't forgive that they make the mistake to said that the separation from Colombia was a "bloodless" revolution...with such certainty..
Yes I agree, the American expedite the process of the separation and I believe (contrary to common believe) that the Panamanians leaders wasn't trick into it, they new what was going to happen. You don't ask something for nothing, and that is clear to me.
But the assumption of a bloodless revolution was an insult to the memory of the many heroes that died previously to the separation, Victoriano Lorenzo for example? I guess it was to presumptuous of me to expect them to learn a little bit more about the history of the country behind the Canal as well.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting July 29, 2011
Verified Purchase
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done March 19, 2014
Verified Purchase
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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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars panama canal video March 26, 2011
By McCook
Verified Purchase
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great video October 27, 2011
By pjPonzo
Verified Purchase
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great dvd and great collection.
Published 1 month ago by Gloria Rigsbee
4.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know about the Panama Canal
Good story on America's history and the Panama Canal.
Published 2 months ago by Albert B. Duckett
3.0 out of 5 stars Just ok
Good pictures of actual goings on but the DVD only tells part of the story. A very pumped up production of greatest American engineering and building of that time. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Hanscom
5.0 out of 5 stars Panama Canal
Bought this before our trip through the canal. Very informative. Must buy if you are going to tour the canal.
Published 4 months ago by lcy
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of information
I used this film to reinforce our history lesson about the history of the United States expansion around the world. It was informative and it did the job I wanted.
Published 5 months ago by hardworker
5.0 out of 5 stars Panama Canal
I have been there 3 times and it is an awesome sight watching the ships go through the locks. This film documents it well.
Published 6 months ago by Patricia Bearden
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY GOOD
Published 7 months ago by Colorado springs
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing DVD
This DVD is amazing! Watching engineering feats being completed during the early years of the 20th century when you wouldn't think such things were in the realm of engineering... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Komodo
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel through amazing history
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. Read more
Published 9 months ago by J Hague
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful history of the Panama Canal
This DVD of the outstanding American Experience program on the Panama Canal is outstanding. I saw it on tv but wanted to have my own permanent copy.
Published 10 months ago by Ohio Tiger
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