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233 of 233 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific!
This History Channel presentation of the pilgrims is two and a half hours of a well-known and very important part of our American history, although you may not realize how little you actually do know of these separatists and of the times they lived. In fact, it certainly is more movie than documentary and, although interspersed throughout are historians filling in the...
Published on February 6, 2007 by Ken Roberts

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71 of 86 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern History
On the whole, this is an above average film. The naval scenes are riveting, the costumes are authentic, and the acting is passable. The largest problem is political correctness. Those contemporary Indians interviewed about their forbears at Plymouth, for example, are often just silly. When the white men landed, "We saw them but they didn't see us. We were one with...
Published on February 10, 2009 by C.A. Arthur


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233 of 233 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific!, February 6, 2007
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
This History Channel presentation of the pilgrims is two and a half hours of a well-known and very important part of our American history, although you may not realize how little you actually do know of these separatists and of the times they lived. In fact, it certainly is more movie than documentary and, although interspersed throughout are historians filling in the gaps, this docu-drama is as engulfing and riveting as any full-length period movie I have seen. The lives and times of these early European settlers are authentically portrayed by use of English Shakespearian actors, and the quality shows. Never have I seen any other film put flesh on the bones of the pilgrims to the extent this one does. A social history extravaganza!
The clothing, lighting, effects (especially while on the Mayflower), and, at times, even some of the speech patterns are reflected fairly accurately. I did not see the typical revisionist history so often reflected in many of today's historical depictions. They were very religious folk bent on keeping their practices, even if they had to cross the ocean to do it, and this movie shows that in no uncertain terms.
The Indian dramatization was done very well for the most part, although I would have preferred to have their speech in their original (or close to their original) language and include the use of sub-titles.
Oh well, can't have everything.
As an extra added bonus, by the way, there are a couple of short (too short!) extra's - one features the making of this extraordinary documentary, and the other has outtakes and bloopers.
For teachers and lovers of history I recommend this docu-drama very highly. A wonderful way to learn about our early American history.
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83 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Light on an Old Story, December 13, 2006
By 
J. S. Kaminski "j_s_k" (Aberdeen, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
Most Americans know the story of the Pilgrims and Mayflower...or do they? The History Channel has done a great job here, showing us that there is more to the story than we'd been taught. For example, who knew that many of the Pilgrims had actually moved to the Netherlands for an extended period (12 years or so) before deciding to try their luck in the New World? Or that there were actually two ships (the other being called The Speedwell), but the 2nd one was left behind because it was deemed un-seaworthy? Or that the Pilgrims landed first, not at Plymouth, but on Cape Cod, only to be driven off by the Native Americans there? These facts and many others are revealed in this interesting film.

Four stars. A bit long (almost 140 minutes) but I found it worth the time!
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78 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is television & The History Channel at their best., November 24, 2006
By 
JOHN GODFREY (Milwaukee ,WI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
It will be worth the dvd coming out the end of January. Shown now as Thanksgiving day fare. It is really an untold story. That is, the story of the struggles of the Separatist (Pilgims) in the 13 years before the Mayflower ever sailed. That was 1607, the year the first sucessful permanent colony was established in Virginia, named after King James. England was Protestant & The Anglican Church of England was the only lawful religion. James seemed to be quite pious in that regard. Not to the Separatist, who were loyal to the king in every way except religious. They printed tracts & even accused the King of popishness. This angered him & he harassed them until they left England for Holland. There they were tolerated but somewhat isolated & empoverished. This could not be a permanent solution & they decided that America might be option to consider. They needed a charter from King James who was basically angry with them but readily agree. He did not like them in Holland & in America they would be far away & out of his hair. Obtaining a ship, crew & provisions for the long trip was not cheap. Eventually they had to take non-believers with them who had money & for various reasons also wanted to leave. They had several fitful starts & even had to turn back several times. Finally they left England in late summer of 1620, a bad time to leave & even worse to land for it got them to America with winter bearing down & no chance to plant crops. They never got to Virginia. Instead they landed in Massachuetts Bay, outside of the area of their charter from the king. The weather prevented them from sailing out & around Cape Cod & south to Viginia. So there they stayed. Technically, they were no longer ruled by English law & the non-believers aboard knew this. They were not going to be governed by the rules that the separatist proposed once they landed. Both groups were of about equal size & what came about was the first great document in our history, The Mayflower Compact. Essentially a consensus document setting up a government with laws that all groups could live with. Quite remarkable. This document saved their lives. If they had split they surely would have perished. As it was, half the people died that winter. They pulled together & made it. These events were recorded for posterity by one of the original Pilgrims, William Bradford, who was there & later would become Govenor of the colony until shortly before his death in 1657. The reenactments for this documentary were quite well done. They choose a permenant site but not before fleeing & fighting some Native American tribes for stealing their seed corn & making friends with another tribe. A claim that there were over 50,000,000 people in North America at this time is hard to believe. But if true the number that died from disease & at the hands of Europeans over the next 250 years is truly a disaster eclipsing other examples of mass extinctions in history. By fall 1621 there was enough bounty to have a festival. According to this telling, the natives just dropped in bringing wild turkeys & both groups partied together for three days & nights. They ate all of the Pilgrims food. Later, they brought in supplies of venision, a high prestige gift of respect. The Pilgims were expected to do the same, that is drop in any time uninvited to eat & stay overnight. This version did not mention a story I had heard. The Pligims landed where they did because they were in a hurry to set up a brewery, having run through the ship's supply of beer. One thing that is important to point out is the Pilgrims did not come to America to practice religious freedom. They came to America for the freedom to practice their religion.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish this had been available when I was in grade school!, July 23, 2007
By 
Thornns (upstate, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
I felt cheated - went to school in a town where a significant percentage of graduating seniors attend Ivy League colleges - in other words, not a school system that is light on educational effort...but I never heard even 1/2 of this information about the Pilgrims! If this sort of information (and its excellent presentation) had been available when I was in grade school, I would have been much more interested and engaged US history and in history in general.
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71 of 86 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern History, February 10, 2009
By 
C.A. Arthur (Tacoma, Washington) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
On the whole, this is an above average film. The naval scenes are riveting, the costumes are authentic, and the acting is passable. The largest problem is political correctness. Those contemporary Indians interviewed about their forbears at Plymouth, for example, are often just silly. When the white men landed, "We saw them but they didn't see us. We were one with nature." And the like. Moreover, the theology of the Puritans and Separatists could have been discussed at more depth; the distinctions are critical to the story. But perhaps that's asking too much of the History Channel. According to the iron rule of PC, Christianity must almost always be mere supersitition.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource for Teachers and Students, November 19, 2010
By 
Digee "Digee" (Escondido, California USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
After showing most of this video to my eighth grade American history classes, I find that it actively engages students to the story of the ordeals and hardships of the Separatists (Pilgrims). The beginning of the video tells the story of the lack of freedom of the press, speech, and religion in England in the seventeenth century. English, Dutch, and Native cultures are shown in the form of reenactments and primary source images. This video has quality acting, excellent historian commentary, and great reenactments. In watching the video many times, these are notes that I took from a Desperate Crossing.

Scrooby, England: This is the city and country where the story of the Pilgrims began.
Pilgrims: They were emigrants to a new world and history refers to the group of people on the Mayflower as Pilgrims.
William Bradford: He wrote most most of the information that is known about the Pilgrims. In 1607 he was an orphan, but was passionate about theology.
Church of England: It was established in 1534 by King Henry VIII.
Protestants: Martin Luther and others hoped to reform the Catholic Church. Many English people were happy when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church because they hoped the Church would be reformed.
Separatists: Some people felt the king's church could never be purified and wanted to separate from it. They thought there shouldn't be a church of England, but the English courts moved against these people.
Puritans: They wanted to make the Church a better place and remove bad practices from the Catholic Church.
King James: James is intellectual, a practical Scottish politician, and believes he is God's right hand man on earth because he was king. He believed in religious unity and obedience. (10 minutes)
Holland: The separatists decided to go to this country because they heard there was Freedom of Religion for all people. They were forced to secretly leave England for Holland, but were captured by an English magistrate. They were finally allowed to leave and emigrate to the Netherlands.
Netherlands: It is a country that is a melting pot. The Dutch state has seven sovereignties that allow religious tolerance. (15 minutes)
Amsterdam: The city is more industrial than agrarian and caused Bradford difficulty because his background was in farming.
Dorothy May: She was a separatist who came to Holland and eventually became the wife of William Bradford.
congregation: This is a religious assembly of persons or believers. Separatists, Pilgrims, and other Protestants had various congregations.
John Robinson: The pastor to the 300 English refugees or Separatists living in Holland.
William Brewster: He was a church elder and learned how to use a printing press in his fifties. He used the press for profit and publishing pamphlets against the oppressive rule of King James. (20 minutes)
Dutch: Many of the Separatists became concerned that the Dutch were too worldly and set poor Christian examples for their children.
America: This was home to only about 2,000 Europeans and millions of native inhabitants.
Jamestown: This was not a very successful colony, but the Separatists still discussed the possibility of moving to this area of America.
Native Americans: Some of these people were captured or kidnapped and brought back to Europe as human specimens or living advertisements of the Americas.
Virginia: The Pilgrims decided to settle in this location because it was claimed by the king of England.
Leiden, Netherlands in 1618: The Pilgrims had to get permission from King James in this year to go to Virginia in America.
Edward Winslow: He was a young printer who worked for Brewster and became a member of the Separatist congregation
Speedwell: Fifty-five Separatist colonists left Holland on July 23, 1620 to England on this small ship that was purchased for their voyage to the New World. (43 minutes)
Mayflower: In Southampton, England, the Pilgrims locate this ship. Its was a merchant vessel or cargo ship. It was not designed as a passenger vessel, but it was a standard form of transportation in the seventeenth century. There are 102 passengers that end up traveling on the Mayflower.
Tradesmen or Strangers: This group of people also traveled with the Pilgrims. Many of the people had special skills, such as a barrel maker. Bradford called the people "strangers."
voyage: On August 5, 1620, the Mayflower and Speedwell left on the trip to America. (52 minutes) The Speedwell was left behind and more people were forced to travel on the Mayflower because it was not seaworthy. Twenty passengers left the journey at Plymouth, England. The main beam almost broke in October and nearly caused the ship to split in two. Fortunately, a Pilgrim had brought a large screw that was used to jack up the main beam. A sailor died on the journey and a baby named Oceanus was born to the Hopkin parents. The journey took nine weeks.
Master Christopher Jones: He is the captain of the Mayflower was hired to take the Separatists to Virginia.
diet: hardtack, salted beef, and beer was the main food for passengers on the Mayflower
Hudson River: On November 9, 1620, land located at Cape Cod was spotted. This was the location that the Pilgrims hoped to establish their colony. It was far north of Jamestown, but legally still part of the English colony of Virginia. Master Jones was forced to go to another location because of bad weather.
Mayflower Compact: Pilgrims and the laborers argued over the leadership of the new colony when Master Christopher Jones was forced to land the Mayflower outside of the original patent for the Hudson River location. All settlers came e up with an agreement or compact that acted as a temporary government for the colony. The document does not create democracy, but an elected authority.
Nauset: This is the name of the land where the Pilgrims first arrived. It was also the name of a local tribe that attacked the Pilgrim.
scurvey: Bradford wrote that a lot of the settlers were sick with this illness because of their poor diet. Symptoms include bleeding of the gums, bruising, and bad pain.
hospitalization: Many settlers died in the months of January and February; two to three people sometimes died a day. The few structures the settlers had made were used for hospitals. In the "heart of winter," fifty settlers died.
Samoset: He was the first Indian to make contact with the Pilgrims and other settlers. He knew basic English and was able to understand both cultures and communicate with the Pilgrims.
Massasoit: He was the chief of the Wampanoag tribe and brought sixty men from his tribe to meet the Pilgrims. Squanto accompanied this chief at the alliance meeting.
Wampanoag: The tribe was weakened by disease and made an alliance with the Pilgrims as a protection from the larger tribes in the region.
Squanto: He spoke English better than Samoset and ended up staying with the Pilgrims and teaching them about his native culture and farming. He learned English from John Slany, a shipbuilder, and lived for three years in Corn Hill. He was taken back to Newfoundland and traveled back to his tribe where he discovered everyone had died of plague.
England: Due to the harsh winter, illnesses, and deaths, the Mayflower crew brought nothing of value back to England. Investors were very disappointed to learn the cargo was a bunch of rocks, which helped provide balance to the Mayflower.
Thanksgiving: The first Thanksgiving was a three day feast with the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. They feasted on turkey, geese, bass, fish, and five deer that the Wampanoag brought. This feast was a time of celebration and giving thanks to God.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Desperate Crossing:The Untold Story of the Mayflower, November 18, 2009
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
This is a well done documentary of the crossing of the Mayflower. This story details how the voyage came about, the crossing, the struggles of the pilgims, and more. Excellent photography, and contributions of historians. These add to the story of the awesome voyage, which took place in November, across the treaherous Atlantic ocean. Highly recommended. Excellent quality.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desperate Crossings, April 2, 2007
By 
Bev Brooks (Cape Elizabeth, ME USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
This was a great program for understanding the difficulties encountered in the early founding of our country. I was really astonished at how dangerous it was to be able to leave England and get to America. This show is very interesting and captivates your interest throughout.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desperate Crossing, September 13, 2010
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
I was especially interested in this DVD because I am a decendent of John & Pricilla Alden who came to America on the Mayflower. The DVD depicts the challenges the pilgrims faced in their attemmpt to find freedom. It took me back to the time my ancestors lived and the challenges they faced. The DVD also deals with what happened in their attempt to start a colony after arriving here...not just the sea voyage. Anyone with an interest in the early history of our nation would enjoy this DVD. This brings history to life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The members of the Mayflower Company/Plymouth Colony had it rough, October 21, 2010
By 
ARH (The Shadow of the Tetons) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
This documentary/docu-drama provides insights into the backgrounds and trials of the Pilgrims. the focus of this show is the telling of the story of the Mayflower Company, focusing on the reformers of John Bradford's sect. I knew about their travels and travails in England and then Holland. One thing I'd forgotten,though, was that about 1/2 of the passengers on the Mayflower were not part of his group, but were an assortment of people who had been recruited to join the colonizing expedition to the northern Virginia colony. Circumstances had them land even farther north than that though, and they founded an entirely new colony in what is now Mass.

If it weren't for the Native Americans and their willingness to help the Pilgrims plant their firt crop and give them time to establish themselves we may never have heard much about the Pilgrims because they all would probably have starved to death that first winter instead of half of them dying that winter.

The narration was good, the costuming, also good. There was some acting here and there, and that was OK, but the show has a definite made-for-TV feeling to it. Nevertheless, it's a good review of what we know about their situation and what they did to survive.

4 solid stars.
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