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Ken Burns Presents: The West

104 customer reviews

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Ken Burns Presents: The West + Ken Burns: The Civil War (Commemorative Edition) + Lewis & Clark - The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
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Editorial Reviews

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns captures the magic, spirit, legends and myths of the West from early frontier settlements to the present day in this epic miniseries. 5 DVDs. 1996/color-b&w/12 hrs/NR.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Coyote, George Aguilar, Adam Arkin, Philip Bosco, Matthew Broderick
  • Directors: Stephen Ives
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC, Full Screen
  • Language: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
  • Run Time: 707 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,019 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ken Burns Presents: The West" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

211 of 231 people found the following review helpful By Movie Watch on March 28, 2008
Format: DVD
The West
DVD ~ Peter Coyote
When some people use the word "documentary" they seem to imbue it with an expectation of total objectivity--as if one could eliminate all traces of cultural experience from one's makeup and discover a shining path of ultimate "truth" simply by the act of becoming a filmmaker. Nonsense. We are all a product of our times and of the culture in which we were raised and educated. Documentaries are always, always, always selective. There is no such thing as total objectivity, either in writing or in filmmaking.

That said, this is an enormously valuable effort to sift through an extraordinary cross-section of materials and condense them into 12 and 1/2 hours of very viewable, enlightening and often extremely moving stories. Yes, that's right, I said "condense". The documents available on the history of the West literally fill many museums, and unless you plan to spend every waking moment of your life from the time you learn to read until the day you die as a serious scholar of western lore, you will never gain a complete knowledge of the subject. This is an outstanding effort to provide a distillation of the sense and feel of the west from the earliest days of indian tribal inhabitation to the passing of the frontier. To have even attempted that feat in a 12 and 1/2 hour presentation took courage and imagination. Although I have often grumbled to myself about Ken Burn's relentless imposition of an over-stylized montage technique on the presentation of his documentaries, I have nothing but astonished admiration for his accomplishment in crafting this mini-series. Bravo.

Yes, yes, it doesn't tell the whole story of the West. Yes, it is selective. And, yes, there are other things that could have been included.
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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful By David Marks on May 15, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I recently purchased this DVD set/documentary from Amazon, even though I read the single negative review first. I have learned to sense invalid positive or negative reviews, particularly when they stand out vis a vis all the other reviews, and the reviewer who criticized this documentary was simply totally in error, as to his facts and comments!

This is an absolutely beautiful documentary, and it meets all of Ken Burns' own directoral standards, and more. But of course this would have to be the case, just in terms of basic logic, since Burns put up the money for this project.

The criticism of Peter Coyote, and of those interviewed in this documentary, couldn't be more invalid.....Coyote's voice and demeanor and attitude are all perfect for this project and I cannot imagine anyone else matching the high quality of his voice-over comments.

The experts interviewed throughout this film, are the best in the world when it comes to the history of the West (including J.S. Holliday, the premier historian/writer of California gold rush history).

As for the negative reviewer's criticism of the "panning" of some of the photos, this panning movement is done with the same high quality that Ken Burns provided when he directed his other documentaries, and is only used in specific cases, where the photograph gained value-added by the technique.

This is such a beautiful documentary set, and is done so professionally and with such sensitivity and skill throughout, that it would be a shame if any of you who are considering purchasing "The West" DVD set, failed to acquire this wonderful documentary, because of a single, off-the-wall, inappropriate, and invalid review.

But then the above comments are simply my opinion, and you the reader of these reviews, will have to judge for yourself.
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77 of 90 people found the following review helpful By OutsideJob on May 29, 2007
Format: DVD
This is an incredible piece of filmmaking. This is Ken Burns' long-overlooked documentary masterpiece about the birth and transformation of the West of America. Every "chapter" is more engaging than the last. This doc is also very well-balanced as far as the white Native American points of view. "The West" spans the devastation and ingenuity unique to American History. This doc is completely overshadowed by "Baseball" and "The Civil War," ( has thousands of votes for those two and only about 100 for "The West") but this is as good as it gets. Go West!
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46 of 55 people found the following review helpful By J. Lovins HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 20, 2003
Format: DVD
Growing up in the Midwest, I thought "The West" was Hopalong Cassidy, Randolph Scott and John Wayne ~ nevertheless Westerns or B-Westerns captured my interest and I became addicted to what it was like from the very beginning of the West! Here is a wealth of history collected within the realm of centuries, put down on paper by Geoffrey C. Ward and Dayton Duncan ~ directed by Stephen Ives and presented by Ken Burns on five discs, as we take the journey westward bringing together all races, nationalities and religions striving for a new land and freedom for all her people.
Never have I witnessed such openness in the telling of the triumphs and tragedies of America's westward expansion ~ it took more than 75 historians on this project to make it right. Right from the git go we have Episode One(The People/Bonus DVD Features), Episodes Two & Three (Empire Upon The Trails/The Speck of the Future), Episodes Four & Five (Fight No More Forever/The Geography of Hope) and Episodes Eight & Nine (Ghost Dance/One Sky Above Us) ~ featuring some of the most beautiful photography of our country. The entire collection covers the period of 1800 to 1915, wonderfully narated by Peter Coyote (whose voice sounds very much like Henry Fonda).
This is one of, if not the best documentaries on "The West", I've ever seen. Been collecting Time/Life leatherbound books on the subject for years ~ Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell books and paintings ~ plus bronze of "The Mountain Man", "The Rattlesnake" and "Comin' Through the Rye" by Frederic Remington. Ken Burns "The West" on DVD is something I will cherish the rest of my life ~ will pass it on to my children and grandchildren, so they will know this is the way it was moving WEST!

Total Time: 12 Hours ~ PBS B8891 ~ (9/30/2003)
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are these closed captioned?
You asked this about Civil War, and I gave you a general answer. ALL of the Burns boys library on DVD (both released versions) are Closed Captioned.
Feb 15, 2008 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 2 posts
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