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The Way West [VHS]

24 customer reviews


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Product Details

  • Actors: Ric Burns
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 4
  • Studio: Shanachie
  • VHS Release Date: May 23, 1995
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303434355
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,018 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

4 VHS TAPE

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Gryn on September 9, 2009
Format: DVD
Whenever I try to compare "The Way West" with the Ken Burns series "The West", I'm always of two minds. On the one hand, I consider TWW to be superior in terms of entertainment; the soundtrack remains one of my favorite CDs, and stands well on its own separate from the film. I also find myself somewhat more engrossed in "The Way West" than "The West". However, from a historical perspective, I consider "The West" to be the better production. TW gives a broader and more balanced historical view, with more variety of speakers, than TWW. In its attempt to portray the genocide of the western Indian tribes, "The Way West" glosses over some important points: for example, that the Lakota were recent inhabitants of the Black Hills, having wrested it from other tribes by warfare during the 1700s...while one would get the impression from the Lakota representatives in TWW that the land was always theirs, and that they were a peaceable tribe until the Whites came. It is omissions like this which make one wonder what else wasn't being covered. On the other hand, TWW does go into more detail of the fight for the Black Hills than "The West" could, because of time constraints. Both are strong in their own ways, and well worth owning.

(Review based on the VHS release, will revise if needed when TWW DVD becomes available.)
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Whenever I try to compare "The Way West" with the Ken Burns series "The West", I'm always of two minds. On the one hand, I consider TWW to be superior in terms of entertainment; the soundtrack remains one of my favorite CDs, and stands well on its own separate from the film. I also find myself somewhat more engrossed in "The Way West" than "The West". However, from a historical perspective, I consider "The West" to be the better production. TW gives a broader and more balanced historical view, with more variety of speakers, than TWW. In its attempt to portray the genocide of the western Indian tribes, "The Way West" glosses over some important points: for example, that the Lakota were recent inhabitants of the Black Hills, having wrested it from other tribes by warfare during the 1700s...while one would get the impression from the Lakota representatives in TWW that the land was always theirs, and that they were a peaceable tribe until the Whites came. It is omissions like this which make one wonder what else wasn't being covered. On the other hand, TWW does go into more detail of the fight for the Black Hills than "The West" could, because of time constraints. Both are strong in their own ways, and well worth owning.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By I. Chiang on February 3, 2008
Format: DVD
I've seen both this film and Ken Burns' "The West", twice for each. Although this piece is not as long, detailed and comprehensive as Ken Burns' marathon version on the West, it is still a good piece. At least, it serves as an introduction, or is suitable for people who don't like heavy loads.

As the subtitle says, it only covers the years from 1845 to 1893. This arrangement is good enough for most people since most events happened during this period, including Custer's Last Stand, Chief Joseph, Red Cloud's War, Fort Laramie Treaty, Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill...and so on. In addition, views from both red and white men are presented, which I think it quite balanced.

The story about native people is just one part of the history in the West, which is the main focus of this DVD. For those who want to know more, for example the Mormons, transcontinental railroads, Texas, Gold Rush...etc, I recommend Ken Burns's version.

Overall, I regard this piece as a warm-up for the American West history.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Brown on June 12, 2007
Format: DVD
As movies and TV (except HBO) become so stupid and banal as to be unwatchable, I find myself watching more and more documentaries, and this is the best I've ever seen.

Unlike Ric Burns "The West" (which covers everything from the Conquistidors in Mexico to the Indians of the Northwest), this focuses almost entirely on the unending battle for the great plains between native americans and the whites. The photography, the narration, the actors readings, and especially the music are first rate, all lending to a sense of inevitable tragedy.

To me this seemed very balanced in presenting both sides of the story. It documents the breaking of treaties and the atrocities committed by Indians every bit as much as those committed by whites. There are several very graphic photos of white men mutilated by Indians. (This is NOT for children.)

I'm at a loss to understand the previous reviews saying this portrays "all white Christian men" as evil and all Indians as victims. Over an hour is dedicated to just the Battle of the Little Big Horn. How does that portray Indians as helpless victims?

The fact that these reviewers feel this is an attack on all white Christian men tells us much more about those reviewers than it does about this incredibly moving documentary.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 2003
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
After seeing this documentary in 1995, I found 1996's The West lacking the emotional impact this story should have. Perhaps that's because The Way West focuses almost entirely on the tragedy of the American Indian, while The West (yes, the titles get confusing) covered ealier history (the Spanish in Mexico), the Mormans, the Chinese and much more on the settlers.
This documentary covers primarily the conflict between whites and the Native Americans in excruciating detail. The sad truth is that, no matter what the government's policy toward the Indians, these wars and their tragic outcomes were probably inevitable because of the difference in cultures. The white man's obsession with owning and farming land and his obsession with gold would never have allowed the Indians to keep their land. The blatant racism against Indians and their culture is never-ending, as quoted in numerous newspaper editorials from the period and comments from the generals who tried to annihilate both.
So, buy The West for more information. But buy The Way West for one of the most emotionally moving documentaries ever made.
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