American Experience: The Last outlaws – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is another wonderful addition to PBS’ hit series. The documentary on the famed outlaw cowboy and his cohort (Sundance was not his sidekick despite how he was presented in various movies and TV shows) is so impressive first and foremost in that it presents the real history of the two infamous figures. It doesn’t try to over glamorize the lives of the two men. Viewers will enjoy this episode of American Experience because of its minimalistic use of actors and dramatization in telling the story of Butch and his friend. This plays directly into the episode’s general presentation and refusal to over-glamorize their history. And last but not least, the use of cinematography and vintage pictures help to illustrate the story. That combined with the minimalist dramatization and the straight forward history makes this episode of American Experience more proof of just how interesting history can be. And it makes the newly released DVD one that any history buffs or teacher will want to purchase and add to their own home library.
The first and most obvious reason that audiences will appreciate American Experience: The Last Outlaws – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is that it is a straight forward history of the two infamous outlaws. So many movies and television programs through the decades have been crafted presenting depicting the men in one fashion or another. In many of those depictions, The Sundance Kid (a.k.a. Harry Alonzo Longabaugh) is presented as Butch Cassidy’s sidekick. But as audiences will learn through this episode of American Experience, the relationship between the men was more an equal friendship than one of a leader and sidekick. What’s more, audiences not so familiar with the life and times of these infamous outlaws will appreciate learning that they were far more average than the noted movies and TV dramas have made them out to be. It’s interesting just to learn that Cassidy (a.k.a. Robert Leroy Parker) actually started out in a very strict religious family from Utah before eventually leaving and making his way to Colorado where his life of crime truly began. There is so much more to learn throughout this program. The best summary of what is presented is that sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. And in this case, that’s definitely a good thing (bad pun fully intended).
The true history of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid presented in this episode of American Experience is the central reason that audiences will enjoy the newly released DVD. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this DVD is its minimalist use of actors and dramatization. In most cases of historical pieces, dramatizations are necessary in order to help tell the story of the subject presented. In the case of this episode of American Experience, the use of actors and dramatization actually would have been overkill. That’s because the story itself is interesting enough without those extra elements. Audiences will find themselves fully engaged as they learn how two seemingly ordinary men became the virtual Robin Hood and Little John of the old west, stealing from major organizations, yet through it all, leaving only one person dead in their wake. Those behind the program perfectly balanced the minimalist dramatization approach with just enough history to make this episode even all the more enjoyable.
The balance of story and minimalist dramatization used throughout American Experience: The Last Outlaws – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid make this program one that any history buff and any history teacher will definitely want to add to their own home library. The last piece of the program that audiences will appreciate is the combination of the use of vintage photos and stunning cinematography. As narrator Michael Murphy discusses the “Outlaw Trail”, audiences are presented with stunning views of the areas where Cassidy and other outlaws would hide in order to evade law enforcement. The aerial shots of the canyons—some split by rivers, others lined by craggy overhangs—are incredible. The vintage photos of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid help to illustrate just how average the two legendary outlaws looked. It is a direct contradiction to how they are portrayed in movies and on television. The two elements are expertly balanced throughout the program, thus helping to pull viewers even more into the story of two of history’s most talked about figures. Those final two elements work in tandem with the aforementioned factors to make this new documentary from PBS’ American Experience so much more worth watching. It ends up proving to be one more excellent documentary that is just as useful and enjoyable in the living room as it is in the classroom.
American Experience: The Last Outlaws – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=32476546&cp=&sr=1&kw=butch+cassidy&origkw=Butch+Cassidy&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.