The American Experience: Season 5, Episode 3

The Donner Party (28 Oct. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | History
8.5
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Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. The Donner Party's nightmarish journey penetrated to the very heart of the ... See full summary »

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Title: The Donner Party (28 Oct 1992)

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David McCullough ...
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Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. The Donner Party's nightmarish journey penetrated to the very heart of the American Dream at a crucial phase of the nation's "manifest destiny. Touching some of the most powerful social, economic and political currents of the time, this extraordinary narrative remains one of the most compelling and enduring episodes to come out of the West. Written by Joshua Mueller

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28 October 1992 (USA)  »

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Fear and Loathing at 4th and Butternut
Performed by John Fahey
Courtesy of Varrick/Rounder Records
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Chilling & Haunting Masterpiece.
25 August 2013 | by (North America) – See all my reviews

An episode of the PBS series "American Experience", this re-telling of the doomed expedition of the Donner and Reed families to migrate from Illinois to California in covered wagons in the years 1846-1847, only to find devastating disappointment, hardship, and bad luck as they get stuck in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during a record series of blizzards is so unexpectedly compelling, moving, and powerful, that it was worthy of being released as a feature film.

There is no gore or on screen violence at all, despite the grim and grisly details, this instead uses narrated excerpts from the diaries of the family members to tell the story, and a more effective narrative device could not have been found; modern horror film-makers could learn a great deal on how effective subtlety, light and shadow can be. It is quietly told, yet retains such dramatic impact that it may bring you to tears. Eerie, sweeping music score will leave you breathless. Ending line, "Remember, never take no cut offs, and hurry along as fast as you can." is devastating.

Highly recommended!


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