Judge Sandra Dozier is working on a side project, "American History of the Wild Northwest."
Be transported to the wild and wooly past of the American Wild West!
Told largely through the use of historical photographs and narration, this collection of documentaries centers around the American culture during the late 1800s, the "Old West." There are six documentaries in total, each divided into two parts across two DVDs.
• "Old West Cowboys"
• "Wild Bill Hickok"
• "Wyatt Earp "
• "Gunfighters of the Old West"
• "The Apache On the Warpath: Geronimo"
• "The Great Indian Wars"
There is quite a bit of information packed into these documentaries, and the pictures are sourced from institutions such as the Library of Congress and the National Museum of American History, so this is the first glimpse many average Americans will probably have of these items. Although much of the material is well-written, things fall short in the quality of the images used and the production value. The historical pictures used are understandably aged and worn, but the filmed segments include footage from Hollywood westerns and possible reenactments from modern-day actors that have been inexpertly 'aged' by making them black and white and applying a blurry filter. I actually prefer the slow panning over still pictures to these inserts, as most were so severely scratched, pitted, faded, and mushy that they actually look worse than some of the historical photos profiled. The video transfer is also subpar, with unmistakable interference and spotting. It isn't unwatchable, just mediocre.
The narration is mostly done by Jack Hanrahan (a prolific writer for television comedy shows from the 1960s through the 1990s). Only the second feature, "Wild Bill Hicock," is not narrated by him and not attributed; it may be narrated by Dan Dalton, who produced all of the documentaries (he is cited as doing the music for the feature, which begins with singing and segues into the narration). Hanrahan generally has a clear voice and reads at a comfortable pace, but in the first feature, "Old West Cowboys," he reads as if he is in a speed contest; running words together, stuttering in parts, and sometimes slushing his speech. Along with the needlessly convoluted and academic writing, this first feature is the hardest to watch. Other than that, the only other narration is a brief vocal introduction to the "Geronimo" segment by S.M. Barrett to explain his involvement in conducting the interviews with Geronimo.
As documentary collections go, this is not the worst I have seen, but it falls far short of the polish many fans of documentaries from channels such as History and A&E are used to. With their financial backing, studio equipment, and professional polish; television documentaries look as good as the content they showcase. It would be hard for a home-spun effort like American History of the Wild West to compete, even though it is clear that it was a labor of love for the participants involved.
Do not expect polished editing or a great video transfer. These documentaries feel like someone made them in their garage with the video editing software that came with their PC, which isn't too far from the truth when you consult the credits and find a lot of family members involved in the production. Anyone interested in American history can hardly go wrong with over 11 hours of documentary, but skip this if you are bothered by uneven video quality or lack of studio polish.
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