The men and women who helped to tame the west were larger-than-life Americans–rebels, pioneers, and icons of the frontier culture. Both heroes and villains, they captured the imagination of a nation and inspired a stream of dime novels, television shows, and big-screen dramas. Step into the past with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE in this collection of eight one-hour documentaries, and uncover the real stories behind the legendary figures whose lives and exploits took center stage in the invention of the mythic Wild West.

Annie Oakley – Described as “the greatest woman rifle shot the world has ever produced,” Annie Oakley thrilled audiences with her shooting, but this uniquely American icon embodied many of the paradoxes of the nation.
Billy the Kid – One of the most notorious criminals of his age, 21-year-old Henry McCarty, alias Billy the Kid, outfoxed jailors and electrified the nation with a long line of daring escapes. Mythologized by big-screen dramas, the Kid’s real story has largely been obscured.Buffalo Bill – Part circus, part history, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” toured for three decades, across the United States and Europe, and William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s legendary exploits helped create the myth of the American West–one that endures today.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Separating fact from fiction, the latest installment of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE’s popular The Wild West series explores the last pair of outlaws to flee on horseback into a setting sun.

Custer’s Last Stand – George Armstrong Custer was one of the Union’s greatest cavalry officers, and a man with a reputation for fearless–often reckless–courage.

Jesse James – The story of Jesse James remains one of America’s most cherished–and fictional–myths. Less heroic than brutal, James lived a life steeped in violence and bloodshed, and met his end like so many of his victims: unarmed, and shot in the back.

Kit Carson – His exploits on the American frontier inspired dozens of novels, but these wildly popular books belie his tragedy. When the West was a mystery to most Americans, Carson mastered it, ultimately helping to spur a migration that would change the West forever–destroying the life he loved.

Wyatt Earp – He is a legend in the American West, but how did the young gambler who spent his days in saloons and brothels use a shootout at the O.K. Corral to become the folk hero we know today?


“America’s Wild West” is a compilation of some great American Experience documentaries about Wild West figures. You get everyone from Wyatt Earp to Buffalo Bill. Nothing presented here is going to be an untold fact of a legendary figure. If you’ve actually did any of the reading in your younger school years, you’ll remember some basics about the guys. While I like The Wild West series, this material seems to be kid informative with adult trappings.

A lot of this material has been widely known, but there are details I like about each individual documentary. There’s a lot of time spent on Buffalo Bill touring Europe with is Old West show. Plus, there is a sustained look at the living paradox that was Annie Oakley. No one tries to build on something that isn’t there, but there are huge identity politics at play with Oakley. You also get a less dreamy take on Jesse James.

The DVD comes with no special features. But, you’re getting 9 1/2 hours worth of material spread across four discs. That’s a lot of content for any show. The A/V Quality is strong enough with a rather supportive Dolby track. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.

RELEASE DATE: 08/05/2014

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