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American Experience: Last Stand at Little Big Horn
American Experience Last Stand at Little Big Horn
Actor: Marion Ross
Director: Rocky Collins; Matthew Collins (III)
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 0min

The Battle of Little Big Horn, known as ''Custer's Last Stand,'' has been one of the most frequently depicted moments in American history?and one of the least understood, still shrouded in myth. The battle has inspired ov...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Marion Ross
Director: Rocky Collins; Matthew Collins (III)
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, History, Military & War
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 06/29/2004
Original Release Date: 04/18/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 04/18/2005
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

An informative look at the reality vs the myth of Custer's L
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 07/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"As this episode of The American Experience - not to mention history - shows, there really was no Last Stand at Little Big Horn. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer basically led his cavalry detachment into the midst of an overwhelming force of Native American warriors and got himself and all of his men killed before he even had time to make anything like a stand at all - it's hard to stand when most of your men are running away in panic. Admittedly, I have great dislike for George Custer; the man was an arrogant, vainglorious, shyster and an exceedingly poor military leader (with a history of abandoning soldiers he was supposed to support - although this video doesn't bring this issue up), and I don't like having a man like that counted among the much more deserving ranks of American heroes. Of course, he's no longer viewed in such heroic terms today, as the history of Custer's Last Stand is finally displacing the myth of that dark day in American history. This is not to say the slaughter wasn't of incredible importance because it most certainly was; partly in the name of vengeance for Custer's death, American forces quickly moved to capture or kill those Indians of the American Northwest who refused to take up residence on a reservation.

This video, introduced by David McCullough, is a pretty decent look at the reality of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It does draw heavily from Native American sources, but that is mainly because Native Americans were essentially the only survivors of the battle. What is most amazing about the true history is the swiftness of the battle. Even with modern weaponry such as Gatling guns and artillery, a force of 208 men never had a prayer against thousands of brave Indian warriors fighting for the land they called their own. Military discipline was the first casualty, and a number of the men were basically shot in the back as they tried to run away in a panic. It didn't have to be this way. He never seemed to understand just how large a force he was facing, and his lust for glory led him into the fight when he should have waited for reinforcements as planned. One army column had already been forced into a retreat, and Custer's called-for reinforcements went no further once they came upon these men - but Custer didn't wait to learn any of this, leaving these other detachments of the U.S. 7th Cavalry to wonder where the heck Custer was even as his body lay rotting where it fell on the battlefield.

Along with the story of the battle itself, this video attempts to show how history unfolded in such a way as to lead to such a battle - while it's a cursory glance at the history of American-Indian relations, it is certainly helpful in understanding this event in its full context. The documentary also goes on to explain just how the Custer myth came into being (and the myth-making began as soon as news of the massacre was reported) - from basically fictional news reports of Custer's Last Stand to Custer's wife's three bestsellers about her husband to countless reenactments by Buffalo Bill's Wild West show all over the country and on to numerous film accounts of the battle. The only small criticism I have of this presentation involves the identification of the Indian tribes involved in the battle - at first, it talks about Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, then goes on to concentrate on the Lakota while also quickly mentioning the Arapahoe. As I'm not an expert on such matters, I sometimes found it a mite confusing to figure out the distinctions between these different tribes. Other than that, however, this is an excellent, reality-based video."
Last Stand - excellent work/great balance
Lyle Sankey | MO | 08/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's refreshing to see a balanced review of histories most famous event. A very well done production dealing with an understandably guarded people. If you've watched the film read the book "Killing Custer". It gives amazing additional insights into the history of the native american people as well as insider views on the making of the film, success and challenges along the way."
Biased and superficial
Peter L. Dunlap | Lansing, Michigan | 01/06/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)

"This biopic is yet another superficial analysis of a conflict that was both intricate and inevitable. There were no heros or villains. Soldiers, including Colonel, not GENERAL, Custer, were following policies dictated by superiors, including the President of the United States. They were not villains. Likewise, the Souix were protecting themselves and their land but were brutal to all enemies, white and indian alike. Soldiers who were captured were brutally tortured, usually by the women. They were not heros. This piece of "history" is a whitewash."
Big Disappointment...
Michael L. Nunnally | Memphis, TN. | 04/08/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)

"A 60 minute DVD about the "Last Stand" should include more than fifteen minutes on the famous battle. The problem here is that the viewer has to sit through over fifty minutes on the how and why problems of frontier America which led to the famous battle. If I buy a documentary on the Battle of the Little Big Horn I want it to be about the battle of the LBH and not have a social and political agenda which is prevalent among PBS documentaries. Save your money and find a copy of "Custer's Last Trooper." Much more interesting."