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The Donner Party
The Donner Party
Actors: David McCullough, J.D. Cannon, Timothy Hutton, Gene Jones, Amy Madigan
Director: Ric Burns
Genres: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
NR     2004     1hr 30min

While brother Ken Burns was redefining mammoth entertainment with his public television events, brother Ric was creating tighter, more definitive documentaries such as The Donner Party, whose tragic subject has seemed more...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: David McCullough, J.D. Cannon, Timothy Hutton, Gene Jones, Amy Madigan
Director: Ric Burns
Creators: Ric Burns, Bob M. McCausland, Chas Norton, Joseph Tovares, Judy Crichton, Larry LeCain, Lisa Ades, Margaret Drain
Genres: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Biography, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Studio: Pbs Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 09/28/2004
Original Release Date: 10/28/1992
Theatrical Release Date: 10/28/1992
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Horrifying and Informative
Old Norseman | Highland Park, NJ United States | 02/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The American Experience: The Donner Party Maybe you think you know the essentials about what befell the Donner Party as it tried to fight its way across the Sierra Nevada range in 1846, but chances are this masterful documentary will surprise you with little-known facts even as it freezes the blood in your veins. A superb job all around."
Good movie
Melissa Seco | Miami, Fl | 11/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"this movie is a really good documentary. It's very detailed and tells you everything about the Donner Party and the horrible things that they went through. It might be a little boring for high school students because it's not a real life movie; meaning that it has old pictures and some scenery. However, once all of the horrible ordeals start to happen these students become very interested in it. I personally love this movie as a history teacher."
"Remember, never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as
Rivendell | New Jersey, USA | 10/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first saw this American Experience documentary on PBS on the night it premiered in 1992. I was riveted to my TV set from start to finish, the hour went by so quickly. I later bought the VHS tape and recently got the DVD from Amazon. The Burns brothers are excellent story tellers through their films and Ric Burns is just as much a master documentarian as his famous brother Ken. The story of the Donner Party is haunting, their tragic ordeal seemed almost as if it was predestined. This is one of the best documentaries ever made. The movie has a 'you are there' feeling to it, the actors' voices sound believable and are well matched. Even the music carries a sense of hopelessness and doom hanging like a dark shadow over the whole tale. If you like watching history on film, you definiately want to see this one. It lingers in your mind long afterwards and it might make you wonder what you would do if faced with similar awful circumstances. Some life lessons learned the hard way indeed."
A Testament to Human Strength
Nancy Sherburne | Tucson, Arizona, USA | 11/06/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"After putting this title in my Amazon Wish List I rented it from Netflix and viewed it on November 5. I remember watching it on PBS when it aired and this DVD brought to mind also the book I had just recently read called Desperate Passage. While these are actors reading excerpts from various diaries and recollections of some of the survivors of the Donner Party it still seemed so real. You can't expect a 90-minute spexcial to go into the depth a long book can as to all that the early pioneers endured just reaching the passage leading over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846, let alone what one terrible winter did to those holed up in cabins, lean-tos, or holes dug into the snow itself. Add to that the fearful conditions the four different rescue parties had to cope with just to reach the survivors, and you get an idea of what these humans perished from, and triumphed against. The weak, tired voices you listen to, and the somber music, make this a chilling retelling of this tragedy in our history. Just as an afterthought on the timeline, I read A Terrible Glory right after finisheing Desperate Passage and was interested to learn the Battle of Little Bighorn took place only 30 years later, in 1876."