American Experience: Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid
(DVD / NR / 2014 / PBS)
Overview: In the 1890s, Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid's exploits robbing banks and trains in the West - and then seemingly vanishing into thin air - became national news and the basis of rumors and myth. But who were Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh?
DVD Verdict: Back in February of this year, PBS debuted 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' an American Experience documentary film - and the newest installment in its Wild West series.
Having always been a huge fan of the deadly duo, I sat down already-intrigued to watch this one hour production directed by John Maggio and produced by Maggio and Josh Gleason.
As I watched it quickly became apparent that I knew a lot already of what PBS was trying to instill into me. That said, the overview that Butch Cassidy (real name Robert Leroy Parker) was one of smartest outlaws of the Wild West era was new knowledge to me. Is that a true statement or simply conjecture? I mean, sure, his God-given skill to strategize and plan not only a train or bank robbery, but also the final escape, was imprssive. But does all that make him the smartest gunslinger in the West?
Moving on and he also had a Mormon upbringing (something else I didn't know), but something that would definitely explain his passion for liquor and alcohol through those latter years. And his passion for running with, if not leading outright his own brat pack known as The Wild Bunch serves to only enhance that myth, I guess.
Anyway, once he'd met up with Sundance (real name Harry Longabaugh) it was late in their collective lives (sadly for The Kid) and they were both staring at the sands of time running down. Whether they truly knew it or not. How were they caught? Well, a combination of some highly methodical law enforcement efforts and a growth in technology, believe it or not.
Indeed, for a smart man, it was Cassidy's desire to bring a corporate outlier to its knees and that capitalist group used their resources to hire the well-developed Pinkerton Detective Agency - which in turn funded some “super posses” that would go and hunt The Wild Bunch immediately after a robbery. And then came refuge in South America.
In closing you should know this in-depth documentary opens with a really well done, albeit moody re-enactment of the early morning Wilcox robbery of June 2nd, 1899. The music, composed by Gary Lionelli, provides a haunting soundscape to the entire film, and the narration is provided by Michael Murray ('American Experience: Jesse James', 2006).
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.