View Full Version : The official western thread!

El Chuxter
09-14-2005, 03:22 PM
Last night, after a couple of years urging by many of my friends, I watched The Magnificent Seven, and immediately had to revise my list of the best movies ever made.

If you've not seen this movie, I suggest you correct this oversight immediately.

"We deal in lead, friend."
"Then we're in the same business."
"Only as competitors."

This brings the sum total of great westerns I've seen to two: The Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven. I've always suspected that, like sci-fi films, most westerns are fair-to-middlin', but the great ones are true milestones of cinema.

I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you are far better versed in the genre than I am, so throw out any recommendations. I plan to check out Tombstone and the Man With No Name trilogy as soon as I can. What else should I put at the top of the list?

09-14-2005, 03:43 PM
I've only seen one movie out of the "Man with No Name" Trilogy, that being The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but I absolutely love that movie. It's pushing about 3 hours long but worth it, IMO. It's the only western that I can stomach from that period when EVERY movie seems to have been a western. I'd check it out if you haven't.

Rogue II
09-14-2005, 04:50 PM
My father used to rent westerns on occasion, so I have an appreciation of them. It has been way too long since I've seen Magnificent Seven, or any other western for that matter. John Wayne had some good westerns as well. Rio Bravo comes to mind. The genre is all but gone now, which isn't a bad thing. The last thing I want to see is Kevin Costner in another western.

09-14-2005, 06:12 PM
I love just about all of Clint Eastwood's westerns. You're on the right track with the Leone trilogy it's excellent but don't stop there. Check out Pale Rider, Hang Em High, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Joe Kidd, etc. They're all cool in their own ways.

09-14-2005, 06:54 PM
Yes, rush out and get Sergio Leone's westerns with Clint Eastwood. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a masterpiece. Eli Wallach steals the film with his portrayal of Tuco (Wallach was also the bandit leader in The Magnificent Seven, which is a remake of Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai).

TGTB&TU was re-released a few years ago with 20 minutes of restored footage. The film was considered too long when it was released in the US so the studio cut it. The cut segments still exist in the foreign language releases, but the original English dialogue tracks were lost. So Eastwood, Wallach, and another voice actor (Lee Van Cleef passed away years ago) went back to the studio and redubbed the restored the scenes. Eastwood's performance is passable but you can tell Wallach's voice as that of a much older man. The restored version is only sold separately but you'll want it in your library after you've seen this film. Go buy it. NOW!

The other two films in Leone's trio of spaghetti westerns are both enjoyable, but For a Few Dollars More is probably my favorite of the two. A Fistful of Dollars is a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo.

Of the other Eastwood westerns, I liked Pale Rider and The Outlaw Josey Wales. High Plains Drifter is also watchable.

For fun (you've probably already seen it) check out Back to the Future III again. Marty McFly goes by the name "Clint Eastwood" to impress the townsfolk during his Hill Valley wild west adventure.

When I think Western, Clint Eastwood comes to my mind first, but The Duke himself, John Wayne, is the genre for the previous generation. I haven't seen that many Wayne westerns but True Grit is enjoyable.

I don't have a problem with Kevin Costner's westerns. I never really cared for Dances with Wolves but Wyatt Earp is okay and Open Range with Robert Duvall & Annette Bening was a decent film with a great gunfight at the end.

HBO's Deadwood series is a must see too. Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Sheriff Seth Bullock (who later joins Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders!!), and infamous saloon owner Al Swearengen and his henchman Dan Dority are all there.

I'd tell you to go West, young man, but you're already there.

El Chuxter
09-14-2005, 07:12 PM
Cool, cool. Keep 'em coming, keep 'em coming. :D

I've actually got the Man With No Name boxed set. Long story short, I'm more of a movie person, and Mrs Chuxter is a TV person. So I have quite a few DVD's I picked up, intending to watch, and never have been able to. Now that we're in our new place, we've finally got a second TV and DVD player, so I don't expect the lack of a TV to be an issue. I saw the re-release of TGTB&TU, but wasn't aware it had additional scenes. (I thought it was one of those "slap a new documentary on it and re-release it in spiffier packaging" deals.)

I've also heard quite a bit about Deadwood, mostly from the same friend who's been insisting I watch The Magnificent Seven. Along with the sweet new TV, we've finally got HBO (or we will have it by the end of the week). So I plan to finally see what the fuss is about Deadwood (and The Sopranos, and several other shows as well).

I'd not really thought about Dances With Wolves as a western, but I guess it is. I really enjoyed that film as well. Hell, I even liked The Postman, which could be argued as a sort of futuristic western.

I also semi-forgot Last Man Standing, another remake of Yojimbo, until you brought that film up. That was a pretty cool flick, too, and although it takes place a bit after the time period usually associated with westerns, it fits in pretty nicely.

Young Guns and Young Guns II are awesome films, too. Now that I think about it, I've seen more good westerns than I'd thought. :)

09-14-2005, 07:33 PM
Ah yes, the western. Personally I love this genre, most likely because I grew up watching them since it was all my father seemed to watch other than war movies.

Sergio Leone is definitely the master and even though his "Man with No Name Trilogy" gets the most attention its one of his other films, "Once Upon a Time in the West" thats my personal favorite. Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson give what I feel are their best performances ever, especially Fonda. His portrayal of the ruthless murderous psychopath Frank is so cold blooded it scared me as a kid. The real star of this film though is Leone and how he gives an epic feel to the story while at the same time really capturing what it was like to live in the old west.

Another personal favorite of mine is Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch." A pretty violent film for its time and a great tale of a group of desperados bound by a code of honor and forced to survive an impossible situation.

The other westerns you guys mentioned are all truly great films as well. I wish we could get more movies produced from this genre but original series like Deadwood, which Ji'dai mentioned, are great and shouldn't be overlooked.

09-15-2005, 12:50 AM
Chux, check out the Lonesome Dove miniseries, it's awesome. The ORIGINAL one with Tommy Lee Jones . . . not the sequel with Jon Voigt or the other ones. Well, I haven't seen the other ones so I can't comment. But the Voigt sequel, while decent, was nowhere the level of the first one with Robert Duvall and TLJ. :)

And of course, nothing beats Deadwood. ;)

09-15-2005, 01:14 AM
If you want to see Clint sing then check out "Paint Your Wagon" lol A few years ago 'Open Range' with Kevn Costner and Annette Bening came out. It was fair. Although its already been said you can't go wrong with Tombstone or The Man With No Name Trilogy. :thumbsup:

09-15-2005, 01:28 AM
JimJam, aren't you going to offer up your opinion on The Duke ? ;)

09-15-2005, 01:36 AM
JimJam, aren't you going to offer up your opinion on The Duke ? ;)

Meh, why don't you since you're chomping at the bit. ;) lol

Mandalorian Candidat
09-16-2005, 10:19 PM
Another personal favorite of mine is Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch." A pretty violent film for its time and a great tale of a group of desperados bound by a code of honor and forced to survive an impossible situation.

I've never seen that one, but have always wanted to for some reason.

I enjoyed Unforgiven when it came out and think it deserved all the Oscar attention. It was really appropriate for Clint since it was about an ex-gunslingler kind of in the twilight of his career (sort of but not exactly) though I think he has many good movies left to make.

My favorite western is Silverado. Totally a popcorn movie and kind of over-the-top in some ways, but I really dig it...even though Costner's in it. I think Lawrence Kasdan made it who worked on one of the OT films. I was surprised when the 2-disc set came out a few months ago and was dirt cheap.

Another favorite which I'll throw in as an atypical Western is Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It's Humphrey Bogart as an American in Mexico trying to find gold. They aren't cowboys or pioneers but there's some good fight scenes in it and it has that line "Badges, we don't need no stinkin' badges" in it.

09-17-2005, 12:43 AM
You know, I hadn't seen Silverado in years so I watched it again on DVD from a friend . . . I still like that movie. :)

09-22-2005, 10:16 PM
I watched Bad Girls the other day on Encore or the Westerns Channel. It features a group of beautiful gun-slingin' babes on the run from the law and tangling with a bandit and his gang. Madeliene Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell, and Drew Barrymore round out the cast. Barrymore is a buff muffin in this one :love: This oater was watchable but seemed more like a made-for-TV-movie than a feature film.

Anyone care for The Missing? Wild West healer Cate "Galadriel" Blanchett reluctantly enlists the aid of her estranged father Tommy Lee Jones after a gang of outlaws kidnaps her daughter. Good suspense, plenty of action, and a spiritual battle between Indian medicine men. I think the film was directed by Ron Howard.

09-23-2005, 05:42 PM
John Wayne had several, but two that come to mind are "They died with their boots on", and "She wore a yellow ribbon". These were two movies in a trilogy(can't remeber the third off hand). Great action and story, typical cavalry and Indian movies. As far as the Magnificent Seven goes, nothing beats that soundtrack. It is a great movie. There was also the sequel, " The Return of Magnificent Seven ". Another great movie was the "Long Riders", this was about the James -Younger gang. It starred David, Keith, and Robert Carradine, James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, and Christopher, and Nicholas Guest. Great movie.

09-27-2005, 06:25 PM
Caught a couple of Italian westerns on International Film Channel (IFC) in the wee hours of this past weekend. Both are interesting variations on the neo-western formula and are worth a look.

Sergio Sollima's The Big Gundown stars Lee Van Cleef as a famed bounty hunter called upon to hunt down a poor likable Mexican rogue by the name of Cuchillo, who is accused of raping and killing a young girl. Bounty hunter Cleef and Cuchillo play a cat-and-mouse game through bordertowns in both Texas and Mexico; along the way, Cleef learns more about his quarry and discovers he may not have committed the crime. The formula varies here as Cuchillo isn't very handy with guns at all - in fact, he's more at home with a knife - and in the big climatic duel he chooses to face his gunslinging opponent with a blade. In a time when most actors in Italian westerns were either European or American, this film differs in that the actor who plays the Mexican Cuchillo actually is Hispanic - he's played by Cuban Tomas Milian. Gundown also features a fine musical score and beautiful, sweeping panoramic vistas.

Next up is Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence. This film is based on the familiar formula of a mysterious stranger that helps oppressed townspeople fight injustice (for a price, of course). You know the story - the hero arrives, tangles with the outlaws or local bullies, gets the crap beat out of him, and then takes the bad guys down in a climatic showdown at the end. However, Corbucci alters this tried-and-true movie formula in a way that probably shows the audience a more realistic ending. The film also challenges convention in that it takes place in Utah in the middle of winter - so we're talking about a snow-covered landscape rather than the dry, dusty desert towns that we usually see. Corbucci also takes his strong silent hero to the utmost extent - the protaganist, "Silence," is a mute with no dialogue at all. The movie also stars the German actor Klaus Kinski, who made quite a few sphagetti westerns in his day. You might recognize Kinski as the hunchbacked bandito in Sergio Leone's For A Few Dollars More.

09-28-2005, 02:28 PM
If no one has mentioned them yet, Robert Redford's Jeremiah Johnson and John Wayne's The Shootist are also well worth seeing.

10-02-2005, 03:26 AM
Well, I cleaned my six-shooters while watchin' a couple of Clint Eastwood westerns recently.

I sat through High Plains Drifter once again for the first time in a long while. Clint Eastwood both stars and directs. Drifter is your typical "Man with No Name" fare, but it's not quite as good as Eastwood's other westerns of the same ilk. Eastwood arrives in a small mining town and soon impresses the locals with his quick-draw skills. The town hires him on to protect them from a trio recently released convicts, who hold a grudge for the townspeople who put them away. Eastwood really tests the audience’s sympathy for his character though, for in an early scene he forcibly rapes the town strumpet (which she begins to enjoy once the action starts). Once you realize what Eastwood’s character really is though, the "consensual rape" scene becomes a little more palpable.

The memorable thing about Drifter is the story flirts with the supernatural, almost bordering on horror. Eastwood even rides in on a pale horse, which evokes the famous Bible passage:
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." (Revelation 6:8 - King James Version) The Man with No Name really is an Avenging Angel - the Angel of Death - in both the figurative and literal sense of the phrase. Drifter is worth a look though, and strangely enough, it's not the first time westerns and horror have mixed.

A better film is John Sturges' Joe Kidd, which is one I hadn't seen before. With Sturges at the helm, you know this one is going to be good - I mean, c'mon, he directed The Magnificent Seven for goodness sakes. This film stars Eastwood as a former bounty hunter hired by wealthy land baron Robert Duvall to help him hunt down and destroy a group of Mexican-Americans trying to exert their property rights and bring about land reform in early 1900's New Mexico.

Kidd illustrates the evolution of the western in the late 60s/early 70s as the genre begins to become politicized. But don't worry, this film isn't preachy. You do begin to see a shift from depicting Hispanic characters as lazy slugs, thieves, or evil, cruel psychopaths such as the bandit Indio in For a Few Dollars More. Hispanic characters, though not exactly saints, are now protaganists, and the bad guys are often wealthy white American land barons or railroad magnates who oppress the poor. This time period is dominated by the protest movements against US military intervention and "imperialism" in Latin America and Southeast Asia, so westerns made during this time begin to reflect these changing attitudes.

It seems like every actor in Hollywood has made at least one western, and these two films are no different. Watch for John Hillerman (Higgins, Magnum, P.I.'s boss) as the boot-maker in Drifter and Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough) as the hotel manager in Joe Kidd.

10-10-2005, 12:19 PM
Another personal favorite of mine is Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch." A pretty violent film for its time and a great tale of a group of desperados bound by a code of honor and forced to survive an impossible situation. Well, kiss my sister's black cat's ***! Hellfire and tarnation, boy! Damn if The Wild Bunch wasn't a great movie. I just watched it over the weekend and man, it was an impressive, entertaining film. The children gleefully watching the scorpions being swarmed by an army of ants in the beginning really set the tone for the movie. I was surprised it was set so late in the time period though - early 20th century, probably right around WWI. There's one automobile in The Wild Bunch, owned by a Mexican general, and the characters make mention of airplanes, Pancho Villa, and General John J. Pershing. This is still the Old West though, men still rely on horses and sidearms, so the lone car and certain army-issue weapons and ordinance are really the only "modern" things. Great film though, good recommendation.

I also sat through Guns of the Magnificent Seven, one of the fifty-some sequels the original film inspired. It's not so much a sequel as it is a retelling of the Brynner/McQueen version but with a new cast and objective. George Kennedy (from the The Dirty Dozen) takes over Brynner's role but it's hard to accept him as an older version of Chris. The only other member of the Seven I recognized was Joe Don Baker as a former Confederate soldier who clashes with the black gunfighter also recruited by Kennedy.
I also semi-forgot Last Man Standing, another remake of Yojimbo, until you brought that film up. That was a pretty cool flick, too, and although it takes place a bit after the time period usually associated with westerns, it fits in pretty nicely. It's a been a long time since I've seen Bruce Willis' Last Man Standing. From what I’ve learned, the Willis film seems more faithful to the original source material, a Dashiell Hammett series of short stories (published as the novel Red Harvest) about a private dick who turns rival gangsters against each other in a lawless western mining town during Prohibition. Kurosawa based Yojimbo on the Hammett story, and Sergio Leone turned Kurosawa's work into A Fistful of Dollars. Kurosawa sued Leone for copyright infringement of course, which delayed the film's release in the US. I saw in a documentary recently that Kurosawa said he made more money on Fistful than he ever did on his own films :D

I noticed my Wal-Mart has restocked their DVD selections with quite a few westerns that are cheap to boot. The ones in the $5 bin aren't that great, but the $7.50 section has quite a few classics. I've seen The Wild Bunch, plus The Outlaw Josey Wales, and one I've yet to watch, Once Upon A Time in the West; all for seven-fifty. The restored version of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has also dropped down below $15 at my Wal-Mart.

I'll change horses this time around and talk about the song Farewell Ride by Beck. It definitely has an "Old West" feel to it and is currently being used by the Western Channel as background music in its on-air promos. Farewell Ride is a blues chant, and the rhythm/percussion will remind you an awful lot of some chain gang beatin' on rocks. But the lyrics and instrumentation definitely inspire in the mind's eye a picture of the dusty, lawless, wild frontier towns from our favorite westerns. Beck doesn't have a lot of range as a vocalist (he reminds me of Sheryl Crow), but here his dry, low-key register works well.

I'm not a big country-western fan but there are probably other songs like Farewell Ride out there in that genre. With my tastes, I’m more likely to come across songs like Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive or Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood, which samples Ennio Morricone's famous score from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Farewell Ride is from the album Guero; and the other tracks are pretty decent and feature Beck's eclectic blend of genres to produce a kind of alternative-rock/hip-hop mish-mash with lyrics in both English and Spanish. Guero was released earlier this year so you might be able to find it at your local library (like me) and take the album for a free test spin before you buy.

10-17-2005, 12:37 AM
I was looking for Halloween costume ideas on the 'net and found this website (http://baronhats.com/noname.htm) that offers reproductions of the poncho and hat worn by Clint Eastwood in Leone's "Man With No Name" films.

The poncho will run ya about $400 and the hat is practically a steal at $425 (fur felt) or $650 (beaver).

You can even have the hat weathered and "distressed" to give it more realistic look and feel. This includes adding a bullet hole to the crown. (I'm pretty distressed about the prices, personnally)

I like the idea though; this would make a good Halloween get-up. Too bad I traded my Colt Peacekeepers back during the 'guns for toys' thing. Stupid stupid stupid!

10-17-2005, 12:01 PM
Cool link there Ji'dai, they a few other hats that are pretty cool including the hat from Temple of Doom.

11-15-2005, 06:44 PM
Cool link there Ji'dai, they a few other hats that are pretty cool including the hat from Temple of Doom. Too bad the replicas are all really expensive though. I really want that "Man With No Name" poncho.

I nearly bought The Wild Bunch at Wal-Mart when I saw it in their seven-fiddy bin o' movies, but I'm glad I waited. A 2-disc special edition is being released January 10 so I'll get that one instead.

I did pick up Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West at Wal-Mart for $7.50, another one of Hellboy's suggestions, and I'm glad I did. Leone's last western is beautifully shot and is populated with his usual menagerie of grungy hired guns, ambiguous heroes, and villianous scoundrels.

Ennio Morricone, the John Williams of Italian cinema, once again provided a wonderful score for the action. Though not as famous as the score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, you'll probably recognize it once you hear it. It was used in the Tom Hanks/Carrie Fisher film The 'Burbs (when Ray and Art steel themselves to confront the weird new neighbors), but I didn't know where it originally came from until I saw this western.

Unlike Leone's other westerns, Once Upon a Time in the West actually has a female lead. Leone considered women to be a distraction and they were often relegated to wallpaper in his films, but this time a female character enjoys a major role in the film. She's played by beauty Claudia Cardinale, who reminds me of Britney Spears for some reason. Must be the eyes.

The film was shot in both Europe and the US (Monument Valley, Utah, with it's buttes and mesas) and is a sight to behold. Leone had a much bigger budget and none of it went to waste. The acting talent (Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, & Charles Bronson) is top notch and the sets are so realistic you can almost taste the trail dust. Check it out, you'll be glad you did.

11-16-2005, 11:48 PM
Thats cool Ji'dai, glad to hear you liked my recommendations so much. We definitely have similar tastes. :thumbsup:

I wasn't aware of a new Wild Bunch DVD so thanks for sharing that bit of info. I'll most likely pick it up but I was actually pretty happy with the old WB Director's Cut release. It was remastered in Dolby 5.1 and had a decent documentary included but I'd imagine there will be much more on the 2-Disc set and they could always remaster the picture again so hopefully it will be worth the upgrade.

11-17-2005, 06:42 PM
Hey, great minds think alike. Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BT96CS/102-4320035-8108166?v=glance&n=130&n=163312&s=dvd&v=glance) has The Wild Bunch special edition up for pre-order but they state it has a shorter run-time (134 min) than the previous director's cut (145 min). Weird.

11-17-2005, 09:24 PM
That is strange. If the running time holds true I'll most likely pass and just stick with my Director's Cut.

12-28-2005, 10:02 PM
I was flipping through the channels last week and came across John Ford's The Searchers and I thought, well, since it's just starting I'll give it a shot. Two hours later I was glad I did.

The Searchers stars John Wayne as a disgruntled former-Conferderate officer who arrives on his brother's family's Texas ranch a few years after the Civil War ends. He's been drifting around since the war and has had some scrapes with the law, serious enough to earn him a warrant for his arrest.

Soon after arriving, he and his nephew join a posse of Texas Rangers and ranchers whose cattle has been rustled. The posse rides off in search of the culprits only to realize that it was an Indian tactic to pull them away from their unguarded homes. Sure enough, when they get back to the ranch, Wayne’s family has been slaughtered and his nieces kidnapped. (This scene, with the young nephew returning home to find a burning homestead and his adopted family murdered, is similar to the Lars massacre in Star Wars).

Wayne and his nephew then spend the next five years searching for the missing girls. The "older mentor and his protege" device is common in the genre and here it works very well. Wayne is very much a seasoned trail-hand, scout, and warrior, and he has much to teach his rash young nephew. He exhibits much of the bravado he's famous for but not the cliched devices (such as the hitch in his voice). This film also originated the famous line delivered by Wayne throughout the movie: "That'll be the day."

Although Wayne is extremely racist and merciless and when dealing with the Indians or even half-breeds like his nephew (he calls him "blanket-head"), he is still capable of compassion. The film enjoys a very likable supporting cast that inject a bit of levity to the seriousness of the plot.

John Ford is a highly-influential director whose epic style is often associated with framing shots of spectacular, sweeping panoramic vistas. The Searchers begins and ends with a ranch house door, opening and closing on a beautiful but still untamed countryside; and in the end, on a reluctant Wayne as well, who discovers he doesn't really belong with the family on the other side of that door. Maybe he'll settle down eventually and have a family of his own.

That'll be the day.

06-07-2006, 11:31 AM
With Father's Day approaching this was traditionally a good time of year to find a decent selection of Westerns (and war movies) in stores. Things seem to have changed though, I see more general action-adventure, animation, sports, and horror than Westerns on shelves. Dad's interests have changed I suppose.

The 50th Anniversary Edition of The Searchers was released on June 6 in both a box set and a 2-disc clamshell. Good film, and often considered to be a major influence on Star Wars.

About a month ago I sat through Breakheart Pass, a watchable western/detective thriller starring Charles Bronson. Bronson plays a former doctor turned outlaw who is arrested and taken aboard a train enroute to relieve a quarantined fort. The game is afoot when Bronson's fellow passengers and railroad crewmen begin to go missing or turn up dead. It's up to Bronson to uncover the killer and unravel the mystery before he's strung up for murders he didn't commit. The action takes place primarily on the train as it passes through the cold winter wilderness. It's a decent film and worth a look.

Anyone hear of the Australian film called The Proposition? It was released in Australia last year but I saw a trailer on TV recently that says it's going into limited US release. The film stars Guy Pearce and was written by Nick Cave (of the Bad Seeds). The story takes place in the 19th century Aussie outback. After a local family is brutally murdered, a gang of four brothers are suspected. Two brothers are captured but the eldest and most dangerous has gone into hiding in the bush. The authorities make one captive brother a choice: hunt down his fugitive brother and bring him to justice or his remaining brother in custody will be hung in his place. I doubt the film will play in my area, but it looks interesting enough to check out on home video.

06-17-2006, 06:24 PM
silverado is my all-time favorite western - and if you haven't seen it, don't worry about costner, he's the younger brother.

i love the clint eastwood movies. when i first saw the unforgiven, it took a while to really soak in because of the preceding movies but now i like it a lot - particularly the character of little bill, who's not exactly a bad guy but pretty much is.

just saw the wild bunch and wasn't that excited about it. yes, it was violent, which is fine, but the characters and situations weren't very interesting to me as they weren't clearly explained. i can't say more without spoilers...

08-24-2006, 05:21 PM
I picked up Into the West from the library last week and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I might have to buy a copy for myself and rewatch it at a more liesurely pace.

This Steven Spielberg Dreamworks/TNT production is a 12 hour mini-series that follows several members of two families - one white, the other Lakota - during the height of colonization & migration in the American west from 1825 to 1891.

Major events in American history during this time period are depicted, but are all seen from a western perspective. The Mexican-American War involves the Fremont campaign in California and concentrates on civilian insurrection in Kansas during the Civil War; the gold rushes in California and the Black Hills are shown; plus the building of the trans-continental railroad. Wars among and with the plains Indians, including the massacres at Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, and Little Bighorn are depicted as well.