'The Men Who Built America: Frontiersman' DVD: Compelling Leo DiCaprio Produced Historic Figure Based Recap of 1775 - 1836
The Lionsgate July 31, 2018 DVD release of the History Channel docuseries "The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen," which is a prequel of the series "The Men Who Built America," aptly honors the spirit of summer school.
This Leonardo DiCaprio produced program communicates the material in an entertainingly informal manner. Much of this is attributable to the academics and numerous other talking heads who share their knowledge. The most recognizable contributors are former CIA Director David Petraeus and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.
The opening scenes of fur trapper Daniel Boone being chased by native Americans in the region beyond the Appalachian Mountains that serve as a border of 1770s America strikes a good balance between exposition and getting right down to action. This sets the stage for Boone returning to civilization after saving his hide by leaving those of the animals that he had captured behind.
This leads to forming the type of unlikely (and often uneasy) collaboration that is a theme of "Frontiersmen." Boone avoids debtors prison by heading back into the wilderness to figuratively pave the way for further American expansion. This leads to establishing Boonesborough.
This episode of "Frontiersmen" also introduces the "before they were stars" element of the series. This extends beyond Boone not yet being a legend to discussing the early career of future President William Henry Harrison. Fellow future POTUS Andrew Jackson similarly shows up early in the series.
The third regular element of "Frontiersmen" that dates back to the first episode is the aspect of showing how the portrayed incidents have an important role in more prominent events of the day. In this case, it is the strategic and symbolic importance of this particular wilderness to the British army during the American Revolution.
The next focus is on the events leading to the Louisiana Purchase that leads to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Cool aspects of this portion of "Frontiersmen" include copious personal information about the expedition leaders and their preparations for the trip, the full impact of their heading into literally uncharted territory, how they come to discover that there are no shortcuts regarding their venture, and the "True Hollywood Story" of native American guide Sacagawea. The bigger picture this time relates to the Brits still trying to restrain the Americans.
The strongest conflict comes during the final portion of "Frontiersmen," which focuses on "King of the Wild Frontier" Davy Crocket. We see how he literally holds his ground on learning that his views regarding the native American "problem" greatly differ from those of his masters. This leads to an even more heated confrontation with his former leader.
This dispute also provides context for the early days of the ugly political races that seem perpetual.
History fully repeats itself when Crocket joins the 1,000s of other Americans who move to Mexico-owned Texas for a combination of cheap land and freedom from what they consider the oppressive rule of the American government. Discovering that the new boss is the same old as the old boss prompts a mission statement in the form of the preparations to defend the Alamo that provide the final moments of "Frontiersmen."
One can only hope that History does not makes us wait long for episodes that bridge the gap between "Frontiersmen" and "Built." Eagerness to learn more about the exploits of Wilton Parmenter alone creates great expectations.
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