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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grandest of the mini series, en elegy to the West
As a rule, mini series have aspired to the label `epic'. By having starrier cast names, bigger sets, and of course more worldwide locations. This early mini series from the late 70's did something different - it kept the same location - the fictional town of Centennial, and charted the creation and evolution of the land and then the town, and the people that came and...
Published on 23 Oct 2008 by Mr. Stephen Kennedy

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine epic miniseries, but a sadly flawed UK transfer
In its day, Centennial was the most expensive mini-series ever made, the extended running time meaning that for once one of James Michener's epic multi-generational sagas could reach the screen - albeit the small one - without being broken up into two movies (like Hawaii and the Hawaiians) or reduced to the bare essentials of his storyline like South Pacific. And it's a...
Published on 4 July 2012 by Trevor Willsmer


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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grandest of the mini series, en elegy to the West, 23 Oct 2008
By 
Mr. Stephen Kennedy "skenn1701a" (Doha, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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As a rule, mini series have aspired to the label `epic'. By having starrier cast names, bigger sets, and of course more worldwide locations. This early mini series from the late 70's did something different - it kept the same location - the fictional town of Centennial, and charted the creation and evolution of the land and then the town, and the people that came and had an impact. So instead of the characters being large and the locations serving to tell us about the characters, the people are the ephemeral ones, passing through and hoping to leave their stamp on history. It's typical Michener in its style, and works perfectly in the mini series format - elegiac, rather than just epic.
So the story unfolds over 26 hours of TV of a beautiful bend in the river which is home to a tribe of native Americans, then comes the trappers, then the traders, the settlers, then the cattlemen, the shepherds, the farmers and civilization takes hold. It's a satisfying and at times informative unraveling of American history, told factually, but through a fictional town. That's not to say the characters are not well written - thanks to utterly memorable performances by the like of Robert Conrad as Pasquinel, Dennis Weaver as the cattle driver, Timothy Dalton as the rancher and yes, even Richard Chamberlain as McKeag amongst a huge cast, these are vignettes which will stay with you.
If the series has a weakness, it's the tendency to give extended and unnecessary flashbacks, particularly in the later episodes where the director feels the continual need to remind us at length of what has gone before. As for dating, it could be argued certainly that the sound quality and picture are somewhat dated now, but on the whole the series stands up remarkably well - paradoxically it is the later modern scenes with Robert Vaughn and Andy Griffith (and a young Sharon Gless) which have dated most.
Perhaps the most surprising element to me watching this again for the first time in 28 years, is the emphasis on harmony on the land - the give and take that the early settlers achieved, but later generations signally failed to achieve.
All in all, a worthwhile message, a handy historical summary, a fascinating cast and a collection of interesting interweaving stories - on whatever level you take it, this is well worth watching, despite its occasional flaw.
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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Only the rocks live forever", 10 May 2008
By 
I. M. Green (St. Merryn, Cornwall) - See all my reviews
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It must be all of 30 years since this James A. Michener's No 1. Bestseller was first shown on BBC2. I recorded every episode on VHS tape, and have since copied it onto DVD. I must have watched it more than a dozen times and never tire of it. The story commences in Colorado in 1756 with a primitive Indian tribe known only as "Our People", and the death in combat, of Lame Beaver's (William Atherton) father, and continues rapidly to 1795 with the arrival of the first white trapper, Pascinell (William Conrad) into the Indian lands. The epic continues, generation by generation, with a host of wonderful actors 'as long as your arm', right up to the mid 1970's. If you have not seen it, buy it, you will not regret doing so.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best (mini) series ever made??, 5 Aug 2008
By 
Mr. L. N. Taylor "lntaylor3" (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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Well, yes in my own opinion. Quite why it's taken Universal so long to release this is ridiculous, and theres still no release scheduled for the UK as far as I know. I've imported a Region 1 copy and can report that the six discs (single sided) fold out from a seperate insert inside a book type box. Picture quality is great, especially when compared to the VHS release, and the numerous pirated efforts out there. I've yet to find out whether the series has been cut for political correctness purposes, but I doubt it. The only extra here is a featurette looking back at the series with interviews from stars and crew. A real bargain if you've a multi region player. They don't make series like this any more, and if you saw it when originally broadcast in the late 70's you'll know exactly what I mean. It's hard to switch off because it hooks you right from the start. Fantastic, a real milestone in TV - BUY IT!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as I remember!, 1 Jun 2010
By 
A. Dayer (UK) - See all my reviews
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Having watched Centennial when it first came out I was nervous about quality, but except for the music and narration (on occasions)this is still powerful, exciting and so watchable. Closely based on the book, which is itself based on some true incidents, this is a massive overview of the development of the American west.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely top-notch TV, 1 July 2012
By 
Aremess "AremessUK" (Littlehampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Centennial [UK DVD] [1978] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Centennial [UK DVD] [1978]

Please note that this review is on the DVD set I received from the Amazon Vine which was exclusive of any packaging and contained 'extras' which may or may not be in the final production.

This is not simply a "cowboys and indians" tale, but gives an insight into the way the native Americans lived and, in a similar way to "Dances With Wolves", it is not a one-sided view of events. But the "indians" are only part of the story.

This series was made in 1978, a period in TV production where they really did the viewer proud. This is NOT a series of 40-odd minute quickie episodes but each part is a full length feature film production which gives time for a full character and story development. It's full of great actors, wonderful sweeping landscapes and an "in-depth" view of the history of a fictional town in the US from the 1700's to the 20th century.

The discs I received were as follows (and I would assume that the final production copies would not be too dissimilar)

DVD/
Episode
1 - 1/2 Only the Rocks Live Forever 144 mins/The Yellow Apron 94 mins
2 - 3/4 The Wagon and the Elephant 96 mins/For as Long as the Waters Flow 96 mins
3 - 5/6 The Massacre 96 mins/The Longhorns 98 mins
4 - 7/8 The Shepherds 92 mins/The Storm 94 mins
5 - 9/10 The Crime 96 mins/The Winds of Fortune 95 mins
6 - 11/12 The Winds of Death 99 mins/The Scream of Eagles 148 mins

This is TV production of an epic scale and, assuming one likes westerns, a terrific buy. Having said that, I feel even non-fans of westerns would also not be disappointed in watching this series as the number of stars make this a truly great watching experience.

Narrated by David Janssen, the series stars : Raymond Burr, Barbara Carrera, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Richard Crenna, Donald Pleasence, Lynn Redgrave, Dennis Weaver, Timothy Dalton, Andy Griffith, Robert Vaughn, Anthony Zerbe,Sharon Gless, Stephanie Zimbalist, Mark Harmon, Pernell Roberts and many others

I enjoyed the series immensely - Thoroughly recommended - 5 stars
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what I wanted- Great Value, 3 Mar 2010
By 
E. Quirke - See all my reviews
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Bought this as a gift for my Dad who watched this show when he was younger. Still a great show. Nice quality. Excellent Value. Would recommend.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Tale of Americas Frontier pioneers spanning 200 years, 11 July 2012
By 
Tommy Dooley "Tom" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Centennial [UK DVD] [1978] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a rerelease of the ground breaking TV series from America that was originally shown in 1978. It was a really faithful adaptation of the best selling book of the same name by James A. Michener, who actually does an introduction. It tells of the story of the founding of a town that is the Centennial in the title and in so doing to tell in microcosm some of the events that helped shaped his nation.

It charts over 200 years of American history using the many characters to tell the story through their experiences. Starting in the late Eighteenth Century we first meet Pasquinelle, a French trapper who started trading with various Indian tribes like the Arapaho. He uses brawn, brain and guts to overcome the many barriers he must face and also marries one of his new Native American friends - Clay basket (great name) and saves a Scottish Trapper McKeeg (Richard Chamberlain doing a worse Scots accent than Mr Gibson did in `Braveheart') . What follows from the progeny is a tale of love from the daughters and hate from the half breed sons, who follow the Indian path which ultimately leads to war in a futile attempt to protect their land from the ever encroaching and greedy white settlers.

This is a 26 hour long production set in 12 episodes which are all in fact self contained films in their own right, and I found them to be ruddy addictive. With a cast of thousands that includes Raymond Burr, Donald Pleasance, Lynne Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, Dennis Weaver, Robert Vaughn, Sharon Gless, and a very young George Clooney who I actually missed, and has over 100 speaking parts this was a massive undertaking they had four directors and five cinematographers, which often can be seen as in `How The West Was Won', but this is completely intact, the style and narrative flow beautifully until we hit the twentieth Century where things sort of speed up.

On the way we get massacres, revolution, search for gold, inter racial marriage, bible bashing, cattle drives, Indian attacks, night rider attacks, sheep droving, darned farmers putting up fences and the brutal story of a nations progress with the concomitant shame that comes from a misplaced population. There is even a bar room brawl and a Wild West show as well as the tragedy of the dust bowl. This then is what the word epic was coined for, and it keeps the action coming as fast as both the joys and tragedy, to be anything other than impressed is to be bordering on churlish.

But hey ho I am going to point out some of the flaws - small though they are we still have them and that is that this is a faithful reprint from the original series and as such we get the full titles for every episode and they last for over three minutes. The sound quality varies in places requiring the remote to be handy, the make up for the ageing process of some of the characters was a bit am dram and the most annoying is the clip show element that appears in the last few episodes. That is where people stand around reminiscing and we get treated to often a lengthy clip from one or more previous episodes. This device was used in `Roots' a lot too and can become really annoying, but as these were often shown a week apart it was probably needed to remind the viewer of what had transpired.

That said it wears its educational, ecological and humanitarian heart on its sleeve, the issues and associated values are still valid today, whether it be the displaced Indian Nations, the slaughter of natures bounty or the greed that destroys everything - the land included. Because of the above issues I was going to award 4 stars but I absolutely loved this and it was only towards the end that I realised I had seen it first time round ( I remembered `The Winds of Death') but it has not lost any of its power. I can not recommend highly enough, so it gets the full 5 stars.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Centennial Is Still Glorious, 26 Aug 2009
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I remember buying the huge paperback of this James Michener toe-buster (as in "if you drop it on your foot, it's heavy enough to break a toe!) back in the mid-70s when it first came out. There was huge interest in the bi-centenary in the States, even over here in England, so Michener's sweeping saga was a wonderful take on the story of the west - as with so many other Michener stories, it unfolded down through many years, usually set around one place or area to show the progress or otherwise of the characters and their surroundings

When I heard it was being made into a tv series, I was delighted and remember viewing each of what I remember as 26 weekly episodes avidly. I honestly don't remember it ever being repeated here, so the DVD release, albeit on region 1, is so welcome.

What I HAD forgotten was how many very famous faces graced the programme. And to have the show narrated by the incomparable David Janssen provided needed continuity. Like other viewers, I could have done with less flashbacks in the later portions - not necessary for those who have followed it through, and meaningless unless you have.

For me, the best of the episodes contained on these six discs is that of the long cattle drive from Texas to Colorado....it sums up the image of the old west that many of us have always imagined. It also does not prettify the sheer guts and hard work not to mention the dangers faced by the men doing this gruelling job.

So if you enjoy engrossing storylines and characters and can overlook the occasional blip such as Richard Chamberlain's not-very-authentic Scots accent (though his performance otherwise is magnificent), you'll just love this.

I would best describe this as a slightly flawed masterpiece, but a landmark piece of television for any viewer with more than a passing interest in the Old West.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Centennial - At last, 21 July 2008
By 
M. Deal "Mr Jangles" (UK) - See all my reviews
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My God! I have waited twenty seven years to see this again. At last it's coming out on DVD. Fantastic. I've read the book several times and enjoy it as much as I did back in 1979, when I was a kid who was fascinated by the history of the American West, thanks to Centennial, the TV series. Can't wait to see this again. It'll be like being reunited with old friends. Classic!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine epic miniseries, but a sadly flawed UK transfer, 4 July 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Centennial [UK DVD] [1978] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In its day, Centennial was the most expensive mini-series ever made, the extended running time meaning that for once one of James Michener's epic multi-generational sagas could reach the screen - albeit the small one - without being broken up into two movies (like Hawaii and the Hawaiians) or reduced to the bare essentials of his storyline like South Pacific. And it's a good tale, with Michener himself introducing the first episode as it modestly kicks off with the creation of the world before skipping ahead a few millennia and narrowing its focus to what will become a town that will act as a microcosm of America's growth from untamed wilderness to civilisation, with plenty of familiar faces along the way - Raymond Burr, Robert Conrad, Barbara Carrera, Timothy Dalton, Brian Keith, Donald Pleasance, Lynn Redgrave, Robert Vaughn, Dennis Weaver and then-reigning king of the mini-series Richard Chamberlain among them while David Janssen provides the occasional narration.

Unfortunately, while the UK DVD offers the entire series, it's a less than perfect presentation. Rather than presenting the 12 episodes in their original 105-minute versions, they've been edited together as one continuous programme spread over multiple discs, which will infuriate the purists. But worse still is the transfer: while the definition and colour are fine, like so many titles released in the UK by Boulevard - The Odyssey [1997] [DVD] [2007] and their edition of Brotherhood of the Rose [DVD] in particular - it's a very flawed transfer with an irritating 'staggering' effect that looks like one frame every second has frozen that's particularly noticeable on panning shots where the movement becomes awkwardly interrupted for a fraction of a second. As such, you may be better off picking up the US DVD set instead, especially since the only extra on this set, a brief retrospective featurette, can also be found on that.
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Centennial [UK DVD] [1978]
Centennial [UK DVD] [1978] by Richard Chamberlain (DVD - 2012)
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