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Las Vegas: An Unconventional History

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Terrific Perspective of Sin City's History... Nov. 19 2005
By A Customer - Published on
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Under the impression of this slogan many visitors believe that they can bring out their wild and uninhibited self while fulfilling their wildest imaginations and fantasies in Vegas, as no one would ever find out. For this reason many pilgrimage out to this oasis of sin and pleasure, as it would allow them to be completely free. The PBS documentary Las Vegas: An Unconventional History offers the audience a historical perspective to how Las Vegas has become the resort for personal desires.

Today, Las Vegas is a booming modern metropolitan city that is amidst a flowering period where money stream into the city through a constant flow of tourists. It has, ever since the completion of the railway that runs through Las Vegas, been a city friendly to strangers. However, the kindness towards strangers has always been reciprocal, as the city provides pleasures while the strangers dropped their hard earned money in a few minutes of hope and desire for something better. Through gambling and prostitution Las Vegas exchanged money for dreams with the visitors, and this is how people helped build this concrete giant.

Despite the banning of gambling, the bars and gambling spots continued to provide the service for the visitors. The building of the Hoover Dam and the development of the atomic bomb also helped boost the number of visitors to Las Vegas, as there was nothing else to do in the arid city than to drink booze, party, and gamble. Thus, the city became a hot spot for those who sought some escape from the hard reality outside its city limits. Soon the mafia world also discover this golden goose that simply was ready for the picking of anyone that knew the business, which lead to a migration of wise guys from Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami. The mobster Bugsy Siegel changed the future for Las Vegas by building the first luxurious hotel - The Flamingo Hotel - with all of the modern amenities including entertainment. Later the Rat Pack would also honor the city with its legendary performances.

The constant flow of money made many people willing to turn their eyes the other way, as politicians and other people of significance allowed hardcore crooks to become respectable businessmen in the desert city. However, the sweet dance could not go on forever, as politicians began to seek justice. In addition, the NAACP began to protest the Jim Crowe laws that were in place, which quickly were removed as it influence the flow of cash. Even the rich philanthropist Howard Hughes bought his way into Las Vegas when he was order an eviction, and his money was cleaner than his predecessors, which again made many close their eyes.

In Las Vegas: An Unconventional History, the audience gets to see the history while it also touches on many of the negative aspects of the city such as water shortage, overpopulation, gambling addiction, and its consequences. It is a clever narrative that follows a traditional linear approach while every now and then returning to present day through some interview with different aspects of the city. When it all comes together it is a very enlightening two part piece that stretches over three hours, which will offer the viewer a decent understanding of how Las Vegas grew up from first being a small railroad intersection to the gambling Mecca of the world.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The modern part is not included Feb. 1 2007
By I. Chiang - Published on
The overall content of this DVD is fine. It goes through a desert town with water supply, rising due to Hoover Dam, Bugsy and the mobs, Howard Hughes, the fires of MGM and Hilton and the challenges of Atlantic City. Then it stops here in spite of its being released in 2005.

This is disappointing since it is kind of distant from what we see today. After I've visited Las Vegas twice and watched this film, a gap is certainly there and I just cannot bridge them together. I'd like to know more about Steve Wynn, how these latest casinos are built, what they look like inside...etc.

So if you really intend to know the history of Las Vegas, it is a fine piece. But if you are in the case like me more preferring in the modern part of Las Vegas, you should leave it aside.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Worth the money July 12 2008
By Vegas Gar - Published on
Verified Purchase
This DVD is well worth the money, it is very well made and an excellent resource on the history of Las Vegas. There is a lot of old footage of the strip and downtown that I hadn't seen before. If you are wanting a DVD on the hotels & casinos of modern day Las Vegas, you probably want to stay away from this since it presents a historical view of the town. Modern Las Vegas is constantly refered to, but there is no detail of any of the newer casinos. What I really enjoyed was the vignettes that are injected throughout the DVD, they include very real people to live and have moved to Las Vegas. They are not all happy stories and show people who have had hard lives in Sin City. The DVD is one disc that has 2 parts to choose from. It also has a couple of extra features, but nothing to get excited about. Well worth the money, in my opinion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Must View July 18 2010
By ajl623 - Published on
Verified Purchase
I am a hard core Las Vegas lover and student. This documentary, along with the A&E/History Channel Las Vegas documentary are clearly the best profiles of the City and its history. This one is 10 years newer, so it is much fresher. It is very informative, historically accurate and moves well. It is easy to watch and not boring.
The only part I don't care for is the profiles of "average people". I don't think it adds anything to the production.
Fabulous Las Vegas Oct. 28 2008
By BigStory - Published on
Verified Purchase
My initial exposure to Las Vegas began in the late 70's as a very young child. My memories of Vegas are deep, both good and bad. I've never really taken the time to study the town. But recently, I've developed a thirst to examine the rich history and inner workings of this unique city.

Las Vegas - An Unconventional History by PBS is a well-made and informative piece documenting the spectacular rise and continual growth of Sin City.

The early parts of the program focuses extensively on the building of Hoover Dam and its effect on the initial growth of Vegas. Then the Mob is chronicled and credited with their contribution to this town. Early nuclear testing is also talked about along with plenty of footage.

In-between the historical lessons are some short "Vegas People" segments. These people's lives and their means of survival are intertwined with the ebb and flow of Las Vegas life. Also, there's a fat guy with a twangy voice who appears often to lend his expertise about this town.

A couple of special-features include "Making of Las Vegas: An Unconventional History" and "Let's Face It: A 1950's Civil Defense film on nuclear testing". The "Let's Face It" short is an amusing look at 1950's "propaganda" on nuclear education.

The second part of this program focuses on Howard Hughes, the MGM fire, labor strife, and the grand opening of The Mirage. I enjoyed seeing footage of Vegas from the 70's and 80's, my personal period.

I definitely enjoyed watching this and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the storied past of this dynamic town.

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