Originally posted on Variety:
Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding of TV and extreme sports that has become common currency, as well as a flag-waving streak that played perfectly as a counterpoint to Vietnam-era unrest. Both history and a fascinating profile, “Pure Evel” — timed to what would have been Knievel’s 75th birthday — is purely entertaining.
The documentary begins with Knievel’s disastrous jump at the Snake River Canyon, then goes back to the beginning, and how this Montana-born cowboy and one-time insurance salesman, “driven by ego and fearlessness,” parlayed those qualities into enormous wealth and fame.
As the production makes clear, though, Knievel’s death-defying jumps were characterized as much by the agony of defeat (in this case, crashing and sustaining injuries) as the thrill of victory — borrowing from the catchphrase popularized by ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” an entity with which Knievel forged a symbiotic relationship, at one point accounting for seven of its 10 top-rated telecasts.