The Big Trail

The Big Trail

Director: Raoul Walsh Cast: John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, El Brendel
4.0 2

DVD (Black & White)

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The Big Trail 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A GREAT epic western, with grandeur & true to the extreme trials & tribulations facing the early wagon trains & settlers crossing the Country to new lifes in the West.
ChandlerSwain More than 1 year ago
In the late 20's, movie mogul William Fox envisioned a leap in motion picture production with the technical breakthrough of 70mm film in WIDESCREEN. Teaming with director Raoul Walsh, the result of this dream was the truly monumental western epic "The Big Trail" a rough, meticulously detailed depiction of pioneering settlers and their trek across the American wilderness in a covered wagon train from the mighty Mississippi River to a promised Eden-like valley on the Pacific Coast. The film was the first starring vehicle for a young John Wayne, and while his acting has rough edges, it is remarkable in it's foreshadowing of the great star he was to become. But the real star of the pictures are the visuals. It is completely startling to see a picture of this vintage in a giant frame, completely dwarfing the regular Academy ratio size of 1:33. In a time when film cheapening CGI makes everything (plastically artificially) possible, the sight of hundreds of actual wagons forging rushing rivers, or (in one amazing sequence) being dangerously lowered over the sides of a canyon brings back the most primal sense of excitement that cinema is capable of. Panoramic vistas are explored in ways that recall the earliest of photographs, and it is one of the great accomplishments of the film, that it's incredibly microscopic attention to detail makes us feel as if we are actually there, miraculously looking through an open window to an almost forgotten past. Director Raoul Walsh displays an almost uncanny sense of composition, especially considering no one had worked with such a widescreen before, and the photography expresses a solid deep depth of field far eclipsing the later early Cinemascope where a narrower depth of field led to distracting "clothesline" compositions of actors. Walsh's compositions are so expert they beg comparison with many of the later masterworks of Akira Kurosawa. Sound on the DVD is slightly above average for a film of this vintage, but the restored picture is remarkable in it's clarity, with only a few instances of graininess or emulsion defects. For comparison, this 2 disc DVD set also, sensibly, includes the alternate Academy ratio version of the film that has been virtually the sole representative of this film since it's release in 1930. It's a far lesser version of the film, but not without interest and a valuable inclusion in this set. Also included are a number of remarkable extras including fascinating documentaries on the history and development of this widescreen process (appropriately called Grandeur) and the sad economic reasons for it's failure, a detailed documentary on the young John Wayne and many other exciting extras that certainly make this the most valuable DVD release in years.