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How the West Was Won [Blu-ray]

 Unrated   Blu-ray
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 37.99
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Product Description

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The first feature film to be photographed and projected in the panoramic three-camera Cinerama process, this epic Western is almost as expansive as the West itself, chronicling a pioneering family's triumphs and tragedies in numerous episodes spanning three generations and a half century of westward movement. Divided into five segments directed by veteran Hollywood filmmakers Henry Hathaway, George Marshall, and the legendary John Ford (and including uncredited sequences directed by Richard Thorpe), the film was one of the most ambitious ever made by the venerable MGM studio. Its stellar cast reads like a virtual who's who of Hollywood's biggest stars. Debbie Reynolds plays a sturdy survivor of many pioneering dangers, and the eventual widow of a gambler (Gregory Peck), who is later reunited with her nephew (George Peppard), a Civil War veteran and cavalryman who heads for San Francisco as the transcontinental railroad is being built. Many more characters and stories are woven throughout this epic film, which is dramatically uneven but totally engrossing with its stunning vistas and countless outdoor locations in Illinois, Kentucky, South Dakota, Monument Valley in Arizona, California, Colorado, and elsewhere. --Jeff Shannon

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Middling story and atrocious transfer June 3 2004
Format:DVD
I like westerns. My favorite entries in the genre are spaghetti westerns, those cheap, ultra low budget Italian takes on the American West. I always try to fit some of these movies into my viewing schedule, and when the day came where I considered it time to watch Sergio Leone's epic "Once Upon a Time in the West," I headed out to rent it. Imagine my surprise when I got home and saw that I inadvertently checked out "How the West Was Won" instead. I scratched my head, not familiar at all with the title. After all, I like westerns but I don't know a lot about the genre or the films I have yet to see. When I saw the cast list for this 1962 movie, I decided not to take it back without watching and seeing if I liked it. I think I would be remiss to have skipped this one on initial impression alone; the cast list reads like a "who's who" of mid twentieth century Hollywood. You've got Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Agnes Moorehead, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, George Peppard, Debbie Reynolds, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Walter Brennan, Karl Malden, Carolyn Jones, Harry Morgan, Raymond Massey, and Robert Preston filling the roles. Spencer Tracy voices the narration. Howard Hawks and John Ford directed specific segments of the film. What a list of talent! Couldn't go wrong with a movie like this one, right? Wrong.
As amazing as it seems, "How the West Was Won" is not a very good experience. The movie runs for an eternity as it attempts to describe the different experiences in settling the American West. At the beginning of the film, the Prescott clan heads out to the West in search of farmland and a new beginning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An historic epic in more ways than one. March 9 2012
Format:Blu-ray
This is a big movie in almost every respect. A big cast of big names, covering a big sweep of US history. The vistas are big across the extra-wide-screen Cinerama process. It has big ambitions, and it mostly succeeds. This movie about history is itself an imporant piece of history.
It's not a perfect movie, and the home video experience is significantly diminished from the theatre presentation. Still, it's surprising how well it holds up. On the surface, there's a "white man brought civilization to a primitive land and primitive people" spirit. But the actual story is much more nuanced, showing the spread of that "civilization" was a decidedly mixed bag. The "Civil War" chapter is a particularly good example of using drama to explain political issues.
A major achievement of this edition is the almost-completely-seamless integration of the Cinerama image into a single wide frame. The Cinerama experiment is an important chapter in the development of film as an art form. That story is well told in this disk's supplemental feature "Cinerama Adventure," a worthy documentary in its own right. The story behind the Cinerama process is a fascinating piece of film history.
An important Blu-ray bonus is the "Smilebox" presentation of the film. It gives a pretty good hint of what it was like to see the film on the original curved Cinerama screen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars loved it Jan. 7 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
almost wish it was a little longer. needed to fill in a few spots with a little more detail but this was a long movie to begin with
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Film Dec 31 2012
By Jim
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Great film, nearly perfect, just the odd frame that shows some lines, but this did not spoil the viewing experience.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The penultimate jaw dropping western April 20 2009
Format:DVD
This is the kind of epic film-making that has all but disappeared. Three of the top western directors each took on a major segment (Henry Hathaway The Rivers and the Plains, John Ford The Civil War, George Marshall The Railroad) of this huge sprawling family saga. Made to be appreciated on the Cinerama screen (a wide screen process involving three seperate projectors that created the "you are there" illusion by encompassing your peripheral vision) but modified for DVD viewing, it still remains hugeky impressive in its sweep by any standard.
With an enormous cast of stars most of whom are Hollywood legends (John Wayne,Henry Fonda,James Stewart,Gregory Peck...etc), breathtaking photography and a majestic score,it is the "Gone With The Wind" of Westerns. It has all the major elements of westerns come and gone but still acts as a good historical primer as to how the American west was settled. Deservedly winning three Oscars and nominated for five others this is a film that for once can live up to that most overused of words: awesome!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic May 22 2010
Format:Blu-ray
Nothing need be said about this movie, blu-ray enhances the experience as we would expect but to fully appreciate the smilebox you will need the 50' screen.

Then it truly becomes the masterpiece it was meant to be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars breath taking June 6 2011
Format:Blu-ray
I saw this film in one of those Cinerama theaters in 1963 as a kid and was mightily impressed, but was disturbed by the lines which appeared on the huge screen created by the use of 3 cameras working in sync. They also produce distortion to some images esp. when subjects move quickly from one segment of the screen to the adjacent ones.

For close to 50 years I had been waiting to see this significant problem resolved and I am happy to say with the latest digital transfer to BR, this problem virtually disappears.
Well, 95 % of it. The lines still exist in the Mexican army scene and create some distortion in the pony express scene. That having said, the picture quality is now truly breath taking, all images are sharp and brilliant, better than many many films done in recent years.

It is as if National Geographic had a hand on its production....

It's just too bad the film with an aspect ratio of 2.89:1 has not been enhanced to fit wide screen TVs and one is left with huge bars on the top and bottom. Minor complaint really. This movie is impressive.

And on disc 2, a Smilescreen version simulates the Cinerama experience of a "curved" screen. A digital modern day gimmick, one needs a real Cinerama screen to experience the thrill.

The story and characters are probably familiar to those who love westerns, so sit back and enjoy some of the best cinematography (and music) ever put on screen......
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so good
This is not a John Wayne movie because he appears only two minutes in it. The movie is no good.
Published on Feb. 18 2011 by johnwayne fan
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Blu-ray so far
If all Blu-ray movies were presented as well as this one, I'd own quite a few more. This is how it should be done.

The packaging, for once, actually adds to the value. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2009 by fung0
5.0 out of 5 stars Please disregard all reviews prior to 2008
Warner Home Video has announced a 2-disc special edition of How the West Was Won which stars John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2008 by Sherri Todd
5.0 out of 5 stars America's own "Triumph of the Will" -- Leni would be proud!
In a remarkable coincidence, the same day I saw "How the West was Won" at the Seattle Cinerama (03/01/03), the History Channel aired a program on the history of the... Read more
Published on June 28 2004 by William Sommerwerck
1.0 out of 5 stars Wake me when it's over
I kind of figured television was responsible for this... movie. HOW THE WEST WAS WON dvd comes with a featurette on the making of the movie, in which we learn that the movie... Read more
Published on June 13 2004 by Steven Hellerstedt
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs a better format, anamorphic
I saw the film in LA, at the original Cinerama, in the original
showing. This film is not going to be right until shown in
HDTV (HD-DVD), but for Pete's sake, why... Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by Scott A. Moore
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