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The Big Trail

VHS Tape
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difference between 1 and 2 disc versions Sept. 11 2010
The Big Trail (2-Disc Special Edition)
Fox // G // May 13, 2008

Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted May 4, 2008 |
Highly Recommended

A truly epic Western of staggering proportions, Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail (1930) is a fascinating work on many levels. Technically it was way ahead of its time; its impressive use of an early 70mm widescreen process predates Todd-AO by a quarter of a century. It also features John Wayne in his first starring role, a role that on one hand helped define his iconic screen persona but which also exiled him to the lowly world of $12,000 B-Westerns after its commercial failure. Produced for about $2 million (probably upwards of $300 million in today's money) The Big Trail is so massive in scale that it would be all but impossible to reproduce today without the aid of CGI. Best of all, the picture offers a uniquely authentic portrait of pioneer life on the trail westward, the Manifest Destiny vividly brought to life with at times the poetry of Frederick Remington's paintings.
Incredibly, five different versions of the film were shot simultaneously: one in the 70mm Grandeur process for exhibition in the biggest movie palaces, another in standard 35mm for general release, plus three foreign-language versions with (mostly) different casts, all shot in standard 35mm: in French, German, and Italian. Fox originally released The Big Trail to DVD in May 2003, but that disc consisted only of the 110-minute standard 35mm version. Fox's new 2-Disc Special Edition includes a 122-minute version of the Grandeur version (reportedly The Big Trail debuted at 158 minutes, but this is unconfirmed) in all its 16:9 enhanced widescreen glory along with some good extras on Disc 1, while Disc 2 includes the previously available 35mm version. The second disc is actually the exact same DVD from 2003.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A giant of a movie Sept. 7 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Put simply if you want a real idea of the old west and how people thought and acted on their way there in the early part of the 19th century this film is it.
Every part of it reeks of the real dirty grimy and difficult life pioneering was. The acting is great and young John Wayne fill the role well. (How this film didn't launch him big is beyond me. I think it is better than Stagecoach and thats saying a lot.)
If there was ever a big return for a small investment this movie is it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars You keep fighting - that's life! July 10 2003
The Big trail tells the epic story of a wagon train of pioneers and pilgrims going into the west to find a fertile valley in Oregon, and their trials and tribulations getting there. The party encounter Indians, bad weather and hunger, while a couple of treacherous renegades are being hunted by a trapper (John Wayne) for murdering his friend in cold blood.
This seminal western proves two things: Director Raoul Walsh knew exactly where to put his camera, and - John Wayne was a STAR from the word GO. Incredibly, this film flopped and Wayne was relegated to run-of-the-mill cowboy movies for 9 years, until re-discovered by John Ford. Wayne's delivery and acting is flawless in the Big trail, he nearly puts the other actors to shame with his easy swagger and grace. He was also incredibly handsome, looking like a Californian surfer crossed with a Versace model in this. The hard-bitten look of his later westerns is not visible (well, he was 23!)

As for the rest: If you consider the mileage on the Big trail, it stands up very well. It's entertaining for a movie this old, and the easy humor is very attractive. There is a plot; you've seen it before, but probably in films made much later. In some ways, it follows in the steps of the Covered wagon, (1923). The scenes where the pioneers cross the river and the mountain plateau are excitingly edited; it looks like Walsh put his extras in real physical danger! There are also beautiful natural wonders and vistas in this movie, originally filmed in a 70mm process called Grandeur. (my disc was full-screen, I guess the widescreen version is lost).
The dialogue is sometimes memorable: A great line delivered by Wayne to rouse the spirits of the party stuck in my memory: "YOU KEEP FIGHTING -THAT'S LIFE! YOU STOP FIGHTING - THAT'S DEATH!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Proto-- Wayne! June 9 2003
Format:VHS Tape
This great Western bombed because of the stock market crash of '29. Movie theaters had spent their money converting to sound, and were unable to shell out the dough for 70mm conversion.
The majestic background played on "The Big Screen"-- as director Raul Walsh intended, only at Grauman's Chinese and the Roxy in New York. Everyone else saw a choppy 35mm version, cropped on both sides. Brilliant cinamotgraphy became a muddled mess, until it was restored in the 1990's.
The story is one of 'Manifest Destiny ' on the move, and of a heroine who has two men courting her. A slick, lying, backshooting gambler and the pure, outdoorsman scout--John Wayne. Will she choose the man who will cherish her or the one who will use her?
Wayne dresses in moccasins as if he escaped from 'The Last of The Mohicans', as he tells us that: "The Indian was my friend. They taught me all about the woods." So, while he carries a rifle for hunting, he doesn't even own a handgun! A knife is his only weapon for self-defense.
A third male lead completes the story; a brutish and powerfully built bear of a wagon trail leader, played by Tyrone Power Sr. (Yep, the star's father was an actor.)
Wayne signs up as the scout because he suspects Tyrone of murdering an old man for his wolf pelts (naturally the old man was Wayne's best friend) The gambler also comes along, to escape a hangman's noose--and sweet-talk the heroine with his lies. Joining forces with the grunting neanderthal wagon master against Wayne, they bide their time to ambush him, as Manifest Destiny leads hundreds of settlers through Comanche territory, floods and blizzards to The Promised Land.
It was Walsh rather than John Ford who discovered Wayne,who had only played bit parts in Ford movies previously.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
I have been familiar with The Big Trail for decades. It was shot in the old 4:3 format (or so I thought) and represented the typical John Wayne western kitsch of the time. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Roger Messenger
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
To see one of John Wayne's first film done in wide screen black and white was a truly unique experience. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Michael B. Neuman
1.0 out of 5 stars I love this movie,WHERE ARE THE MISSING SENES?!?
I've watched this film for years on TCM. I'm watching it now from FOX via AMAZON. QUESTION: WHERE ARE THE MISSING SCENES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Read more
Published on July 3 2006 by Curtis R. Franks
3.0 out of 5 stars Where is the "Fox Grandeur" Widescreen Version?
This is a film that really deserves to be seen in its widescreen glory. This is truly an epic film. Read more
Published on May 3 2004 by Terry Knapp
1.0 out of 5 stars The Big Rip Off!
The release of this film does not rate even a one. I cannot believe after waiting all these years for this film to be released in widescreen and on DVD. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Daniel Brunn
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Trail : The edited version
I don't know why Fox Video cut close to twenty minutes off this film for DVD. Most VCR prints of this movie run a 125min long. Plus it's only shown in full screen format. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by moviefan
2.0 out of 5 stars where's the rest of it?
Where's the widescreen version? And why, when it's officially listed as 125 minutes in the "flat" version is this DVD release 108 minutes?
Shame on Fox.
Published on June 20 2003 by John G. Harkness
3.0 out of 5 stars The Duke is now John wayne.
Yes it is a classic. Yes, there is a lot to recommend this movie. But hey, it was made nearly 70 years ago and watchability is a factor. Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by JediMack
2.0 out of 5 stars What a dissapointment.
This is one of the very first widescreen films ever made. To be forced to see it in pan and scan is a real drag. I already have it on VHS so this DVD is a major dissapointment. Read more
Published on May 27 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Wrong Aspect Ratio
Contrary to other reviews, the widescreen version of this film is the one to have and I am stunned that 20th Century Fox didn't release it on DVD. Read more
Published on May 22 2003 by Steve Latshaw
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