on August 16, 2015
This is a landmark movie. The musical score is in your face and it keeps you going through
a lengthy movie. Some great scenes and Peck is Atticus gone Western. However poor Burl Ives
costume and fake beard look like he just dropped in from a very poor High School production.
He may have won the supporting actor for this but as usual the Oscars are oft times behind:
his performance as Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is one of the finest ever on film.
YOU CAN ALSO GET JUST THE SOUNDTRACK which I heartily recommend.
on April 9, 2014
I was so disappointed that this dvd was in a widescreen format. I had just seen the movie on pbs a few days ago and it was full screen and great to see on my big screen t.v., so I thought this dvd would be in the same format. It is a big disappointment for me as about half the screen is blacked out top and bottom. I will keep this dvd however as it is a great movie and especially love the music by Jerome Moross who did the theme for "Wagon Train" the t.v. series. The dvd itself was in new condition and arrived on the guaranteed delivery date. So very pleased with the service!!
on June 22, 2004
This is a sprawling, glorious saga that will be appreciated by people who don't even like the Western genre. With fabulous cinematography, an excellent script, and two of my favorite actors, it's a film I never tire of watching.
Gregory Peck is the sea captain with principles who goes west to meet his future bride, only to find feuds and fighting, and some lawless varmints who need his "non violent" ways of resolving territorial issues. He is terrific as James McKay, who is sort of an Atticus Finch in boots, and looks mighty fine as well.
Charlton Heston has the smaller part as Leech, a foreman who is seething with jealousy and obeys the orders of his unscrupulous boss (rancher Terrill, played with subtle menace by Charles Bickford) as he yearns for his daughter. Heston is brilliant as this rather complex character, and would a year later star in director William Wyler's next epic, "Ben Hur", which is perhaps my all-time most viewed and enjoyed film.
Both female leads are wonderful, and are portrayed with enormous strength; Jean Simmons, with her luminous eyes is the schoolteacher, and Carroll Baker is the tough daughter of rancher Bickford, and is too much like her daddy to make a suitable bride for Peck.
Among the many strong performances in the supporting parts are Burl Ives, and received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his gnarly old Rufus, Chuck Connors is his bad to the bone son, and Alfonso Bedoya, is a delight as Ramon, who along with a horse named "Old Thunder", provides some of the humor in the film.
The score by Jerome Moross is lovely (and received an Oscar nomination) and the cinematography by Franz Planner spectacular. The film was shot in the Yuba and San Joaquin Counties in California, as well as canyon country in Chinly, Arizona, and it is breathtakingly beautiful.
If you like a good screen fight like I do, this has a great one, "mano a mano" between Peck and Heston; it initially has no music, just the pounding of the fists and the men gasping for breath, and is very effective.
Romance, drama, and lots of action make this a film that appeals to many, and is suitable for the whole family. Total running time is 165 minutes.
on June 17, 2004
Director: William Wyler
Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Video Release Date: May 2, 2000
Gregory Peck ... James McKay
Jean Simmons ... Julie Maragon
Carroll Baker ... Patricia Terrill
Charlton Heston ... Steve Leech
Burl Ives ... Rufus Hannassey
Charles Bickford ... Major Henry Terrill
Alfonso Bedoya ... Ramon Guiteras
Chuck Connors ... Buck Hannassey
Chuck Hayward ... Rafe Hannassey
Buff Brady ... Dude Hannassey
Jim Burk ... Blackie/Cracker Hannassey
Dorothy Adams ... Hannassey Woman
Chuck Roberson ... Terrill Cowboy
Bob Morgan ... Terrill Cowboy
John McKee ... Terrill Cowboy
Slim Talbot ... Terrill Cowboy
Donald Kerr ... Liveryman
Carey Paul Peck ... Boy
Jonathan Peck ... Boy
Stephen Peck ... Boy
Ralph Sanford ... Party Guest
Richard Alexander ... Party Guest, (Oceans)
Harry Cheshire ... Party Guest
It is said that Gregory Peck and William Wyler, erstwhile friends who had previously worked together successfully had a falling out over this film and never spoke for years afterward. Both were co-producers, and Peck became agitated over the fact that Wylie was working too slowly and the film was going 'way over budget. Wylie resented anyone else telling him how to make a movie. It also appears that three of Peck's children had children's parts in the film.
The fight seen between Peck and Heston is one of the high points of the film that has caused much comment, as it was filmed from a great distance, rather than close-uo.
Such details aside, the story depicts a sea-captain, James McKay (Peck) coming West to marry Patricia Terrill (Carol Baker). He walks straight into a personal vendetta between Major Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford) and Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives) over an old grudge, and the usual battle over water rights typical in many Western stories. McKay is a peaceful man who tends to avoid resorting to violence, causing his would-be bride to accuse him of cowardice.
Buck Hannassey (Chuck Connors) and Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) play supporting roles, each of whom has designs on the leading women in the story, leading to antagonisms. Ramon (Alphonso Bedoya) plays his part well, as a Mexican ranch employee. He was better in the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I think, but he always turns in a good performance.
This is a good Western, with the usual scenery typical of the West. The plot is somewhat hackneyed, but is well-played and comes off well, thanks to the staff.
Joseph (Joe) Pierre
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books
on June 13, 2003
I think Peck's best performance was in 1958s THE BIG COUNTRY. THE BIG COUNTRY is based on Donald Hamilton's novel of the same name. Gregory Peck plays the central character named James McKay. McKay was a sea captain who looked and acted like something of a dandy as he relocated out west from back east to marry his fiancée. McKay was a man who had nothing to prove to anyone but himself. I read the novel. Gregory Peck is James McKay. Peck chose this project and co-produced it because I think he recognized that particular character in the novel that mirrored his approach to many of the roles he chose. There are wooden people in everyday life. What is behind the wooden veneer? I think that a good actor takes the roles that work best for them. Look at Peck's performance as Lewt in DUEL IN THE SUN. That is not one of Peck's typical performances. I wonder after all these years what Peck's critique would be to his performance in that film. If you do watch THE BIG COUNTRY I think that Peck actually makes very subtle references to his performance in DUEL IN THE SUN with his awkward attempt at humor, which is consistent with the character of James McKay. THE BIG COUNTRY is one of America's greatest films. It is blessed with one of the finest scores ever written for an American film. What composer Jerome Moross gave us was true Americana as well as music in the Western genre. This score captures the spirit of what made America great. America is made up of different people and different ideals. Charlton Heston as Steve Leech, in what I think was also his best role and performance, showed us an overly assertive male quality. When he finally confronts McKay he comes away with a self-realization about his own motivations and what being a man really means. Later when put to the test he is truly torn for the first time between good sense and loyalty to the selfish and tyrannical Maj. Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford). Only the viewer can draw a conclusion on his actions. The pivotal music by Jerome Moross in this scene will tear your emotions apart. Burl Ives as Rufus Hannassey won an Academy Award for his role. For me he was the most enigmatic character in this film. Is he as tyrannical as his nemesis Henry Terrill is or not? I am still perplexed. Another good performance in this film was by Chuck Connors as the tragic Buck Hannassey. Chuck Connors as an actor deserved infinitely more recognition than he ever got and this film proves it. This was not a film of black and white characterizations. There was a lot of gray. I saw this film in the theatre when I was a little kid when it first got released. It is very strong on imagery. My heart went out to Chuck Connors as Buck Hannassey in the finale and it still does when I watch it today. This is one of my ten or so favorite films. It is slow and deliberate. It is not flashy. The critics at the time were very wrong. It is a long movie yet there is not a wasted shot in it. It packs a greater emotional punch every time I watch it. The older you get, the more you can identify with it. I was lucky enough to see it the first time when I was very young. This is one of those rare films that offers something knew each time you watch it.
on February 5, 2003
Jim McKay (Peck), a former sea captain and son of a Baltimore family that "owns a whole fleet of ships," arrives by stage in what is probably west Texas to marry Pat Terrell (Baker), whose father, Major Henry Terrell (Bickford), owns Ladder, the premiere cattle spread of the district. He meets Pat's friend Julie Maragon (Simmons) and the Ladder foreman Steve Leach (Heston) and has a confrontation with Buck Hennessy (Connors), who, he soon learns, comes of a family with which Terrell has been feuding for years. When the patriarch of the clan, Rufus (Ives in his Best Supporting Actor role), crashes the engagement party Terrell is throwing for the couple, McKay resolves to keep the feud from exploding, and arranges to buy Julie's inheritance, Big Muddy, promising to throw its eponymous river open to all in need--Hennessys and Ladder alike. Before he can publicize his act, he quarrels with Pat, who breaks off their engagement, and Julie is kidnapped by Buck, partly because he wants her and partly because his father hopes to use her as bait to draw Ladder into a trap. Only now does McKay realize who he's really in love with, and he sets off to avert a massacre. What follows leaves the younger generation in charge, and viewers are left with the impression that McKay will marry Julie--possibly leaving Pat for Leach, who, it is implied, was jealous of their relationship and had hoped to get Pat for himself.
Adapted by Jessamyn West from the only Western novel written by Donald Hamilton (of Matt Helm fame), this is generally considered a classic of the genre as well as an epic film. William Wyler (who, with Peck, also co-produced) is one of the best-known directors of the post-War era. Though the pace is perhaps a bit slow, older kids and adults should quickly pick up on the thread of tension that runs through the entire movie, beginning with the introduction of Buck Hennessy and his confrontation with McKay and building inevitably to the final Jim/Buck and Terrell/Rufus showdowns. I personally would have thought it improved by at least a brief explanation of how the feud got started, and can't help wondering why Julie, who apparently was raised on Big Muddy by her grandfather Clem, didn't simply hire a good foreman and crew and continue to run it, as many Western heiresses--widows and daughters alike--are historically shown to have done. But it's the characters that make the story: McKay, who's determined to follow his own sense of right and wrong even when it earns him scorn and mockery from Buck and Leach and loss of faith from Pat; Rufus and Terrell, two strong men determined not to give an inch (several of Rufus's lines suggest he "came from better"); Buck, sneeringly played by "The Rifleman" Connors in a dark drooping mustache that makes him look positively sinister; Pat, pretty but clearly spoiled; Julie, darkly smooth and cool to Pat's fiery blondness; Leach, a strong, proud cowman who seems reluctant to come out with his feelings for the boss's daughter, notwithstanding that he's probably her natural match. Jerome Moross's score is as sweeping as the cinematography, which provides a true sense of the country's size. All in all, a movie well worth your time.
on March 6, 2001
William Wyler was one of the great Hollywood directors of all time. There are a number of films made in the 30's, 40's and 50's that people remember as great, not realizing that the common thread is director Wyler. "The Big Country" is one of those films. I saw it on the big screen as a kid, and I have never forgotten the impact it had on me. Every time I see it on the small screen, I remember that feeling. The rousing Jerome Moross music score contributes a great deal to the feel of the film, but Wyler also knew when NOT to have music playing underneath the drama. There are many scenes where the fine ensemble cast bring the drama to life without the aid (or interference) of music; it's just them and the fine cinematic framing that was a Wyler hallmark. That wonderful scene of Heston and Peck duking it out alone at midnight in the vast, dead quiet expanse of prairie -- and all you hear is the grunting, panting and thudding of their fists. Great filmmaking. What director gives us action this way today? This film is for people who love movies that are more than just an assault on the senses. (Update: I bought the DVD here. The other reviewers are right; the transfer is bad.)
on January 19, 2001
Big Country deals with the issues of pride between two ruthless, selfish old men who cannot set their anger aside and learn to live with everyone. This sets the scene for violent outbursts, gun fights and verbal conflicts. That will satisfy the men :).
Now, for the women, this movie has wonderful fighting over the women and a undercurrent of romance between rancher/school teacher Julie Moragon (Jean Simmons) and the intellectual even-tempered Jim McKay (Gregory Peck). Jim McKay is actually engaged to Mr. Terrill's shallow but beautiful daughter, Patricia (Carroll Baker). His competition, Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) is a brooding, rugged ranch foreman who loves the land and will fight for what he wants. The relationship between Jim and Patricia is shaky at best. There is no real depth.
Jim McKay is from the East and doesn't realize he has walked into age old feud in the West. Once he realizes what needs to be done, he bravely helps to solve the problems with intellect instead of brawn. He uses his "sea captain" skills to navigate the open range of the west and brings a cool ocean breeze to this heated dry land.
The poor Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives) plays the patriarch of a disreputable clan who is fighting for their water rights. As cattle die, the situation escalates to a shoot out. His long time enemy rich Mr. Terrill (Charles Brickford) is determined to destroy him for good.
"If there is anything I admire more than a devoted friend, it's a dedicated enemy." -Mr. Terrill
While this is a explosive drama, there are some very amusing lines which will catch you unawares. The chemistry between Jean Simmons and Gregory Peck is mild, yet romantic. The jealous foreman, Steve Leech seems tormented through the entire movie by his attraction to Patricia which creates a sense of tension through the whole movie.
This is not a movie for the impatient. This is a movie for those who appreciate great acting and story telling at its best. A wonderful Western, perhaps my favorite.
on June 13, 2000
The BIG COUNTRY has it all: big stars, excellent supporting cast, interesting story, familiar music, and colorful scenry. John Ford used this same combination to produce a series of successful Westerns, and it is wonderful to see someone else use a similiar pattern. It is the unspoken theme that sets this film apart: A Big Country requires a Big Man. And exactly what kind of Big Man is needed? Well, the contrasts are what make this film interesting.
Major Henry Terrill has all the appearance of integrity, but none of the substance. Rufus Hannassey is nearly the opposite. Each of these men have a top hand. Terrill has Steve Leech, who he raised. Rufus has his son Buck. Leech and Buck are opposites: Buck is one of the nastest bad guys you've ever seen, while Leech seems to embody all the stero-typical hero elements. The opposites are not there just for the story's sake, they beg the question "What is the measure of a man?"
It is also tempting to suggest, "What is the measure of a woman?" because even the women in this story seem to be opposites: Patricia Terrill is as spoiled and impulsive as her friend, Julie Maragon is self reliant and reflective.
Into this world comes James McKay. Almost immediately McKay comes in conflict with the appearance-only nature of the Terrill side of the conflict. Leech, like his mentor, needs an outward show to back up his authority. When McKay demonstrates that appearances do not translate into real authority, that integrity means much more, Leech's view of the world begins to crumble.
The conflict between Rufus, who has a measure of integrity, and his son, who has no redeeming characteristics, is sad. Near the film's end, McKay forces Rufus to accept the consequences of his integrity.
It is interesting that McKay is really not an intruder, he is (in fact) restoring balance to a community. In the film we learn that Julie Maragon's Grandfather played the role that McKay is obviously going to fill. Unfortunately, because of his death, the Big Country has been going to rack and ruin (as symbolized by the deteriorating Grand House).
One could argue that this film is about who is the rightful heir to the Big Country: the bickering, fighting families or Julie Maragon and her Man. I believe that Wyler answers the question clearly. The rightful heir is he who can maintain balance by means of clear sight and integrity.
I wish this film was released in a Wide Screen version (on DVD). Highly Recommended
on May 4, 2000
The Big Country is my second most favorite Gregory Peck film. He plays a fascinating character, James McKay. A man who has seen much in his life, lately in the navy as a captain and now wants to try his hand as a rancher in the wild west. This decision may have been in part due to the fact that his sweetheart is a rancher's daughter, Patricia Terrill. Unfortunately he is dragged into a dispute over land boundaries and water rights between his potential father in law, Major Henry Terrill and Rufus Hannassey, a rival rancher.
What makes this film fascinating is that James McKay has a firm moral code which refuses to be compromised even slightly by the expectations of his sweetheart, the threats of the head ranch hand or the bribes of the other rancher. Even though it ends up costing him his sweetheart and nearly his life, he is able to maintain a straight course.
For the romantics out there it should be noted that he does get the girl in the end. Played by Jean Simmons, the local school marm, Julie Maragon, is able to see through the stereotypes to the man of steel underneath. Not only that, but he ends up getting the best piece of property around on which to start his ranching career. The film is chock full of great actors performing superbly. It makes a great reminder that even oldies can teach us something new. Especially about moral dilemma, a subject which has received little serious attention of late.