on October 1, 2013
King Vidor's 1925 WWI epic, THE BIG PARADE was one of the most important Hollywood productions from the entire silent era. It put MGM on the map as a prestigious studio, catapulted John Gilbert to major stardom, and set the quality standard for war films in years to come. Made a scant 7 years after the armistice, THE BIG PARADE contains an inherent, honest authenticity that demands respect and admiration from anyone watching it today, 88 years after its release. Who would dare question or criticize the film's depiction of The Great War - either in an historic or dramatic context? Indeed, it's practically like we're watching a documentary from that time, whether it be the spot-on, chillingly realistic battle vignettes or the sincere, sensitive romantic scenes between John Gilbert and his French sweetheart played by the charming Renee Adoree.
Warner Home Video's Blu-ray Book Edition of THE BIG PARADE has been fully restored from the original camera negative, and the result will take your breath away. There's nary a speck to be seen in the immaculate 4k scanned, 1080p resolution transfer, which includes all the original tints. The outstanding full orchestra score is by Carl Davis, and integrates popular WWI tunes like "Over There" and "You're in the Army Now" with ominous crescendos underscoring the action sequences.
The special features are a collector's delight: a handsomely illustrated 64 page book with notes by historian Kevin Brownlow, an audio commentary by historian Jeffrey Vance with excerpts from King Vidor, a half hour short from 1925 called "Studio Tour", and the original theatrical trailer.
This cinematic landmark definitely ranks as one of the major vintage home video releases in recent years, and belongs on the shelf of any self-respecting classic film buff, right next to the Blu-rays of WINGS (1927) and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930).
My highest recommendation.
on September 23, 2001
The Big Parade is a lengthy film but, for the most part, it is lively and fast-paced. At the beginning, I thought the film was the classic tale of a naive, spoiled rich kid (played by the great John Gilbert) drawn to the battle field by the parades and glamorization of the war. It is so much more than that. The main character, Jim Apperson, acually adjusts to soldier life very well. He quickly acquires two close buddies (played by Tom O'Brien and Karl Dane), demonstrates impressive innovation and ambition (creating a shower out of a barrel) and--of course--gets a French girlfriend, Melisande (played by Renee Adoree).
The first half of the film is a bit slow at times, although the antics of O'Brien and Dane provide comedy relief that is often hilarious (especially Dane's character). It is definitely worth the wait when Jim's unit goes off to battle. Melisande desperately clings to Jimmy not to leave (symbolism that foreshadows Jim's ultimate fate). Once on the battlefield, the fighting scenes are as well-done as any I've seen on the First World War. The troops slowly move through the devastated landscape, preparing for the next sniper attack. The three buddies end up in a trench together and spit in a target to decide who will go over the top and take out a German machine gunner (the WINNER goes over the top), Jim goes after a German he has wounded in order to finish him off and then finds he is unable to when he sees that his enemy is just a young kid. When Jim realizes the horror of war, only one thing really matters: the French girl he left behind. He must find her again! The film is one of the funniest, suspense-filled, and touching films I've seen (yes, it's all those things and more). Give it a try!
on October 5, 2013
The Big Parade(released Nov/25)finally makes its way onto DVD and it's a pip.The film stars,among others,John Gilbert as Jim Apperson,Renée Adorée as Melisande,Karl Dane as Slim and Tom O'Brien as Bull.While not a perfect film,this is one of King Vidor's better known works that still stands the test of time.
The story introduces us to three different characters:one a construction worker(Dane),a bartender(O'Brien)and a spoiled rich kid(Gilbert).WW1 comes to America and everyone seems to be in the spirit to fight or do something to help the war effort,that is except Gilbert.Out the first day of the announcement,he runs into a recruiting parade.A few friends drive by in the parade and persuade Gilbert to enlist...and off he goes.The next day at home his father has a heart to heart with his recalcitrant son,telling him in no uncertain terms its either help or get out.It is then Gilbert's girlfriend comes running in saying how great it is about Gilbert enlisting.Gilbert has been trying to figure out how to tell them....ooops! With that he has an instantly proud father and brother,but a broken hearted mother.
Gilbert soon ships out and first day at camp finds him united with who are to become his two best buddies,Dane and O'Brien.They are three totally different people coming together for one glorious adventure/cause.In France the regiment they are in is billeted in a farmhouse in Champillon.Alot of funny moments ensue as the three get used to life,as they await their turn to go to the front.Amongst it all Gilbert falls in love with farm girl Adoree'.When the call finally comes to go"up front",Gilbert has just received a letter from his sweetheart back home.Adoree' has found out about it and Gilbert is torn.The two have parted sourly,but with Gilbert now shipping out neither can deny their feelings of love for each other.As the last truck pulls out Adoree' is on her knees clutching a single shoe Gilbert has tossed to her.
War up to now has been a cake walk,but now comes reality.The regiment finds itself clearing out a forest of German guns,and many men go down around the three,all at the front of the pack.When they reach the edge of the forest,a large wasteland appears before them.Gilbert asks"They aren't going to send us out there,are they?".They do and off the boys go to engage the enemy in WW1 style trench warfare.At one point at night,the three are pinned down in a foxhole awaiting orders for the regiment to move out.Suddenly an order comes down for a volunteer out of the three to take out an enemy mortar.Dane challenges the others to a spitting contest to see who gets to go and wins.Off he goes,silencing the two man German mortar crew.On the way back a sky flare gives the German machine gun nest a target and Dane is mortally wounded.During his cries of agony Gilbert loses it and goes out after him,with O'Brien reluctantly following.By the time he reaches Dane,Dane is dead.In a total rage Gilbert storms the machine nest and kills all the soldiers there.In the battle he is wounded in the knee and ends up in a foxhole with a German who he cannot bring himself to kill,but who dies anyways.At that moment irony takes a hand and his regiment is send"over the top",as a big push is ordered against the enemy.Gilbert is rescued and sent back to a rear hospital for treatment.In the hospital Gilbert wakes up and immediately asks how far Champillon is.His left leg is in a cast and somehow he manages to leave the hospital and hitch a ride with an ambulance to the town.However the town has been abandoned and his love is no where to be seen.Gilbert collapses and is taken back by allied soldiers.
The war has ended now,and Gilbert is coming home.It is a teary reuniting with his family,especially his mother who is shocked at the loss of her son's left leg.Gilbert explains to his mother about Adoree',the girl he left behind,and his mother tells him that they will help him find the thing that really matters the most to him now.We next find Adoree' and her mother plowing a field when they spot a man coming towards them in the distance.Adoree' has a funny feeling about this figure approaching them.When she cannot stay put any longer she runs towards the man.It is indeed Gilbert who is now walking as fast as he can with a cane and a prosthetic limb.The two are finally and lovingly reunited.Fade to black.
The closing scene always gets me and I can imagine there wasn't a dry eye in the house back in 1925 either.This film has been criticized for its over dramatical moments such as when Gilbert loses it in the fox hole.I won't deny the film does have such scenes,and I said it wasn't perfect.However they are few and far between,and looking at the overall picture,it is a total gem,no doubt about it.Gilbert's persona really carries the day,with many scenes that would just be ordinary from someone else.Vidor did a magnificent job,and if his direction wasn't as subtle as The Crowd,it is because he was using a far bigger canvas.Vidor had a huge job in not only bringing together these three amigos and a love story,but throwing it altogether in amongst a war time dynamic.And that war,when it is on,becomes very real,very fast.One can also see an anti war message in amongst the battles.The very thing,Gilbert's rant in the fox hole,that critics complain about,is the very moment Vidor makes a statement about war's futility and the unnecessary loss of lives.
Technically speaking the film is clear and crisp.Overall the picture quality is excellent and they did a great remastering job on the film.Extras include the film's trailer,a featurette on the MGM lot in 1925(a must see)and commentary by Jeffrey Vance and King Vidor himself.
One thing I must mention is a little FYI for all my readers.On the outside plastic wrap of this DVD I received,there are two stickers,one is a Warner Brothers identifying logo,and the other says this:"64 page book of photos and film facts-written by acclaimed film historian Kevin Brownlow".I received NO such book with this DVD.There is also no mention of any book being included on any Amazon web page,but it is definitely on the cover.What gives? I phoned Amazon and basically it all comes down to this,no one has a clue as to what the sticker is referring to,and no one seems to be in an awful hurry to find out.Disappointing.So if you get your copy with no book,and see that self same sticker,be aware that you will get nowhere.
All in all a wonderful film from 1925 and King Vidor,restored wonderfully with music by Carl Davis.The picture is fabulous and some scenes seem to have been shot yesterday.This is a highly recommended piece of film history that is a must have/see for all film buffs.4 1/2 stars.
on December 27, 2003
In many ways, King Vidor's The Big Parade did for WWI films what Oliver Stone's Platoon did for Vietnam War films: it brought home the realities of the war in a fashion that better represented what had actually happened. In the process, it is thoroughly entertaining: scenes of typical silent melodrama are quickly replaced by serious thematics (eg, "patriotic" mob peer-pressure & bursts of nationalist fervor), fun male-bonding scenes, wonderful light romance and comedy, and finally, compelling and often very realistic scenes of warfare. The film is full of marvelous subtle allegorical references (eg, "mother knows best" comes to mind) and plays-on-words (the curse-rhyming soldier songs make one think of the title, which rhymes with the French-originated "charade"). I cannot praise this film highly enough for its modern story-structure and production values, which were eons ahead of the times.
I agree with the previous reviewer who said that the Big Parade does not best The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, primarily due to its later arrival, its more narrow theme, and the fact that John Gilbert was not Rudolph Valentino. But I do feel that in a funny way it completes what that film was trying to do; namely, by filling in its two greatest weaknesses: its reliance on silent melodrama and its lack of time dedicated to the actual horrors of fighting the Great War. Thus it is a perfect complement to that film.
As interesting trivia, both stars died shortly after the silent era came to a close, Gilbert of alcoholism/heart failure and Renée Adorée of tuberculosis. The actor who played Slim, a Dane, shot himself in the head after the talkie era had reduced him to selling hotdogs outside the studio, making his fate in the film all the more eerie...
on October 27, 2013
In today's era of excessive computer-generated special effects (a film falls short if it has less than multiple nuclear detonations and over the top explosions, fires and crashes, blood and gore) "The Big Parade" delivers its message with grace, dignity, emotion and reality. Today's film makers would do well to re-learn the art of film from King Vidor's deeply moving depiction of youth, patriotism, love lost and found amid the drama of WWI. I strongly recommend this production to anyone who is looking for the best in film entertainment.
on March 26, 2014
Nearly ninety years after this great silent picture was made, King Vidor's "The Big Parade" has lost none of its power. This is one of the finest films ever made irrelevant of whether it is a silent or a talkie. A long, always interesting and fascinating film which has been faultlessly restored by Thames Television and boasts a fine new score by Carl Davis to compliment the film's storyline.
King Vidor made many fine talkies but he will always be remembered for his great silent films. "The Big Parade" is a war film from the common man's viewpoint (based mainly on the true experiences of author Laurence Stallings) with the excellent John Gilbert portraying a wealthy layabout who is transformed into a doughboy, experiencing the mateship of his comrades and the love of a French girl while "living" through the horrors of trench warfare. Renee Adoree is wonderfrul as the French village girl and the chewing gum sequence between the two lovers is unforgettable. And who can forget Karl Dane, possessing some of the most remarkable facial expressions without ever becoming tiresome.
The war scenes have been staged brilliantly by Vidor and his team and the ending, with a heavy dose of mother-love and the reunion of Gilbert and Adoree will bring tears to your eyes.
This disc also contains a couple of shorts and an audio commentary by Jeffrey Vance, interlaced with segments of comments by Vidor from interviews he made many years ago. I did find the commentary a little too talky but opinions will differ as he does provide heaps of information. Sometimes silence can be golden as this great classic of the cinema verifies.
on December 8, 2013
For the silent film fan, it is truly fantastic to finally have this on DVD. The print is excellent and the music, by that genius of silent film scoring, Carl Davis, is worth the price alone. Of the 20-odd silent film scores that he composed, the release of this one (1988) has been particularly long overdue.
The film was one of the biggest smash hits of the whole silent era (1925) and one of director King Vidor's masterworks. It was also the favorite film of its star, John Gilbert. Gilbert was the last great idol of the era, so it's fitting that his greatest work is once again being made available to the public. Renée Adorée is also excellent as the female lead.
If the film has a flaw, it is that the combat scenes are weak. Vidor had the option of using professional military advice; he chose to ignore it. All Quiet On The Western Front, made just 5 years later, would forever change the perspective on staging and shooting battle sequences. But that is a minor complaint compared to the strength of the entire movie. It is silent storytelling at its best.
The blu-ray of "The Big Parade" looks amazing, considering the film is nearly 90 years old. This is a key silent film, directed by King Vidor, and the visuals are terrific - I couldn't help thinking that the battle scenes in All Quiet on the Western Front, and probably Paths of Glory (Ant Hill charge) and Platoon (final battle), were likely influenced by the battlefield images here - they look remarkably similar. The only flaw in the film (and i'm not sure if this was intended by Vidor) is that on some cross-cuts, when machine guns are firing, the marching troops don't seem to really react? Did infantry actually do this in WWI - just keep marching right into gunfire? Also - as an extra on here (in addition to commentary from a film historian plus some audio of King Vidor), there's an excellent 1925 silent feature showing MGM's backlot, and key directors (Von Stroheim, Tod Browning), stars (Shearer, Pitts, Gilbert) and execs (Mayer & Thalberg) - well worth watching, particularly if you live in Los Angeles/Culver City, as that lot is now where Sony Pictures is. Warner Brothers (who put this out) packaged the blu-ray in a nice book-package that has a lot of nice pictures, information, and a reproduction of the original movie program. Let's hope that they put "Greed" out SOON in a similar restoration/package??
on November 21, 2013
THE BIG PARADE was first introduced to me with a Laser Disc that was purchased. David Gill and Kevin Brownlow brought it back to prominence with their British theatrical and TV screenings with a Carl Davis score. Now the Blu-ray release enhances the experience in every way as the newly found camera negative has been used for this restoration -- and the results are stunning! This is one of the great films dealing when men and their experiences as soldiers and to have it restored and presented on Blu-ray is something to get excited about. We now have the opportunity to see WINGS, THE BIG PARADE, and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (both silent and sound versions) in amazing restorations.
on November 15, 2013
From the Silent Era comes one of the most highly considered films concerning World War I. It becomes very engrossing and you want to see it to the end. The characters are well-developed. The love triangle plot versus the WWI situation greatly adds to the interest. My emotions become quite aroused by the film. I think a good film does that. This is really a winner!
But a warning regarding any silent film, you HAVE to sit and watch every moment. You can't listen to it while you go to the refrigerator, although the music score is great!! Use the PAUSE button.