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The Big Trail

Special Edition


4.5 out of 5 stars 189 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(May 13, 2008)
Special Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A young pioneer leads the first covered wagon train west on the Oregon Trail. Directed by Raoul Walsh.

Additional Features

In addition to being a good movie, The Big Trail is, in and of itself, a great story. Take the 70mm Grandeur process with its still-breathtaking widescreen images, the celluloid equivalent of two conventional 35mm frames side-by-side. Studio mogul William Fox owned the process and envisioned a grand triumph for his company. Just the opposite occurred: the 70mm prints could be shown only on projectors designed for that purpose, only two theaters in America had them, and the onset of the Depression forestalled exhibitors from considering such an investment. (Mostly the film was seen in the standard 35mm version shot more or less simultaneously with the wide version--and included in this set.) Fox also took a hit because of the picture's immense scale. As a short on The Making of 'The Big Trail' recounts, the production used locations in five states and employed some 20,000 extras, 500 buffalo, 725 Indians from several tribes, 185 wagons, 22 cameramen, etc. Moreover, because sound-film technology was new, separate versions of the film were being made with different leading players for release in Italian-, Spanish-, and German-speaking markets! Total cost: $2,000,000--and that's in 1930 dollars, remember.

Not a lot of that went to the star. The former Duke Morrison, newly renamed John Wayne, had previously been prop man on some 80 Fox pictures and played a few bits and small parts, notably for director John Ford; on The Big Trail he drew $75 a week. The Creation of John Wayne sets forth all this, as well as a biographical sketch of the youth from Winterset, Iowa, by way of Glendale, Calif. The short also notes that Ford was miffed that a rival director, Raoul Walsh, would give his (Ford's) protégé a premature shot at stardom; Ford effectively dropped Wayne, leaving him to languish in B pictures for nearly a decade till casting him in Stagecoach. The film also cost its director. Raoul Walsh: A Man in His Time salutes him as "probably the greatest underrated American director," the "most authentic Westerner" among the genre's classic directors, and a more versatile entertainer than Ford. Walsh, who claimed to have "learned everything from D.W. Griffith" (for whom he played John Wilkes Booth in The Birth of a Nation), enjoyed A-list standing on the basis of his silent-film career, and he had a free hand on The Big Trail--among other things, improvising the remarkable (and never equaled) sequence of the wagon train being lowered by rope down the St. George, Utah cliffs. But the film's box-office failure reduced him to cranking out (often lively) formula fare for most of the 1930s, till landing at his proper home, Warner Bros., in 1939. The 70mm version of The Big Trail is accompanied by commentary from historian and Time film critic Richard Schickel. Although given to condescension, Schickel has a sympathetic understanding of the technical limitations of early-sound filmmaking, Wayne's neophyte status, the beauties of Walsh's boisterous spirit and style, and the distinction between convention and cliché. However, somebody really should point out to him which of the cast members is Ward Bond. --Richard T. Jameson

Special features


Product details

  • Actors: John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, El Brendel, Tully Marshall, Tyrone Power Sr.
  • Directors: John Cork, Lisa Van Eyssen, Louis R. Loeffler, Raoul Walsh
  • Writers: John Cork, Florence Postal, Hal G. Evarts, Jack Peabody
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dubbed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 189 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B0014BJ1A4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,848 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
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  • Learn more about "The Big Trail (Two-Disc Special Edition)" on IMDb

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