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The first Western epic! A great caravan of covered wagons, filled with hearty pioneers and their families and possessions, are waiting for the Spring jump off at Westport Landing, now Kansas City. The time is 1848, and the destination is far-off Oregon, in The Covered Wagon (1923), the first big-budget Western epic. Where countless pilgrims fell, a love triangle flourishes, as Molly Wingate (Lois Wilson) must choose between the brutish Sam (Alan Hale) and the dashing Will (J. Warren Kerrigan). Complicating her decision are the perils of the trail: a mile-wide river, prairie fire, heavy snowfall, a buffalo stampede, crippling hunger, and Native American attacks. Boasting a cast of thousands and an unparalleled commitment to authenticity, The Covered Wagon was an enormous box-office success in 1923 and became one of the major milestones in the history of the Western.
-Audio commentary by Film Historian Toby Roan
-Booklet essay by film scholar Matt Hauske
-The Pie-Covered Wagon: a 1932 one-reel spoof starring Shirley Temple
-Wurlitzer organ score by Gaylord Carter
-Reversible Blu-ray Art
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while the film was fascinating as the 1st epic western the print used for the blu-ray was not restored/remastered first.
why do video companies insist in releasing blu-ray discs of classic silent films without restoring/remastering them
before they do the HD transfer?
The look of the film is breathtaking, with both cinematography and scenery providing the film with epic grandeur. Action sequences are well staged and Cruze manages to elicit effective performances from his cast. A love triangle develops as Molly Wingate (Lois Wilson) must chose between brutish Sam Woodhull (Alan Hale) and dashing Will Banion (J. Warren Kerrigan). Complicating her decision are the many perils of the trail — a mile-wide river, prairie fire, heavy snowfall, a buffalo stampede, hunger, and Indian attacks. Featuring a cast of thousands, “The Covered Wagon” was a box office hit and became a major milestone in the history of the Western.
A drawback is the film’s pacing, which tends to be sluggish in its second half. After a spectacular beginning, with impressive visual compositions and a feel of authenticity, the film slows. The film, based on historical fact, is based on a story by Emerson Hough written for The Saturday Evening Post.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release include a Wurlitzer organ score by Gaylord Carter, audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan, booklet essay by film scholar Matt Hauske, and the one-reel 1932 spoof, “The Pie-Covered Wagon,” starring Shirley Temple.
Many thanks to Kino for this DVD release!
It has an air of authenticity, An early example of a High Budget Epic. The wagons were genuine
Pioneer vehicles that made the trip from east to west driven by their Family's Descendants.
It is unfortunate many people seem to have forgotten about this wonderful film that shows us
at a slower pace of yesteryear the mindset of the trailblazers who helped build our great nation.
It is good on VHS, and should Be a Candidate for a modern digital restoration as I understand
the original elements are still owned by the Paramount Studios of Today. Let's see it in HD!
"The Covered Wagon" as a film has only a few flaws, not enough to distract from a well-done story:
At times, there's too many intertitles, especially in the first half-hour.
Transfer may be from two sources, one of which is somewhat blurry looking.
The buffalo hunt includes less than 20 of the critters (they were still scarce in the 1920s).
The limp carcass of a horse is rolled off a cliff to simulate a wounded animal falling to its death; an unnecessary, gratuitous and unrealistic stunt.
Everything else is good-- a great cast (particularly Alan Hale as the villain) and over a hundred vintage Conestogas take us on a journey across the Great Plains to where the two wagon trains split: one heads north to Oregon and fertile farmland, the other south to the California gold fields. Along the way the settlers encounter teachery from within and without. A love triangle is used very effectively, and there's a few interesting peripheral characters, like the legendary mountain man Jim Bridger, and Will Jackson, a grizzled yet lovable sidekick to our hero, Will Banion.
Ably directed by Mormon-raised James Cruze, this is unfortunately one of the only examples of the director's 100 movies still in existence; the quality here makes the viewer want to see more of Cruze's work.
Also recommended to silent cinema fans is TUMBLEWEEDS (1925), an exciting story of the Oklahoma Land Rush which is also cowboy star William S. Hart's farewell movie. (VHS - SP mode).