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: The Big Trail (1930)  ( 4600 )
cigar joe
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« : February 12, 2006, 10:00:04 AM »

This was on AMC yesterday morning (B&W 70mm) dir. Raoul Walsh. Epic big budget widescreen western shot in what was called "Grandeur" format. It was 32 year old John Wayne's debut film. He plays a scout (Breck Coleman) for the wagon train but he's also after the killers of his brother.

Its really got some beautiful epic sequences, a buffalo hunt, a wagon train river crossing, an indian attack, a blizzard crossing the Sierras. There is a lot of action going on behind the actors in there various scenes.  It has almost no closeups because of the format.  Wayne comes off a bit preachy in the dialog, its 1930 so what can you expect, but its hard to believe what you are hearing almost sounds like a form of "nationalistic" propaganda though inadvertantly I'm sure. If you'd have read any old grade school history book it would be much the same.

Anyway Breck gets the wagon train to a wintery pass over the Sierra's when he discovers the two killers of his brother who make off in the blizzard/snowstorm. Breck keeps to his word that he will get the train to Oregon and then go after the killers, which he does, but how he can pick up any trail days later in a blizzard where the snow will fill the tracks of the killers is a bit of far fetched story telling. Anyway he does and goe back to the girl he met on the wagon train.

Anyway, from the Western Encyclopedia by Farben, it was a flop because there weren't many screens that could show a widesceen film at the time. And Wayne would have to wait 9 years for another starring role.

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« #1 : February 12, 2006, 10:14:31 AM »

Turner Classic shows this from time to time. I hope AMC didn't cut anything out.......the scene where the wagons are lowered over the cliffs by rope is great.

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« #2 : February 19, 2006, 06:02:45 AM »

I've got the UK Fox Studios edition of this film and I really like it. However I would like it even more if I could see the MOMA restored version of The Grandeur Version.

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« #3 : June 30, 2008, 04:20:17 PM »

The proper version was recently released on DVD. I have to pick this up ASAP!

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« #4 : August 17, 2008, 05:43:40 PM »

The ultimate wagon trail movie.
Not saying much though.
Despite that it looks beautiful, there isn't much to this movie.
The camera is planted in a certain position (usually resulting in great compositions) and the actors come in a say their terrible lines.
The movie resembles more a stage play than a movie. The closest we get to a close up is the camera cutting off half a torso of the talent.

3/10 for the "restoration".
You can still see an abundance of lines, scratches, dirt, grain and pubic hair litter the screen.
And the audio? PAH!

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« #5 : March 02, 2010, 11:24:26 AM »

Sure, as mentioned in the previous posts there's a couple of outstanding scenes but I found it extremely hard to watch. Didn't like the preaching, there's very little camera work, the story's lean, the lines are mostly dull and the characters exaggerated. It's raw, there's some beauty in it but I just don't see anyone that doesn't have a special preference for Westerns sitting through (more than) 2 hours of this. Nevertheless: must have been quite an experience to see this in the theaters back in the early 30s, I give Raoul Walsh that.

5 (maybe 6) out of 10

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« #6 : November 14, 2011, 12:01:31 AM »

I loved this. From beginning to end. Amazing how it was shot almost entirely outdoors. I thought that in 1930 they didn't have an audio recording system easily adaptable outside of studio facilities. The story isn't anything original, yes, like almost every western story. But it is well developed (see the love story, not an hindrance to the plot development: BTW, Marguerite Churchill is lovely), the pace is perfect, some sequences astonishing (best rivercrossing filmed). There something that doesn't click and that is, guess what, John Wayne. Long and curly haired and with an atrocious white clean suit he's not Wayne yet and he doesn't know how to play him. So I give this 8\10. BTW, the french dvd I saw has no 70mm format and it's 103' long.

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« #7 : November 14, 2011, 02:25:38 AM »

So far the 122 min 70 mm version was only released on the US DVD. I have also seen only the 35 mm version (108 min) which was shot parallel to the 70 mm version, and should contain scenes not to be seen in the longer version. And of course different angles and a lot of different takes. So the real Wayne aficionado has to watch both versions.
There were also simultaneously foreign language versions shot with completely different casts (French, German, Italian, Spanish). I don't know if the German version has survived, which is reported to have a 103 min runtime.

Other runtimes, which are maybe wrong, are 155 or 158 min for the 70 mm version and 126 min for an integral 35 mm version.

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« #8 : April 24, 2014, 07:35:25 AM »

just saw this for the first time, on TCM. Lots of vertical lines throughout the movie, otherwise the image looked pretty good.

There are too many times where the wagons are stopped and then there are long scenes of everyone yapping and yapping. There should have been much less dialogue. There was no big action scene - just a shootout with circled wagons; it would have been nice if they had a big chase or something, but I guess I can't expect a camera to move in 1930.
That guy with his mother-in-law is the one bit that I found excruciating.

As someone mentioned above, the scene where they are roping down the cliff is amazing. I find the intertitles silly (could filmmakers still not believe the silent era was OVER?  ;) )

As for Wayne: (CJ said he was 32, he was actually 23  ;) ) his dialogue sounds a bit monotone-like, sounds kinda like he is reading off a paper, definitely doesn't feel like a natural performance, but it's not bad, you can tell the guy has talent.

The film has a very real feel - as Scott Eyman, who presented it on TCM said, it feels almost like a documentary, like matthew Brady photographs. I'll say it's interesting for any Western fan to see once, but I wouldn't ever see it again.  I'd give it a max of 7/10

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