on 22 June 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.
on 9 November 2004
Despite what a previous reviewer said this is a full length version. The running time is 160 minutes which is slightly shorter than the NTSC version because of PAL conversion, nothing is cut from this film. Perhaps people could see the film before reviewing it.
The mistake was made because the original packaging said 95 minutes, this mistake is repeated on the Amazon listing (and most others).
on 7 January 2013
Firstly, this US import Blu ray plays in the UK, I mention this as it is not clear on the UK Amazon listing that this disc is region free or at least playable in Europe.
The Big Country is an intelligent Western and when I first saw it way back in the late sixties I was too young to fully appreciate its maturity. I remember of course the rousing score by Jerome Morross and the vast landscapes. To view it again on my 42in LG tv in splendid Blu ray has been magical. NOTE: Do not be disappointed during the opening titles, for some reason these images have not been Blu ray'd, I dont know why. This does not spoil the experience when the majestic theme music sounds as beautiful as ever accompanying the thundering stagecoach.
When we then see the very first scene of the movie, the tiny town, the splendour of the Blu ray kicks in with sharp, dynamic colour and contrast. From then on the blu ray version is a visual feast. The Big country landscapes become even bigger and the larger your screen the more amazing it will look.
I refer you to other reviews and wikipedia for the plot.
The Big country is for me quite out on its own in the way it interprets a story of the American West in the 19th century.
It considers the struggles and dilemmas to maintain some integrity, morality and justice facing those settling in this huge expanse. It reveals alot of the personality of each of its main characters gradually and cleverly. Romance is very realistically handled as is the true value of love. Pride and honour eventually determine it's outcome. A destiny the viewer eventually realises was sadly the only fate deserved.
It really is unique in its genre due to how it drip feeds the viewer its engrossing saga. Even for those who may not grasp this aspect too well, the Big country is a wonderful cinematic sight, it is amongst a few movies which display brilliantly and conclusively the real meaning of the 'big screen', sweeping to its full width and depth the awesome panoramas of open country, their splendour ever present in a very big story. Enjoy, and make it Blu ray, you will be in the cinema!!!
on 8 June 2007
This is an unreservedly great film, in so many respects. Previous reviewers have made good points about it that need no repetition from me. What intrigues me is that The Big Country is a neglected piece of cinema (I think the Radio Times Film Guide makes this very point). It shows what an astonishingly good actor the late Gregory Peck was, a master of quiet understatement and dignity. I believe he was a co-producer of the movie, so it was something of a labour of love. Whether you view it as an allegory of the Cold War, i.e. the pointlessly destructive head-to-head belligerence of two giant opponents, or you see it as a a cracking good western, you can't be disappointed. I think what intrigues and impresses me above all is that the style of the film doesn't date at all. It looks as if it could have been made last year, not nearly fifty years ago, and in fact looks better than slightly later Western classics such as The Magnificent Seven. It just has a fresh feel about it and is one of very few films that I could watch over and over again (if I had the time..!|). There is subtlety and nuance in every frame and the pace doesn't flag. The plot is clever and not stereotyped. Oh yes, and Jerome Moross' fabulous music score is unforgettable. And the cinematography. Oh well, everything about it really. Fantastic film. Watch. Enjoy.
on 30 January 2014
I am happy to report that the new region-free Blu-ray version has just been released in the UK. It is a treat, with superb video, excellent resolution and wonderful sound quality, albeit somewhat attenuated. I just turned up the volume. There is no evidence (to my eyes) of the reported aspect ratio problem with the imported US version. A classic film with which every western fan will be familiar. Highly recommended!
on 13 September 2011
probably one of the greatest westerns (if not films) made. thoroughly enjoyed watching it (ive seen this 30 times at least) and there was a good leaflet included too which gave details on the story, and locations etc etc.
gregory peck is at his best in this playing jim mckay travelling hundreds of miles for the love of his life, pat terril, only to find things including his perfect romance are not what they seem. Burl Ives steals it for me though playing Mr Hennassy, his gatecrashing of jim and pats engagement party, was a great scene.
The rivallry between the terril family and henassys is very entertaining, and if like me you change your mind over who's side your're on. great acting, plenty of romance, drama and action, if anyone has not seen this film before, then watch it now!! its a classic. !
on 24 January 2012
One of the most memorable western movies I've seen especially on its release in London in real cinemas so long ago. This is a BIG film, a BIG story line with great actors and a soundtrack to die for which was consistently played on the radio of the day. Wholly enjoyable for its confidence, style, and exciting centrepieces. Why then........when so many inferior movies have been cleaned up, with digitalised images and soundtracks, is this DVD still available only in mono soundtrack and poorly defined images? It does it a great injustice. If ever a western needed a precise digitalised image and soundtrack this is it. William Wyler, Greg Peck, Jean Simmons, Chuck Connors and Chuck Heston deserve the very best of technical knowhow, and this isn't it.
on 30 August 2011
-> BLU RAY
Very solid picture+sound. Original aspect ratio.
Picture quality 8.5/10
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 orig.
Run time (24 fps): 2 46'54''
Audio: Engl. HD MA
ST: GB;E;F;D;I ; o/-
Bonus: Making of, Trailer, TV spot
Studio: 2oth Century Fox/MGM
on 25 September 2014
Classic film,about morality with an interesting story and characters. With what is going on in my live, have a lot of sympathy for the Charlton Heston character.
The blu ray itself is disappointing it plays the film and that's it. The advertised special features on pack of packaging don't exist, and it is not obvious how even to get language subtiles if needed them. Glad read a previous review, else would have thought something faulty with disk in opening titles. Even later in film in the open air scenes showing, ummm the big country, the picture quality isn't great compared to say Zulu. Indoor scenes very clear, and sound always good. They chould have made this product much better, but didn't make any effort.
on 12 April 2016
It's a credit to William Wyler, his actors, and his cinematographer that "The Big Country" (1958) is not straitjacketed by its extreme symmetry. There aren't many movies that are as diagrammatically set up as this one, and yet, there's plenty of life in it. Here's what I mean by symmetry: There are two warring families of cattlemen, each with its own ranch and range but both dependent for water on a third ranch, The Big Muddy, the owner of which allows both of the warring groups to water their cattle at the river. By doing so, she hopes to keep peace in the High Plains cattle country, even though she has no cattle of her own (she's a schoolteacher who inherited the land) and blunt the animosity between the two other ranchers. She is Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons), and not surprisingly she is under pressure to make over her land, by marriage or by sale, to one or the other of the two warring families. They are the Terrills (patriarch: Major Henry Terrill [Charles Bickford]) and the Hannasseys (patriarch; Rufus Hannassey [Burl Ives]). The Terrills are socially more refined than the Hannasseys, who have a bit of the wild Irish about them, and also the Terrills have the larger spread, and they want more. If the Major could persuade Julie to sell him Big Muddy, he could put the Hannasseys out of business. What's the issue between the families? A sense of superiority on the part of the Terrills is certainly part of it, and when we first see the Hannasseys in action in the movie, they seem a wild bunch indeed, as they humiliate James McKay (Gregory Peck), an ex-sea captain who has come out west to marry the Terrill daughter, Patricia (Carroll Baker), whom he met in Baltimore when she was visiting there.
But things aren't as clear-cut as they at first seem, and gradually McKay is disturbed by the Terrill sense of entitlement. McKay's rough handling by the Hannasseys he laughs off as horseplay, but the Major wants to make it a reason for a raid on the Hannassey ranch -- and the raid is carried out despite McKay's making it clear that he understands the Major as not doing this for him (McKay) but for himself. Patricia shares her father's attitude to the Hannasseys, and she is troubled by McKay's refusal to take umbrage at his treatment and later too by his refusal to fight publicly with Terrill's foreman, Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) when Leech calls him a liar. The most operatic moment in the movie comes at a party in honor of McKay's and Patricia's engagement, complete with music and dancing, when Rufus Hannassey stalks into the party, like Monterone in "Rigoletto," and accuses the Major of being no better than he is and deploring his attack on the Hannassey ranch at a time when all the men were out working. Burl Ives comes across in this scene as a figure of considerable moral rectitude, and it's clear that his accusations make an impression on McKay. It's only a matter of time before the engagement is terminated, and McKay steps into the role of peacemaker already occupied by Julie. HE buys the Big Muddy and makes it clear that, as with Julie, he will make water available to both. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'll say no more about the plot elements and how they are worked out in what is a quite long (2 3/4 hours) movie.
Obviously, as with so many Westerns, the issue of masculinity is at stake, and it's Patricia's view of her fiance's lack of it that in effect ends the engagement. The viewer, who sees things that Patricia doesn't see, knows better. The images of masculinity in McKay's generation are Leech (Terrill's son in all but name) and Buck Hannassey (Chuck Connors), Rufus's eldest son. In the movie, McKay is matched against both in very striking scenes. Both exhibit different kinds of macho intensity, and the performances of Heston and Connors are powerful and nuanced, in accordance with the good screenplay. The older generation are more conventional stubborn types but are given vivid life by Bickford and Ives. Carroll Baker's role is very conventionally conceived, and it's clear from the start that the match isn't a good one. Simmons's character, Julie, is the real soulmate of McKay, and though the movie ends before any sentimental declarations between them, it's clear where things are headed. It's clear too that McKay's demeanor eventually has its effect on both Buck and Leech. For a central character, Peck doesn't have a lot to say -- but his lines are carefully phrased and well-delivered. Peck makes sure that we see McKay as always alert and thoughtful, picking up on what's going on around him -- and a man of action when he has to be. It's an engaging and impressive performance.
I also liked that Wyler conceives the "big country" (the phrase becomes a kind of joke) in a way that doesn't invite comparison with John Ford's iconic images. Apart from a narrow canyon leading into the Hannassey ranch, it's flat, grassy country -- amber waves come to mind, and the seaman McKay is quite at home with its far horizons. It's beautifully filmed, and the score is, for want of a better word, "classic." The opening shots of fast moving horses' hooves and wagon wheels will remind you that Wyler's next movie was "Ben Hur." But this movie too is not without its epic sweep.