The Big Country
by Ruben R. Rosario
Now available on Blu-Ray from MGM Entertainment.
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William Wyler’s The Big Country is an epic western that demands to be seen on Blu-Ray. Shot in glorious Techinirama in 1958, boasts some very impressive visuals and one of the most iconic film scores in cinema history. The film follows James Mckay (Gregory Peck), a young man from New England that comes to the West to be with his new fiance, Patricia Terrill (Carroll Baker). Shortly after arriving, he is caught between an old feud, between his future father-in-law Henry (Charles Bickford) and Rufus Hannassy (Burl Ives). Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons) is right in the middle of the feud, due to the land that she owns and has everyone fighting for it. Epic in scope and grandeur, The Big Country is a fantastic film by Wyler and is a regarded as an American classic, with very good reason.
On Blu-Ray, The Big Country looks astonishing and holds up really well. While on paper, this film could be played out a melodrama, set in the west, with a bit of action and romance to add some spice. With Wyler’s compositions though, the film is elevated into a into a much grander scale and tells such a bigger story. Whether it’s a vast field of grass to horses riding through a canyon, the films look is surely to astonish anyone watching it on Blu-Ray. Everyone’s performances, to Gregory Peck’s McKay to Charlton Heston’s Leech are all top notch and there’s not a single weak performance in the film. Burl Ives won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and it is deservedly so for his performance as the head of the Hannassy house hold. His entrance to the Terrill home and his monologue on the nature of their long standing feud can give one goosebumps and is an absolute sight to behold.
The video on the Blu-Ray of The Big Country is presented in an full HD 1080p, AVC encoded track with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. With the film being shot on Technirama, which shoots the film horizontally, it lends itself to looking fantastic in HD. There’s little to no grain in the picture and everything is very sharp and clear in the image of the film. The saturated colors look very much alive, especially during the engagement party scene at the Terrill home. The only problem I noticed was a few times in the film, there was an odd flickering during some of the wide exterior shots that would make something move around on screen. It was very distracting, but nevertheless, didn’t distract me enough from the film overall.
The audio on the Blu-Ray is a DTS-HD Master 2.0 mix, that was converted up from the original mono mix. The dialog, score and overall mix is really good and the only problem with it is that the original mix of the film isn’t as large as the image of the film. Jerome Moross’ original score of The Big Country is iconic and even if people have never seen the film, they’d probably recognize it from some sort of commercial or another pop culture reference.
The Big Country is an American classic in every sense of the word. With everything that Wyler sets out to accomplish in this film, it is easy to see him do Ben-Hur right after. Great performances, stellar cinematography and a memorable score that make this Blu-Ray, Highly Recommended!
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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