The Big Trail

Dir: Raoul Walsh. 1930. Starring: John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill. English. U.S. Western.

On the eve of the Depression, studio and theater owner William Fox decided that something new was needed in film exhibition. So he created Fox Grandeur – the first 70mm widescreen projection system. The process used to sometimes mind-boggling effect in The Big Trail, Raoul Walsh’s early sound Western.

The feature supplied the first starring role for the unbelievably young John Wayne, who plays Breck Coleman, a scout who signs on to lead a wagon train of settlers from Missouri to the Pacific Northwest. Along the trail, he romances a comely pilgrim (Marguerite Churchill), is menaced by a trio of deadly baddies (Tyrone Power, Sr., Charles Stevens, and Ian Keith), and faces perils ranging from a tribe of hostile Indians to the raging elements.

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Posted by:
Chris Morris
Jun 2, 2008 5:54pm

The Proposition

Dir: John Hillcoat, 2005. Starring: G. Pearce, R. Winstone, D. Huston, E. Watson, D. Wenham, and J. Hurt. Westerns.

The Proposition is story of a lawman (Winstone) down under that gives a career killer (Pearce) the chance to save his little brother from the gallows if he can find his older brother (Huston) and execute him.

Written by musician Nick Cave of Bad Seeds fame, the script is brutal, authentic and filled with fantastic period dialogue. Every character is brilliantly realized - no true heroes or absolute villains - just multi-dimensional people wrapped up in a tragic place. Cave and Warren Ellis provide the film’s score with is a glorious mixture between primal sounds of the native culture, mixed with contemporary instruments.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Mar 20, 2009 5:52pm

The Wild Bunch

Dir: Sam Peckinpah, 1969. Starring: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates. Westerns.

The Wild BunchAs the western genre in America became more and more watered down by television, Sam Peckinpah singlehandedly turned the western on its head; his The Wild Bunch shocked 1969 audiences with its almost apocalyptic, misogynistic, and violent vision of a dying era. By today’s standards The Wild Bunch is still a nihilistic masterpiece. The action and graphic carnage on screen are still staggering and utterly exciting. And along with Battleship PotemkinPsycho, and Bonnie and Clyde, it’s still one of the gold standards for incredible cutting-edge editing of violence and death. The film is bookended by two of the best pieces of choreographed mayhem ever put to screen where the Bunch engage in shootouts so violent and intense that the film got an X rating then and even got an NC-17 rating when it was re-released in the ‘90s (both ratings were negotiated down by the studios). The editing and mix of film speeds, including slow motion, have been ripped off and become a standard in operatic action scenes since—just check out all of John Woo’s best (Hong Kong) films; they’re direct grandchildren of The Wild Bunch.

The legend of director Sam Peckinpah has taken on mythical proportions; he was a man out of time, a hard drinkin’ visionary with a death wish. One fact is definitely true: he was an ex-TV western director trying to find a place in features. His Ride the High Country was considered a little gem while the financial disaster and critical drubbing of Major Dundee almost ended his film career (a half-ce...

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Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Dec 14, 2011 4:58pm
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