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The Big Trail

USA 1930
produced by
Winfield R. Sheehan for Fox Film
directed by Raoul Walsh
starring John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, Tyrone Power sr, Ian Keith, Charles Stevens, Tully Marshall, David Rollins, Frederick Burton, El Brendel, Louise Carver, Ward Bond, Marcia Harris, Emslie Emerson, Alphonse Ethier, William V.Mong, Jack Peabody, Russ Powell, Marjorie Leet, Helen Parrish, Dodo Newton, DeWitt Jennings
screenplay by Marie Boyle, Jack Peabody, Florence Postal, based on a story by Hal G.Evarts

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A wagontrain is supposed to bring settlers to Oregon, and Breck Coleman (John Wayne), trapper, expert knifethrower and a friend of the Indians, is asked to be the its scout, but he turns the offer down because he wants to track down the killers of his best friends. Only when he finds evidence that the wagontrains guide Flack (Tyrone Power sr) is leading the wagontrain does he reconsider.

Soon enough it becomes evident that Flack and his friends, the crooked trapper Lopez (Charles Stevens) and the gambler Thorpe (Ian Keith) are up to no good, even if they competently lead the wagontrain - but they also make attempts on Breck's life (unsuccessfully of course), and Thorpe desperately tries to get friendly with Breck's sweetheart Ruth (Marguerite Churchill) - and with some success too, because she doesn't completely trust Breck.

During all of these goings on the treck travels through rivers and deserts, over cliffs (in one of the film's most memorable scenes), is attacked by Indians, gets stuck in mud and finally almost comes to a standstill in snowy mountains.

Eventually, Thorpe makes another attempt on Breck's life and is almost successfull, too, but is int he last moment shot by Breck's faithful sidekick Zeke (Tully Marshall). Flack and Lopez try to put the blame for the shooting on Breck, but fail, and when they fail they realize their days are numbered with the treck, and they make a hasty escape through the snow.

Breck, who always brings everything to an end, brings the treck to its destination, but as soon as it's there, he tracks the two badmen down through the snow, finds Lopez already frozen to death and finally hurls his lethal knife towards Flack ...

Ultimately, Breck rejoins the settlers and is welcomed by Ruth with open arms.

 

After nothing more than a few bitparts (mainly in John Ford-films, interestingly), this was John Wayne's debut as a leading man ... but unfortunately the film bombed. The reason was mainly that it was the first film shot in 70 milimeters and a new process called Grandeur, when hardly any exhibitors had the equipment to show films in Grandeur and hardly the means to update their equipment which they had just updated to sound very recently (remember, this film is from 1930, the first soudn film was made in 1927). So this film could have been John Wayne's breakthrough performance, instead it send him working in serials B-pictures for almost 10 years until his ultimate breaktrhrough with Stagecoach in 1939. Grandeur meanwhile was a system that was shelved again after this film.

 

Taken by its own merits though, the film is nothing short of breathtaking. Of course, the story - a blend of romance and vendetta-Western - is clichéd and was hardly inventive even then, but the backdrop of the treck to Oregon is nothing short of breathtaking, as director Walsh - to properly sell the new format - was allowed to work with hundreds of extras and dozens of wagons, and he uses some wide range shots that are nothing short of amazing toget them all into one picture, while at the same time including them in the action - like when they go through rivers or down the cliffs or build a corral when the Indians attack ... it shows how much money was involved on one hand, but also a great director at work on the other.

If you are in the least bit interested in (epic) Westerns, you simply have to see this film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Thanks for watching !!!

 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD