One of Hollywood's greatest directors teams with a cast of incredible screen legends for this bold,sweeping tale of a ship's captain who ventures west to find a hotbed of jealousy, hatred and dangerous rivalries. As the re... more »luctant hero is thrust into the maelstrom, he must summon all of his resolveto save not only his own life, but also the life of the woman he loves. Four-time Academy AwardÂ(r) winner* William Wyler directs this action-packed adventure that triumphs as "a work of art" (Motion Picture Herald). Starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, Chuck Connors and Burl Ives (in an OscarÂ(r)-winning** performance), this magnificently entertaining epic will take your breath away with unbridled suspense, exhilarating excitement and explosive drama on a grand scale.« less
Laurence H. (heinelg) from ROCKINGHAM, VA Reviewed on 12/30/2010...
I just love the acting and photography of this film. Real acting is when you can tell just what the character is thinking by the expression on his/her face and posture and there is more story told in the expressions and postures pf the actors than in the spoken dialog.
The magnificent landscapes in the background add immeasurably to the story and emphasize the "Big Country" theme. The shapes and colors of Blanco Canyon leading up to the final scenes are just gorgeous. If you see this film on TV in fullscreen instead of widescreen you are missing 70% of the film.
I rank this as the best western film I have ever seen.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Only rarely the t'wain shall meet....
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 08/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What we have here is a blood feud over water rights between two ranching families headed by Major Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford) and Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives), with school teacher Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons) caught in the middle. Directed by William Wyler with stunning cinematography by Franz Planer, we follow a narrative which involves the engagement of Easterner James McKay (Gregory Peck) to Terrill's beloved daughter Pat (Carroll Baker). Frankly, what he sees in her continues to elude my understanding. Some reviewers have dismissed this as a "B" movie but I do not. The quality of the acting (notably Ives's which earned him an Academy Award for best supporting actor) is outstanding. Although in what I guess could be considered a minor role as Steve Leech, Terrill's ramrod, Charlton Heston delivers a remarkably nuanced and controlled performance as does Chuck Connors as Buck Hannassey. This is much less a western than a study of two patriarchs (Terrill and Hannassey) who play a zero sum game to gain control of access to water on which they and their herds obviously depend. But there is something else at work in this great but (for whatever reasons) under appreciated film. Julie Maragon is quite willing to allow both patriarchs access to the water. That is not the core issue: rather, it is the conflict between the inflated egos of two proud and stubborn men who detest each other. For me, one of the most memorable scenes occurs when, just before dawn, McKay and Leech finally have it out. It is an awkward but inevitable and immensely effective fist fight, with much of it filmed as if we were observing it at a distance. Of course, the fist fight achieves nothing other than demonstrating that McKay is more of a "man" than Leech once thought. Before they begin throwing punches, McKay insists that no one know about their fight. Leech totally misunderstands McKay's reasons. Another memorable sequence of events focuses on Terrill and Hannassey as they slowly and carefully work their way through a canyon to their final confrontation. To repeat, theirs is a zero sum game except that neither wins. In these and other scenes, Planer's cinematography and Jerome Moross' music score blend effectively with the cast's superb performances under Wyler's direction. Why has The Big Country been under appreciated, if not totally ignored among western films? I have no idea. I really don't."
William Wyler's 'Anti-Western' Long, but Rewarding...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 07/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE BIG COUNTRY, the rocky collaboration of co-producers William Wyler and Gregory Peck, is a big, expensive deconstruction of the 'classic' western genre and values, placing an Eastern intellectual (Peck) in the midst of them, questioning their validity. The film's sheer size ultimately defeats director Wyler's goal, but what emerges is still a rip-roaring drama, with terrific performances by Oscar-winner Burl Ives, Chuck Connors, Charlton Heston, and Charles Bickford.
Eastern ship captain James McKay (Peck) arrives in a GIANT-like Western town to marry Patricia Terrill (Carroll Baker), whose father (Bickford) is a major landowner in the area. He immediately draws the ire of top hand Steve Leech (Heston) when he refuses to discard an Eastern-style hat (Leech obviously is Patricia's jilted lover, as well, setting the stage for an eventual physical confrontation between the two men). Patricia is beautiful, but shallow and temperamental, unlike her more mature, sensitive friend, schoolteacher Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons), and one wonders what McKay saw in her to make him propose!
En route to the Terrill ranch, McKay and Patricia are intercepted by a wild, acrobatic gang of cowboys, led by Buck Hannassey (Connors), son of the Terrill's mortal enemy and biggest rival, Rufus Hannassey (Ives). After a long chase/trick riding demonstration (punctuated by one of the film's many great musical themes, by composer Jerome Moross), Patricia's venomous reaction to Buck's escapades leads to McKay's being manhandled, roped, and roughed up, a bit. While McKay is forgiving, Col. Terrill (Bickford) uses the incident to invade the Hannassey ranch in force, and then ride into town, pistol-whipping Hannassey men (Buck hides to protect himself).
Thus begins McKay's education of 'The Way of the West', and his rebellion against it's traditions. He refuses to ride a wild old mustang in front of all the ranch hands and humiliate himself (the 'initiation' of the ranch), later breaking the stallion on his own. He navigates the huge Terrill estate with a compass, then refuses to publicly fight the disbelieving Leech, who'd led a search party to find him (McKay later takes Leech on, before dawn, when there would be no audience, then questions what purpose the fistfight served...an act that forces Leech to consider how trivial and out-of-kilter his way of life is). He refuses to endorse the Terrill/Hannassey feud, but buys the 'Big Muddy', a water-rich property, owned by Julie, which both sides covet, offering the water to everyone (which costs him Patricia's hand).
McKay's intellect and compassion reveals just how petty and bigoted both Col. Terrill and Rufus Hannassey are, but like two aging bulls, the pair inevitably march towards a deadly showdown by the film's climax, as futile and meaningless as McKay and Leech's earlier brawl. A 'Blood Feud' must be settled in blood, even when common sense proves it ridiculous.
Epic in scope, with the Wyler 'style' clearly evident in pacing and characterization, THE BIG COUNTRY may have misfired as an 'Anti-Western', but is still an entertaining, engaging production, and certainly deserves a place in any film fan's collection."
If you love Westerns, you'll love this one now on 16:9 DVD!!
forrie | Nashua, NH United States | 03/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"MGM's Western Legends Series presents William Wylers (Director of BEN-Hur) 1958 epic western classic "The Big Country". Now on DVD presented in WideScreen and enhanced for WideScreen HDTV's (16:9) format. This DVD is beautifully presented with the huge panoramtic display of "The Big Country".This western was overshadowed in the late 1950's by the new "Rebel Without A Cause" youth gendre films.Now we can recapture this 165 minute WideScreen western epic in the home on this fabulous DVD. Perfect script, magnificent photography, superb musical score, masterful direction of William Wyler & a brilliant ensemble cast providing all the elements for a great story. Lead by Gregory Peck - at his best, Jean Simmons - beautiful & intelligent, Charleton Heston - excellent Peck nemesis, Carrol Baker - rich & spoiled, Burl Ives - strong & rough (Oscar Winner - Best Supporting Actor), Chuck Connors - outstanding villian & Charles Bickford - arrogant & vane.Summary: An Eastern Sea Captain / Dude (Peck) with a high moral code arrives in "The Big Country" to marry spoiled rich girl (Baker). Immediately he discovers he is in the middle of a range & water rights war against two feuding families, the Terrills (Bickford, Baker & hired foreman Heston) vs the Hannasseys (Ives & Connors). A local school teacher (Simmons) holds the deed & control of the water rights in "The Big Country". Who will get control of the water & will Peck be able to maintain his high morale ethical code? We journey throughout this epic western captured in the plot complexity & magnificent scenes discovering these answers & lots more. A great family film. This is when Hollywood provided us with all the key ingredients for a great story, including the classical happy ending. An epic western you'll enjoy over & over. This DVD has an excellent transfer of sight & sound. The only extra is a trailer. Enjoy."
The real western hero...
Jonathan M. Norberg | Grand Forks, ND | 07/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The main character in this movie is played by Gregory Peck, and he does a great job as usual. He doesn't really fit in with most of the West's standards, but in reality he does belong. His character is similar to John Wayne's in "The Quiet Man"--everyone expects him to go guns blazing at the slightest offense, but he is so confident in his own character, that he refuses. And that's what makes him sooo cool. Charlton Heston plays the typical cowboy full of the expected bravado, but you can see right through his shallowness.
Hooray for a different western. A HUGE production (the name kind of indicates that), this is a very enjoyable film with lots of recognizable stars and some good action. I've always thought Jean Simmons was beautiful too, so there's a great heroine to go along with the great hero.
If you like westerns, Gregory Peck, or sprawling epics you will like this film!"
ONE OF GREGORY PECKs MOST NOBLE PERFORMANCES
gobirds2 | New England | 06/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think Peck's best performance was in 1958s THE BIG COUNTRY. THE BIG COUNTRY is based on Donald Hamilton's novel of the same name. Gregory Peck plays the central character named James McKay. McKay was a sea captain who looked and acted like something of a dandy as he relocated out west from back east to marry his fiancée. McKay was a man who had nothing to prove to anyone but himself. I read the novel. Gregory Peck is James McKay. Peck chose this project and co-produced it because I think he recognized that particular character in the novel that mirrored his approach to many of the roles he chose. There are wooden people in everyday life. What is behind the wooden veneer? I think that a good actor takes the roles that work best for them. Look at Peck's performance as Lewt in DUEL IN THE SUN. That is not one of Peck's typical performances. I wonder after all these years what Peck's critique would be to his performance in that film. If you do watch THE BIG COUNTRY I think that Peck actually makes very subtle references to his performance in DUEL IN THE SUN with his awkward attempt at humor, which is consistent with the character of James McKay. THE BIG COUNTRY is one of America's greatest films. It is blessed with one of the finest scores ever written for an American film. What composer Jerome Moross gave us was true Americana as well as music in the Western genre. This score captures the spirit of what made America great. America is made up of different people and different ideals. Charlton Heston as Steve Leech, in what I think was also his best role and performance, showed us an overly assertive male quality. When he finally confronts McKay he comes away with a self-realization about his own motivations and what being a man really means. Later when put to the test he is truly torn for the first time between good sense and loyalty to the selfish and tyrannical Maj. Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford). Only the viewer can draw a conclusion on his actions. The pivotal music by Jerome Moross in this scene will tear your emotions apart. Burl Ives as Rufus Hannassey won an Academy Award for his role. For me he was the most enigmatic character in this film. Is he as tyrannical as his nemesis Henry Terrill is or not? I am still perplexed. Another good performance in this film was by Chuck Connors as the tragic Buck Hannassey. Chuck Connors as an actor deserved infinitely more recognition than he ever got and this film proves it. This was not a film of black and white characterizations. There was a lot of gray. I saw this film in the theatre when I was a little kid when it first got released. It is very strong on imagery. My heart went out to Chuck Connors as Buck Hannassey in the finale and it still does when I watch it today. This is one of my ten or so favorite films. It is slow and deliberate. It is not flashy. The critics at the time were very wrong. It is a long movie yet there is not a wasted shot in it. It packs a greater emotional punch every time I watch it. The older you get, the more you can identify with it. I was lucky enough to see it the first time when I was very young. This is one of those rare films that offers something knew each time you watch it."