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The Big Country
The Big Country
Actors: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives
Director: William Wyler
Genres: Westerns, Drama
NR     2001     2hr 45min

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 »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives
Director: William Wyler
Creators: Gregory Peck, Donald Hamilton, James R. Webb, Jessamyn West, Robert Wilder, Robert Wyler, Sy Bartlett
Genres: Westerns, Drama
Sub-Genres: Westerns, Love & Romance
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/20/2001
Original Release Date: 10/01/1958
Theatrical Release Date: 10/01/1958
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 2hr 45min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: Spanish, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Laurence H. (heinelg) from BROADWAY, 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.

Movie Reviews

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 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."