John Wayne is brave scout leading an enormous wagon train of settlers through hostilecountry to their promised land. All the expected trappings of the western epic are present andcorrect: cliffs, storms, battles, stampedes, the works. The western was already very wellestablished as a genre by the time of this 1930 release, having flourished during the silent periodas well, but here is where Wayne comes to prominence. Due the film’s lack of success (becauseof an early widesc…een process that was rejected by most theatres), Wayne’s rise to superstardomhad to wait for Stagecoach, but still, The Big Trail was there first.
The sound is in 2.0 and the original mono, and for a 1930 remix, the stereo isn’t bad. Theopening and transitional music sounds fine (within the limits of how faithful any soundreproduction from that period can be). The “surround voices” effect is less severe than in someremixes, though there is still noticeable buzz coming from the rear speakers. There is nobackground music, due to The Big Trail appearing so early in the era of sound pictures, and so beprepared to adjust to this absence, as it can make the movie seem somewhat stodgy.
A decent print, though far from perfect. The grain is variable, from virtually none to the quitenoticeable. The flicker is constant and at times quite strong. There is some damage in the openingshots, which then disappears, but scratches and speckles do return from time to time. The imageis sharp, though, and I’ve seen far worse prints of films from 1930. My more serious reservationconcerns the ratio. The fullscreen aspect is the correct version for this print, but the movie wasone of the first attempts at widescreen, and there has been a restoration of that version of thefilm. It is a shame, then, that this is not the version released on DVD.
Nothing beyond trailers for North to Alaska, The Comancheros and The Undefeated.
Not the ideal version of this film, and not a perfect transfer. Not a bad one, however, and stillhistorically significant.