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New on Disc: 'The Big Trail' Blu-ray and more …

11 Jun, 2012 By: Mike Clark

The Big Trail (Blu-ray)

Available exclusively at Walmart
Fox, Western, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, Tyrone Power.
It took a while before critics, historians and other future revisionists re-looked at this Oregon Trail epic and saw that it is, in fact, among the most impressive of all early talkies. In fact, the movie probably has no peers when it comes to approximating the feeling of what wagon train travel must have been really like at the time — if, that is, you make sure to see the almost impossibly panoramic “Grandeur” version of Trail that was restored in the 1980s from a surviving 65mm negative and reproduced onto a 35mm fine grain master. Like Stagecoach, this is a revenge saga, at least in so far as John Wayne’s character is concerned. Cast as a well-liked trapper, the young Wayne (22 here, if you can imagine it) is bent on getting the guys who killed his best friend — and by convenient coincidence, they all end up as part of the wagon train’s procession.
Extras: Critic Richard Schickel’s commentary and a slew of informative featurettes on Wayne, director Raoul Walsh, the Grandeur filmmaking process and the film’s restoration have been transferred from the old two-disc DVD to this combo Blu-ray/DVD release. As one of the interviewed historians notes, there are scenes here that you just don’t see in any other Western — including the showstopper where settlers (complete with their own pulley system) lower not just cabinets or dressers but livestock down a treacherous cliff.
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Summer With Monika

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Harriet Andersson, Lars Ekborg.
Though time has been kind to a lot of early works from Ingmar Bergman, here’s a case — judging from a brief interview excerpt of the writer-director included as part of this dependably sterling Criterion release — where the filmmaker concurred that what materialized from a secluded island shoot still pleased him more than 40 years later. Even in its own day, however, Monika upped Bergman’s standing, if perhaps not to the degree of subsequent triumphs that kept shooting him to new 1950s plateaus. Harriet Andersson offers a dead-on portrayal in Monika of what some would call a free spirit — though both her character and that of her equally young lover (Lars Ekborg as Harry) are mired in Stockholm working-class living conditions that anyone would be crazed to flee.
Extras: Also included are a long informative essay by film scholar Laura Hubner; a Bergman publicity or promotional piece from ’53; a 1958 review by Jean-Luc Godard; and a delightful 24-minute interview of Andersson by the formidable Peter Cowie — conducted earlier this year and showing the actress to be (at 80) sharp and still remarkably attractive. And completely unexpected is the 30-minute inclusion of Bergman on-the-set home movies of his acting stock company over many productions.
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The Lawless

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell.
Welcome to another familiar story hook about a white guy of community standing coming to the rescue of an oppressed minority — in this case, a Hispanic migrant worker speciously accused of sundry offenses, including the assault of a young, Caucasian California woman. This was director Joseph Losey’s second of five Hollywood features before fleeing to England in permanent blacklist exile.
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