The West According to William Wyler (on Blu-ray and DVD)

Blu-ray The Great Outdoors 00

Artistic note: Red StarRed StarRed Starhalf red stargray star(3.5/5)


The story of a ship’s captain who ventures out West and only finds betrayal and jealousy on his way. As this reluctant hero finds himself caught up in a dangerous rivalry, he must resolve to save his own life and that of the woman he loves…

• Original title: The Big Country
• Media tested: Blu-ray
• Genre: Western
• Year: 1958
• Director: William Wyler
• Cast: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Charles Bickford, Alfonso Bedoya, Chuck Connors
• Duration: 2 h 46 min 56
• Video format: 16:9
• Cinema format: 2.35/1 (Technirama)
• Subtitling: French
• Soundtracks: DTS-HD MA 2.0 monophonic English, French
• Bonus: combo with Blu-ray and DVD of the film
• Bonus on Blu-ray: presentation of the film by Jean-François Giré (2022, 25 min 40) and Patrick Brion (2022, 11 min 31) – Directed by William Wylerdocumentary by Aviva Slesin (VOST, 1986, 55 mn 47) – Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and William Wyler talk about the film (VOST, 22 mn 47) – Fun in The Big Country narrated by Jean Simmons, relaxation on the set (VOST, 5 mn 14) – TV promo (VOST, 0 mn 58) – trailer (VO, 2 mn 56)
• Publisher: Sidonis Calysta

Art commentary

Filmed in the majestic landscapes of Arizona and California, The great outdoors is an epic western that is larger than life. It was directed by William Wyler, who had won the Palme d’Or at Cannes the previous year for another western, The Law of the Lord (1956), and who, the following year, will repeat in the grandiose by directing Ben Hur (1959) with Charlton Heston, one of the actors of the western The great outdoors. Adapted from a novel by Donald Hamilton (creator of fictional spy Matt Helm), The great outdoors was co-produced by William Wyler and Gregory Peck, which did not always simplify the relationship between them and the actor even left filming one day (see bonus). Excessively long – almost three hours – The great outdoors does not lack assets: the superb Technirama cinematography by Franz Planer, the catchy score by Jerome Moross (which William Wyler hated at first!), the picky but inspired staging by William Wyler and an exceptional cast. Alongside Gregory Peck in the role of James McKay, an eastern sailor who doesn’t want any trouble, the stars are numerous: Jean Simmons as a resolute schoolteacher (Julie) and Caroll Baker as a versatile heiress (Patricia ), Charlton Heston as a moderately likeable steward (Steve) and Alfonso Bedoya (who dies shortly after filming wraps) as a quaint stable attendant (Ramon). The Irreconcilable Patriarchs are superbly played by Charles Brickford (Major Henry Terrill) and Burl Ives (Rufus Hannassey), while Chuck Connors powerfully portrays the brutal Buck. Filming was not easy due to the complicated relationship between the filmmaker, reputed to be a perfectionist, and his actors and the incessant rewriting of scenes despite (and because of) the use of seven screenwriters. But the general opinion, actors and technicians, to shoot under the direction of William Wyler was an honor and an incomparable cinematographic experience: Charlton Heston willingly recognizes this, he who almost refused the role of the rough-hewn stage manager (see bonus). It will suffice to review The great outdoors to be convinced: certainly the action is too distended by secondary scenes not very relevant to the plot and by chatter that is not always necessary, but the film lacks neither panache (grandiose landscapes), nor intensity (combat at the fists of James and Steve, duel). As soon as it is released, the guaranteed public and commercial success will attest to the interest aroused by this classic story of clan struggle, based on various antagonisms: the interests of the breeders, the gap between the civilized non-violent city dweller and the brutality of the rustic cowboys. In The great outdoors, the extremely well nuanced psychological dimension of the various protagonists avoids any necessarily schematic Manichaeism and enriches the romantic adventures of this captivating story. Attractive.

Blu-ray The Great Outdoors

Technical Comment

Image : HD copy, after a slightly rough credits, the definition is excellent and the sharpness flawless on the details, fine and homogeneous silver texture, clean image without defect (shooting in 35 mm with Technirama camera with horizontal scrolling at the ratio 2.25/ 1, Master Format 4K restored), very good contrast with beautiful light areas on outdoor scenes, naturalistic calibration and colorimetry, realistic nuanced colors

His : monophonic English 2.0 mix, clear and balanced dialogues, no distortion or hiss, excellent dynamics which highlights the beautiful colorful score of Jerome Moross; VF 2.0 monophonic, clear, higher level than that of the VO, neat but dated dubbing and a bit metallic

Our opinion

Image : Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Stargray star(4/5)
Sound mixes: blue Starblue Starblue Starhalf blue stargray star(3.5/5)
Bonuses: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Stargray star(4/5)
Packaging: blue Starblue Starblue Stargray stargray star(3/5)

IMDb :

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The West According to William Wyler (on Blu-ray and DVD)