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The Big Trail (1930)
A slice of history and a great modern film.
The only modern film technique that I can recognise not employed in this film is the use of steady-cam. So we are treated to wide-angle views and long shots of the most beautiful scenery and as close to the real thing as anyone will ever achieve without color. It's like time travelling back to the 1870's. It is remarkable in it's re-enactment of the great wagon trains journeys to the west with wide languorous shots of valleys filled with all the panoply of the train: the thousands of extras, thousands of cattle, the yelp of dogs and children amongst the chaos of the wagons as they move slowly, inexorably throwing up a pall of dust in the air: you can almost smell it. The historical detail can be taken for granted but just look at the clothes worn such as John Wayne's gorgeous buckskin suit which must have been hand made. And unlike many westerns I believe the Indians were actually Indians.
Another remarkable thing about this movie is in the detail of character development throughout the film. Sometimes almost nothing is happening except an observation of life on the trail and some marvellous portrayals of the characters who could have been on such a adventure.
This film should be required viewing for students of the American West.