Rupert Pupkin Speaks: THE BIG PARADE on Blu-ray ""

Monday, September 30, 2013


One of my biggest shames as a cinephile is that I often find myself struggling to engage with silent film dramas. Comedies I am fine with and I adore, but dramas are tough for me for some strange reason. I think the last one I was able to align myself with was THE CROWD, which is fitting as that is another great King Vidor silent. In this interview clip, Vidor himself talks about THE CROWD and that it was just a "succession of the dynamics life of that period".

In his description of how he came to the story/approach for that film it is easy to see how he in turn chose to tell the story of THE BIG PARADE in a similar way. I think this is why his silent dramas are the ones I am able to connect with the best. The idea of using one guy's perspective seems a really is an obvious choice now perhaps, but it works. In PARADE, Vidor takes it from the point of view of one man(John Gilbert, who is pretty fantastic here) and follows him through his enlistment, going overseas, bonding with some working class fellas(he himself comes from a rich family) and meeting a cute French girl. This covers about the first three quarters of the movie to that point it felt like something of a propaganda piece to me. But then comes the real war stuff. The battle scenes in the film, though they are only a short portion of it are actually quite harrowing. I can only imagine how this film must have impacted audiences in 1925 as it was perhaps the earliest depiction of the "horrors of war" on screen. It really breaks down into terrifying chaos during the battle sequences and that shifts the whole film into new thematic territory. Apparently, the film was banned in Australia at the time because it was seen only as American propaganda, which is unfortunate. Taken as a whole, it is a simple, powerful film that packs quite a punch even today.

There are "movies"(entertainments) and then there are MOVIES(important pieces of beauty captured on film). THE BIG PARADE is certainly in the latter category. It is certainly among the great silent films ever produced.

The restoration of the film that was done glows brightly through this Blu-ray transfer. Apparently it's a 4K transfer from the rediscovered original camera negative. Since this movie had been mostly relegated to TV airings, this transfer will be pretty mind blowing to a lot of folks who are formerly familiar with the movie. Also included on the disc is an enlightening commentary track by Historian Jeffrey Vance with director King Vidor himself! Plus, as with many digibook packages, this one also comes with a lovely 64-page book with comprehensive notes by Historian Kevin Brownlow, rare original art, photos and advertising materials. A wonderful set for the classic film collector for sure.

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