Monday, January 23, 2012

Moments of Pure Cinema Fusion :: The Major Rides Alone in William Wyler's The Big Country (1958)

By definition, nuclear fusion is the process by which multiple like-charged atomic particles join together to form a heavier nucleus -- usually accompanied by the release of a massive amount of energy, depending on the elements involved. Applying that theory to film, there are certain moments in certain movies when the direction, cinematography, acting, editing, and soundtrack collide and merge into something I like to call Moments of Pure Cinema Fusion.

As the old joke goes, The Big Country proves just that since William Wyler was bound and determined to show us every. damned. square. inch. of it. Don't get me wrong, I love the movie. I love how Burl Ives steals it. I love how Chuck Connors almost steals it. I love Carrol Bakker and Jean Simmons natural beauty against that wide-open backdrop. And Jerome Moross' score ... well, that's just gravy. A kind of gravy that would make you consume your own head if it was covered in it. Case in point, here, as we barrel toward the climax in Blanco Canyon, with the feud between the Terrils and the Hannassey's about to explode in a hail of lead, after a sufficient lead in where reason is chucked clean out the window, things start to percolate around the 1:45 minute mark, and then reach a boil at about 2:45, with total fusion achieved at 3:07:

Video courtesy of le0pard13.

I swear, that look between Heston and Bickford could have vaporized glacial ice. Like I said. Love this movie!

Credit where credit is due: Directed by William Wyler; story by James R. Webb, Sy Bartlett, Robert Wilder; cinematography by Franz Planer; editing by Robert Belcher, John Faure; music by Jerome Moross; starring Charlton Heston, Charles Bickford.

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