King Vidor's silent war picture gets a seriously significant Blu-ray upgrade....
Warner / 151 Minutes / 1925 / Unrated / Street Date: October 1, 2013
Tonally, King Vidor's The Big Parade is all over the place, but this chameleonic presence innately proves the silent film's audacious boldness: even in the late 1920s, movies weren't supposed to be constructed like this. Vidor has been reassessed very prominently among modern critics - many hold him with the same high-caliber esteem they have for F.W Murnau and Fritz Lang - and Blu-rays like this one prove why this is the case. It may not be an implicitly memorable film, but it's a fascinating endeavor to simply sit back and experience.
The epic WWI movie is pretty much broken up into two parts - the first is a rather jovial and light-hearted look at how the boys in battle handle themselves when they're not in harm's way. Guys jostle and joke, attempt to win the fancy of the fairer sex, wax eloquent about their personal dreams for the future - they're just normal guys thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Then Vidor's film takes a shockingly dark turn, throwing us into the battlefield with tremendous rigor and intensity.
This is my inner old-school movie geek speaking here: The Big Parade is a fine movie, but it's this Blu-ray edition that truly shines. Warner has given the film a red-carpet treatment that goes against the usual humdrum attention studios usually placate to their decades-old catalog titles. And the commentary track included here is even more fascinating than the movie's dramatic backdrop: fusing academic analysis with recordings from Vidor offering his thoughts on the moviemaking process, it's a deliriously illuminating peek inside the process of a cinematic style that, at the end of the silent era, was about to get completely reinvented.
Video: How Does The Disc Look?
For a ninety-year-old picture, The Big Parade looks quite fine on Blu-ray. Its 1.33:1 1080p transfer here is replete with missing frames, shaky handling, and instances of dirt and grime, but these elements are countered with excellent detail quality, solid contrast, and grain handling that lends the film a well-worn glow that really suits it.
Audio: How Does the Disc Sound?
There is also little room for complaint in terms of this DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track. Recreating a score written for the film in the 1980s, this lossless presentation sports dynamic fidelity throughout. It’s nice to see Warner pay attention to this facet of The Big Parade’s high-def debut.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
The screen-specific audio commentary here is really something. Film historian Jeffrey Vance offers his thoughts on the movie, which are lucid and intriguing, but what really astounds are the collection of audio recordings of interviews with director King Vidor. Between the two of them, this compilation track is an absolute must-listen for fans of the period.
Also here is a featurette – 1925 Studio Tour (32:00) – and the movie’s trailer.
It's not entirely fair to label The Big Parade a forgotten silent classic, but this Blu-ray release is still one of the finest catalog editions of 2013. The movie looks fantastic and comes with sensational bonuses. For cinema buffs not afraid to dig deep into the annals of silent films, this one's an easy title to recommend.