TV. The country is really huge and when filming it cinema's followed the necessary proportions, both plastic and dramaturgical. In fact, i do not remember liking a Wyler movie as much before, stripped of his usual filming rhetoric. The problem is to see such large country and film on a television's screen dimension.
William Wyler is frightening: 12 of his movies were nominated for the Academy awards and he won a Palme d'Or in Cannes. He is typically the kind of director you would love to despise because he seems so politically correct. Sorry, I can't. According to me, The Big Country deserves the masterpiece qualification as much as a Quentin Tarantino or John Cassavetes film. It's about fathers and sons. Indispensable.
Peck and Heston beating each other to a pulp in a series of la nuit américaine long shots, the silence of the soundtrack disarmingly savage in its own right, is strange and ruthless in a way that's beyond the 50s cycle of Westerns.
I haven't seen many Westerns so my opinion doesn't hold much weight, but from those I have seen, "The Big Country" is one of the best. That's largely due to the character of "James McKay", who is by far, the most evolved character ever to grace a Western. Also, the musical score by Jerome Moross is very powerful and uplifting...if there was a "Top Ten" list of Greatest Film Scores, this one should be included.
Great characters, performances and cinematography. Burl Ives' performance won him an oscar. Class warfare in the old west. A taste of culture and civility surrounded by the harsh and sometimes vulgar realities of the time. Very refreshing. One of my top five westerns.