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The Big Land

The Big Land

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The Big Land, After the Civil War, bitterness remained between Southerners and Northerners. In order to supply eastern cities with beef, former Confederates from Texas drove their herds to the rail-heads in Missouri. After a long and hard cattle drive through the Bad Lands, former Confederate officer Chad Morgan and his partners arrive at a rail-head in Missouri where corrupt cattle buyer Brog and his gunfighter partner offer to purchase the Texans’ herds for a pitiful sum. Brog knows the cattle are weakened by the long drive from Texas and cannot survive a return drive to Texas. He also knows the Texans are desperate to sell for any amount of money they can settle for. After selling their herds to crooked buyer Brog, the Texans blame their partner Chad Morgan for their misfortune. It was Chad who suggested they sell their herds in Missouri. Heartbroken, Chad splits with his partners. On a rainy night, Chad is refused lodging by embittered Northerners who still see him as a Confederate enemy. He finally finds shelter in a livery stable where he meets Joe Jagger, a likable Yankee who likes the whiskey too much. The two become friends after Chad saves Joe from being lynched by men whose booze Joe was trying to steal. At gunpoint, the two pals make their getaway from the livery stable and into the night. They decide to head for Kansas where their fortunes would eventually change.


A Shade of Shane

The Big Land, There is a lot about this sprawling Western that resembles SHANE.

Again, Ladd plays a quiet man who is tired of killing. Here, though, he is not a gunfighter, but rather an experienced soldier who learned to use a hand gun very well.

The real star of this film, though, isn’t either hero Ladd or heroine Virginia Mayo, but Edmond O’Brien.

O’Brien’s character becomes a parallel to the Stonewall character of Elisha Cook, Jr. in Shane. The similarities are more in what happens with the character than in the character.

However, unlike Stonewall, who is simply a pathetic doomed soul with little input in SHANE, O’Brien is given a chance to eat the scenery here, going from drunk to respected architect to manager of a new town to peace keeper for the town.

The story is his. We even get to see him with family. He begins at the low end of the totem pole, then rises to great achievement, only to find himself in a situation where he must make a terrible decision.

In ways, this film is superior to SHANE, and SHANE is a classic. The bad guys, however, were cloned too much after Jack Palance’s Wilson, and therein lies the weakness. There are two sadistic bad men here, and their characters just aren’t fresh, and too much like Wilson.

Still, it’s got a lot of character, and a lot of characters who make this a top Western.

The Big Country

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