The Big Parade
Considering the frenetic pacing and audio/visual overload of contemporary films, it is no surprise that vintage silent movies have not proliferated on the Blu-ray format. To alleviate matters, Warner Brothers has added "The Big Parade" to its list of Blu-ray titles.
The 1925 WWI epic was one of the top-grossing films of the Silent era, second only to "Birth of a Nation." Warners' lavish presentation and meticulous restoration of the film afford the classic its due respect. The print is remarkably sharp, and, in keeping with the original theatrical release, many of the scenes are tinted in monochrome. Delineating the Blu-ray chapters, the intertitles are crisp and easily legible. Carl Davis composed an excellent score woven with period, popular tunes for the lighter moments, shifting to virtual atonality for the disturbing battle sequences.
Released shortly after WWI, "The Big Parade" had more immediate relevance to movie-goers in 1925 than it does to us today. Yet, much of the film holds up quite well. The principle drawback is the first half, which consists of 90 minutes of comic vignettes concerning American soldiers stationed in the French countryside. The light-hearted opening does establish contrast to the horrors of battle that follow; however, a solid hour could have easily been excised. The battle sequences are well-staged and quite effective, particularly when heightened by Davis' musical score.
As Jim, a sensitive rich boy who loses his ideals (not to mention a leg) on the battlefield, handsome John Gilbert is extremely expressive. Renee Adoree is charming as his love interest, the innocent French maiden Melisande. Lanky Karl Dane portrays Slim, who befriends Joe, and displays his valor in combat. Coincidentally, all three stars died prematurely in the mid 1930s, and under tragic circumstances.
The splendid Blu-ray is packaged in a hardbound book which includes essays, photo stills, and biographies. The main extra is a fascinating silent MGM studio tour. A highlight is legendary Art Deco designer Erte draping a gown on Joan Crawford who is billed as Lucille LeSueur, the "find" of 1925!
The Big Parade