“At nearly three hours, The Big Country takes its time with each scene,” writes Tony Dayoub in a 6.8 posting on Nomad Editions Widescreen, an iPad publication. “But [it does so] with a deliberate purpose and payoff that can now be fully appreciated [on the Bluray version].
“Take my favorite scene, near the climax: The Major (Charles Bickford) has brought loyal foreman Leech (Charlton Heston) and his men to the narrow entry into Blanco Canyon, which separates his ranch from Hannassey’s. They’ve been lured there after Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives) had ordered Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons) kidnapped.
“All of the Major’s men are aware it’s a trap, with the Hannasseys hiding behind the rocks that line the canyon, ready to shoot. But the Major is itching to settle his feud with Rufus, and is (over)confident that his men are up to the fight ahead. A chastened Leech has come around to believing McKay’s suggestion that the Major and Rufus’s feud will not end well for anybody. So Leech tries to talk the Major out of going into the canyon. But the Major calls him a coward, and after failing to enlist Leech’s men to follow, decides to go in alone.
“Quietly, Moross’ musical accompaniment starts as the Major marches into the canyon. A couple of shots later, in a beautiful setup that foregrounds the Major and places the entry into the canyon behind him near the horizon, we see a small solitary figure on horseback galloping toward the screen as the music begins to rise. It is Heston’s loyal Leech, deferentially sidling up to the Major as the music continues to rise.
“The same shot continues — this is all in one take — as another rider, and another, and then a whole group of them emerge from the same entryway into the canyon just as Leech did. They all slowly catch up to the Major and Leech as Moross’ rousing score hits its crescendo, the proud Major never once having turned back to look at his men. It’s an evocative sequence that captures the immensity of the setting and the characters that populate The Big Country.”