Out this week and reviewed in the New York Times, a most welcome double-disc edition of Raoul Walsh’s ever-astounding “The Big Trail,” the 70-millimeter Western from 1930 in which Walsh effectively invents the widescreen aesthetic, all at once and all by himself. Had “The Big Trail” been a success, it would have changed the course of film history; flop that it was, it changed only the course of Walsh’s career, who from this point forward incorporates all the discoveries he made on this movie into the grain of his mise-en-scene — in particular, the constant background motion that suggests a world that not only extends beyond the edges of the frame but seems independent of and indifferent to the fiction in the foreground. This very nice transfer from Fox is taken from the Museum of Modern Art’s 35-millimeter restoration of 1985, and while the DVD obviously can’t compare to the experience of seeing “The Big Trail” on a big screen, it at least hints at the extraordinary qualities of this exceptional film.
And Universal has released a couple of Mitchell Leisen’s carefully polished comedies: “Easy Living” (1937), from a script by Preston Sturges, and “Midnight,” from a script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. The transfers in both cases will strike the discerning souls who visit this space as excessively grainy, but it’s always a cause for celebration when NBC-Universal chooses to release any of the 700 vintage Paramount titles under its corporate control.