Recent videocassette releases, reviewed by Times critics.
**** “The Big Parade.”
MGM/UA. $29.95. 1925.
The biggest American box-office hit of the ‘20s was King Vidor’s “The Big Parade,” a great World War I battle epic told from the angle of a bewildered rich boy turned foot soldier (John Gilbert), who falls in love with a French girl and then is sent off to a harrowing battle, in which he loses his two best friends and his leg. Though beautifully photographed throughout, the film seems almost ordinary in the early sections, full of strained comradely farce and romance. Then, with the famous scene of the soldiers’ leavetaking--Renee Adoree frantically searching for Gilbert among an ocean of doughboys--it becomes magnificent. Vidor stages the succeeding scenes like grand opera: the unearthly rhythmic tread of the infantrymen marching through a forest as snipers pick them off; the charges and bomb bursts; the macabre hell of the trenches after nightfall, flares lighting up the ghastly darkness; the laceratingly piteous scene with the dying German soldier and the cigarette. Beautifully restored, and with a full orchestral score, this release is a must for every serious film collector.