Rio Bravo re-imagined, but much more than just a re-tread
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 03/02/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The town drunk - a disgraced lawman; a young punk who thinks he's "all that"; an old fart given to countrified aphorisms - and the tough-guy Duke, beloved of all the ladies and apparently unstoppable no matter what happens to him. Howard Hawks' RIO BRAVO of course - or maybe not. It's the conventional wisdom that both this film and RIO LOBO four years later are just thinly-disguised remakes by the same director of the 1959 film which has become a beloved classic. But plot was never all that central to Hawks' films, and the mere fact that John Wayne is not playing the sheriff, and Robert Mitchum as the drunk is actually the man who is supposed to be in charge ought to be enough to show that EL DORADO is aiming in a slightly different direction.
Wayne is Cole Thornton, a gunslinger who seems to have managed to largely stay friendly with - or at least not make enemies of - the law in his career. He's come into the town of El Dorado to take a job with Bart Jason (Edward Asner), but before he can accept it his old sometime-friend Sheriff Harrah (Robert Mitchum) gives him the lowdown - that Jason is a no-good land thief and he's trying to drive the other big ranchers in the area, the MacDonalds, out by force. Thornton doesn't take the job, but as he's leaving the area he's forced to shoot a young member of the MacDonalds who fires on him, and is in turn shot by Joey MacDonald (Michele Carey). The El Dorado "doctor" can't remove the bullet, and Cole takes off, ostensibly to get fixed up.
Which he never does, however, instead befriending a young knife-throwing kid, Mississippi (James Caan, 26 and in one of his first major roles) and having a wary conversation with Nelse McLeod (Christopher George) who it turns out is planning to take the job for Jason that Cole turned down. Cole, stung by guilt feelings over killing a MacDonald, decides to return to El Dorado when he hears that the sheriff has gone around the bend with drink, and allows the punk kid to come along, trying to teach him to shoot along the way. Back in town, he finds himself taking charge of the situation when Harrah proves essentially useless, and eventually the semi-sobered-up sheriff, the gunslinger with the bad back, the punk kid and the elderly ex-Indian fighter deputy Bull (a superb Arthur Hunnicutt) end up having to keep the captured Jason in jail, all the while fending off his men including the fast-draw McLeod.
Of course, like most if not all of Hawks' films, EL DORADO is mostly about male camaraderie at heart, but the form that takes is a little different from the previous film, and the focus is if anything even more on the relationships, the dialogue, the fun and games than on getting to the climax of the film - which ends up feeling very anticlimactic, even perfunctory, when we do reach it. In the earlier version of this story (partially written, like this film, by the great Leigh Brackett) Wayne's John Chance is the leader from the beginning - the sheriff and the most competent man. Eight years later, with an older Duke and a paunchy Mitchum playing both the lead lawman and the Dean Martin drunkard role, it's a more level playing field. Hunnicutt's Bull is also far more competent than his analogue in the earlier film played by Walter Brennan. Interestingly enough the kid played by Caan here recites poetry; Ricky Nelson of course sang.
So there are just as many differences as overt similarities; what they add up to is a film that is more about slightly shifting but more equal power dynamics, friendships that are a little easier-going and dialogue that is more witty than tough. The youth of the kid - and the women in the film - are deemphasized, the age and infirmities of the other main characters are a little more obvious. I suppose it ends up feeling like an "old man's film", a more relaxed and "fun" piece of work, and so it unsurprisingly lacks somewhat in narrative drive. RIO BRAVO, and Hawks' earlier RED RIVER managed to fit the dynamics of the conversational and the confrontational together a little more smoothly, and as funny and low-key as they are at times still manage to have rousing conclusions. As beautifully put-together as this film is - and I should mention in particular Harold Rosson's gorgeous burnished autumnal cinematography - EL DORADO doesn't quite get there, but the journey is fun just the same.
I have the earlier version of the DVD, which is no-frills except for the trailer, but the transfer is excellent and I have no complaints really. This is one of the best late films for both director and costars Wayne and Mitchum and I'd certainly say it's a must for fans of any or all of them."
Dream Maiden | Dallas, Texas | 03/26/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recieved this item very quickly from vendor and it was in very good condition. I am pleased."
One Of My Favorite John Wayne Movies
Michael J. D. Auben | Madison, AL United States | 05/29/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"El Dorado may lack the status of some of Wayne's true classics, like Stagecoach, The Searchers, or even True Grit, but it is still in my opinion one of Wayne's most enjoyable movies. In this movie, Wayne plays his standard "tough guy with a good heart" as so many of his fans like him best. In El Dorado, that lovable character is combined with the typical snappy dialog of Howard Hawks, a great co-star in Robert Mitchum and some fine supporting actors.
This "Centennial Edition" contains an excellent transfer of the film. I'm not sure what the previous releases might have been like, but this one is definitely first rate. The two-DVD set also includes some very worthwhile supplementary material, including a couple of very nice documentaries. I was somewhat disappointed in the commentary, however. There are actually two commentaries on the DVD and while they do include some interesting facts about the movie, the actors and the director, as you listen it becomes obvious that neither of the commentators are terribly great fans of this movie. They both spend a lot of time "damning with faint praise" or comparing the film unfavorable to the director's other movies (in particular the very similar Rio Bravo). I think their choice for this set was a mistake, as I would think most people would not care to listen to two "experts" pan the movie they just purchased.
(Personally, I find El Dorado much superior to Rio Bravo, if for no other reason that a far superior supporting cast. Robert Mitchum is a far better actor than Dean Martin, and even the young James Caan is far preferable to teen idol turned "actor", Ricky Nelson.)
In the end, I think this "Centennial Collection" release would make a fine addition to the video library of most fans of either Wayne or Hawks.