***** Movie. ** DVD.
J. Michael Click | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 10/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Red River" deserves the adulation that critics, film scholars, and most importantly audiences have lavished on it since its premiere in 1948. One of the earliest "psychological" westerns, preceded by Selznick's "Duel in the Sun" (1946) and followed by King's "The Gunfighter" (1950), etc., "Red River" maintains interest after half a century due to the unique tensions between its characters, and the supreme skill with which those characters are played. Set against the backdrop of the first cattle drive along the Chisum Trail, the story basically boils down to an epic conflict between two men of different generations. John Wayne is the older sharp-shooter who builds up an empire through ruthless wiles and steely determination; Montgomery Clift, who is equally proficient with a gun, is the young surrogate son who tends to manage through intellect and reason rather than violence. These two opposing personalities and styles eventually erupt into a mortal combat under the strain of driving over 9,000 head of cattle across the hostile terrain of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.As the volatile Dunson, John Wayne gives one of his most finely nuanced performances. Living by a personal code of ethics which doesn't always translate into lawful or even rational behavior, Wayne is neither sympathetic nor deplorable; he's simply human. His performance is bolstered by the contrast provided by the quietly charasmatic Montgomery Clift, whose unspoken love and respect for Wayne's father figure shine through the fear and intimidation he expresses. (Remarkably, this was Clift's first performance in front of the movie cameras; the stage-trained actor seems to have adapted instinctively to the more subtle technique required of film work.) Various other characters come between these two to create some memorable triangles throughout the film. Three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan is wonderful as Wayne's longtime sidekick whose allegiance eventually shifts over to Clift; Paul Fix also does a fine job in a minor role as the character whose fate jumpstarts the conflict between the two leading men. Most fascinating among the supporting cast is John Ireland who plays the curiously-named Cherry; the Freudian scene in which he and Clift admire each other's pistols, and then commence to shoot them off together is simply astonishing. It's worth noting that Cherry is the first one to try and intervene during the climactic showdown between Wayne and the "son" he contemptuously characterizes as "soft"; equally significant is the fact that the character who finally brings resolution into the movie is a "strong" woman (played by Joanne Dru).The MGM DVD release of this classic United Artists film is, in my humble opinion, abominable. The source print is visually a disaster, chock full of lines, jumps, flutters, speckles, and other visual noise. The grays are grainy and at one point, the picture even is briefly - and distractingly - out of focus. The sound isn't much better: it crackles and pops and the volume is inconsistent. Adding insult to injury, there are no extras at all, not even cast biographies or production notes, much less a theatrical trailer. This is one classic film that demands - and richly deserves - to be restored, remastered and repackaged."
Red River is an Epic of Western Filmmaking!
James Koenig | Minnesota | 06/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let it be known to one and all: "Red River" is one of the best Western movies of all time! It is a supperlative western film, telling the story of the first cattle drive from Texas to Abeline, Kansas, which would later be known as the Chisholm Trail.
The American West is known for it's rugged individualism, and starring in this epic film is Hollywood's #1 rugged individual, John Wayne. Wayne plays Tom Dunson, who on a wagon trail of settlers going west, decides to strike out on his own for Texas country and establish his own cattle ranch. In leaving the wagon train behind, Dunson also leaves behind the love of his young life, saying he will send for her when he finds his homestead. But that same day, the wagon train is attacked by Indians, and his love is brutally killed. The only survivor of the massacre is a spirited young boy, who is found wandering in a daze with his cow. The boy, Matthew Garth, is adopted by Dunson. The stage is then set for the remainder of the story, the struggle to establish the greatest cattle ranch in Texas, and the massive cattle drive to get the cattle to market.
Howard Hawks directs this masterpiece of filmmaking, and takes Borden Chase's (Saturday Evening Post) serialized storyline, and spins a visual saga of obsession and rivalry between Dunson and and his adoptive son Matthew Garth. The film co-stars Montgomery Clift as Matthew Garth. The cast is very favorably rounded out with the addition of Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, and John Ireland. The film's musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin is as perfectly composed for the old west as the black and white rendering of the western barren landscape in the film.
It is Dunson's dictatorship resolve to get the cattle to market that eventually leads to the supreme conflict in the film, the battle of wills between father and son. Matthew Garth is forced by dire circumstances to lead a mutiny against the tyrannical Dunson, and take the herd to Kansas, leaving Dunson alone in the wilderness. Dunson, stung by the perceived betrayal of his adopted son, promises to catch up with Garth, and kill him. The film's climax is the showdown between Dunson and Garth, on the streets of Abeline.
This is a film that you will enjoy watching for the first time, and for many times afterward. It is one of Wayne's best films, and the film that established him as a Hollywood western film icon. John Ford, a close friend of Waynes, and a premier director of his time, commented upon seeing Wayne dominate the film: "That son of a bitch can really act!"; perhaps the highest form of praise Ford ever gave.
If I had to recommend one western film, this is the one I'd choose."
AN AMERICAN MASTERPIECE
MOVIE MAVEN | New York, NY USA | 05/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although there are definitely weaknesses in the screenplay and score for RED RIVER, there is also no question that this film is an American masterpiece.Howard Hawks who directed one of the best comedies Hollywood ever produced, BRINGING UP BABY, took on an almost impossible task: making an adult Western, basically a cattle drive- inspired remake of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, with over 9,000 head of cattle and the men who, for various reasons, go on the drive from Texas to Kansas. John Wayne is the boss, Dunson the cattle baron, who becomes obsessed with his mission--getting his cattle sold and onto the railroad. If there is a "villain" in the movie, Dunson is it and Wayne plays him wonderfully. The drive, itself, takes over three months and it is grueling: psychological, as well as physical, problems beset the men. Wayne's "adopted" son, Matthew, is second in command and it is the relationship between these two men that makes up the heart of the movie and makes the movie as deep and moving as it is. Director Hawks had seen a young actor in a Broadway play and brought him to Hollywood to make his screen debut as "Matthew." In this crutial role, Hawks had discovered one of the most under-rated, talented, complicated, handsome actors Hollywood ever saw: Montgomery Clift. If Clift had done no film work besides Fred Zinneman's FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and Hawks' RED RIVER, he'd deserve a place in cinema history.Quibbles? The score by Dmitri Tiomkin could certainly stand to be a bit more subtle; both the creation by the writers and the playing by Joanne Dru of the major female role is completely one dimensional; the last few moments of the movie are as silly as the rest of the two hours+ are fascinating. So, an altogether thrilling movie, even with a few faults.
If for no other reason, all true movie lovers must see the way the stampede is filmed. The D.V.D. version has no "extras" to speak of, but the print looks beautiful. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."
THE cattle-drive movie
Dennis J. Buckley | Harrisburg, PA USA | 05/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having weighed-in on _The Culpepper Cattle Company_, I have to genuflect at the altar of THE cattle-drive movie-- _Red River_.This film pre-dates _The Searchers_ by about eight years. The lead character, Tom Dunson, is a sort of prototype for Ethan Edwards. This is John Wayne without sentiment or schmaltz, until the final scene which differs from the story on which the film is based, and which jars a bit.That being said, _Red River_ still stands as the definitive cattle-drive movie. Wayne/Dunson builds an empire but then must head the herd north on a drive that simply _has_ to get through-- despite conflicts with nature, rustlers, Indians, and between Dunson and his men, including his adopted son, Matthew Garth.Wayne is cast against his own stereotype as Dunson and comes across as a hard and unlikeable character. Walter Brennan as his sidekick, Groot, nearly steals the show just as he did (again) in Hawk's _Rio Bravo_. Montgomery Clift does a passable job as Matthew Garth, but is outclassed by John Ireland as Cherry Valance, the gunfighter turned cowhand.The rest of the cast is outstanding. You need only look at the cast list to appreciate the fine ensemble company that Howard Hawks put together for this movie. This is also on of Dimitri Tiomkin's finest musical scores.Finally, I agree with Maltin on this point: beware edited and abridged copies of this film. Anything less than a 133 minute running time should not be bothered with."Take `em to Missouri, Matt!""