Monday, December 2, 2013

Rio Bravo (1959)

Rio BravoRio Bravo is one of a handful of movies (see also The Quiet Man) that belies the one-note, tough-guy stereotype that so many people associate with John Wayne. Here he is endearing (his scenes with Walter Brennan are hilarious and genuine) and, dare I say, even somewhat sensitive in his own way (his firm method of "treatment" for Dean Martin's alcoholic character is something a counselor friend of mine finds priceless). The rest of the cast is wonderful as well: Brennan is cranky, Martin is wounded but charismatic, Angie Dickinson is sly and assured and Ricky Nelson, surprisingly, does more than just hold his own and look pretty (*and* he sings a duet with Dean Martin). Everyone involved here obviously had a ton of fun making the movie, but more importantly the film exudes that sense of good cheer without undercutting the narrative tension. Director Howard Hawks certainly had a great deal to do with the quick pacing and the tightness of the ensemble, both of which assure that the film never seems to drag, even in quiet moments. In short, a western for people who don't like westerns and a John Wayne movie for people who don't like John Wayne.

"Rio Bravo" is a very entertaining and quality film suitable for the entire family.

The film boasts an all-star cast that boasts a wealth of talent. John Wayne is the tough sherrif John T. Chance, who has to hold a prisoner charged with murder in his small jail awaiting the arrival of the territory judge. Wayne gives one of his best performances. Dean Martin plays Wayne's troubled drunk deputy. Martin surprises everyone by showing just how wonderful an actor he is. In a difficult role, Martin excels. Angie Dickenson is Wayne's love interest. Dickenson's role is also an emotionally challenging bit of acting, but she pulls it off easily with room to spare. Walter Brennan is Wayne's crippled deputy and he also excels and provides comic relief. Brennan is so convincing as the crippled leg deputy that many fans of Brennan believed that he was actually crippled in real life. Brennan walked as good as anyone and it is a tribute to him that he convinced all of us that he had a bum leg! Rounding out the cast is the very young heartthrob Ricky Nelson, who plays "Colorado", a trailhand with a good gun. Nelson is in over his head here as an actor, but was probably included in the film for his ability to bring in the female audience. Ward Bond and Claude Akins round out the excellent cast.

Director Howard Hawks uses the cast to his advantage. His directorship keeps the film moving along at a steady pace. Interestingly, the first several minutes of the film has no dialogue at all! John Wayne speaks the first line about 4 minutes into the film after much action has already taken place.

This film represents Hawks' and Wayne's response to the movie "High Noon", which both men despised. Wayne and Hawks were disturbed by "High Noon" as no townspeople came to the help of the sherrif who had to face down a gang of thugs by himself. Both men believed that the good men and women of the community would rally to the side of good and face down evil. In 'Rio Bravo", Wayne's sherrif does not go it alone, but gets help from several sources.

Dimitri Tiomkin's score is a good one, originally made for the classic western, "Red River". Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson combine their vocal talents in the duet "My Rifle, My Pony, And Me". Believe it or not, Walter Brennan adds his vocal talents in a song that follows!

"Rio Bravo" is a very satisfying and entertaining film fit for the entire family. There is no profanity, love scenes are done discretely, and the expected violence is not graphic or gratuitous. As a kid, this was one of my favorite "John Wayne" movies. As an adult, it continues to be a favorite, and I believe it will be a favorite of yours too. Out of 10 stars, I'd give it a solid 9.

Jim Konedog Koenig

Buy Rio Bravo (1959) Now

Rio Bravo is one of John Wayne's more enjoyable movies and this movie is considered to be one of the greatest westerns ever made. Wayne is superbly supported by Dean Martin who also carried the movie as well as Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan and Angie Dickinson. Great cast, superb script and excellent direction make this movie a viewing a pleasure many times over. It has everything anyone want in a John Wayne movie. Gunfights, fist fights, slow developing story to developed all the main characters and even pacing with a song or two thrown in. So successful was this movie that it was remade two more times as El Dorado and Rio Lobo. Amazingly, all three movies were directed by Howard Hawks and starred John Wayne. Even more amazing is that all three movies proves to be just as good and entertaining as ever.

This two disc Special Edition of Rio Bravo is a definite upgrade in both quality of image as well as sound over the previous release. I found the running commentary by John Carpenter and Richard Schickel to be somewhat enjoyable but the extra features proves to be a disappointment. There are three special features on the second disc. Two of them, Howard Hawk's Rio Bravo and Old Tucson: Where Legends Walked proves to be quite interesting. However, I was pretty disappointed by the main feature of this second disc, Men Who Made Movies: Howard Hawks. This feature I have seen already on Bringing Up Baby two disc edition (superb Katherine Hepburn/Cary Grant movie). I was very unhappy that a documentary already used in one DVD movie was reused for another. Warner Brothers made a cheap move here. (However, if you do not owned Bringing Up Baby, then you will get more out of the second disc then I did.)

I gave five stars for the movie, three stars for the special features, averaging out to four stars for this review. It should be noted that this two disc edition is exactly identical to the "ultimate edition" although that edition cost more and have a reproduction of Dell comic book based on the movie and promo booklet attached to it. (Much like the Ultimate Edition of the Searchers.)

Read Best Reviews of Rio Bravo (1959) Here


Apart from the fact that Ricky Nelson couldn't act to save his life (he plays the fast gun Colorado), the big revelation in Howard Hawks' High Noon rerun is Dean Martin who is just superb as the drink-obsessed Dutch sidekick to sheriff John Wayne and his trusty buddy Walter Brennnan.

The Blu Ray version is disappointing print wise for the opening credits there's blocking, speckles on the print etc, but thankfully it doesn't stay that way for long. Although there are other weak points in the transfer later on in the movie, for about 90 % of the time I'd say it looks really good not great but certainly better than any other version of it that I've ever seen.

There's a nighttime sequence where one of the bad guys hiding out in a barn near the prison tries to shoot John Wayne it cuts to Dutch outside worried about his friend inside the clarity of sweat and dirt on Dean Martin is wonderful to see and startling. When Angie Dickenson is stopped by John Wayne at her bedroom door suspected of card shark tricks in the saloon she's just left below, her face and clothing look sensational too (what a beauiful woman she was). But then in other places there's a disappointing feeling of the focus being slightly off or the print's vibrancy being washed out.

It might just be that in 1959 the colour process was not quite there yet, but you can't help but feel that if this negative had been given real care and effort the print would have been a genuine joy to look at rather than being something that just ellicits the word 'good' out of you every now and then.

"Rio Bravo" is a very good transfer to Blu Ray, but like so many oldies that aren't treated to proper restoration, you can't help but feel that an opportunity was missed here because it's a Western that's stood the test of time.

Want Rio Bravo (1959) Discount?

I have the earlier DVD, but bought this one for the wonderful extras. However, I like the print from the first DVD better. I think it is a matter of taste, but I think this print is much darker than the first DVD. Faces seem more red, less fleshtone. I would simply exchange the older disc for the newer one, except that the newer, darker movie disc also has a very nice Commentary by John Carpenter and Richard Schickel. On the other hand, the documentary about Howard Hawks is worth the price of the 2-disc DVD itself. Some great extras more than make up for a weaker copy of the film -I guess I will keep both versions.

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