[box cover]

Rio Lobo

By the time Howard Hawks made 1970's Rio Lobo he had directed over 40 films (his first being in 1926) and was finally considered one of the great American directors. He was also 74 years old. And if Rio Lobo lacks the excitement or bravado of his earlier pictures, it also has much of what makes Hawks so entertaining. The film stars John Wayne as Colonel Cord McNally, a Union officer who's supposed to watch a train carrying gold — a train that gets hijacked by Confederate soldiers led by Capt. Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Sgt. Tuscarora Phillips (Christopher Mitchum). Cord later captures the duo, but a good friend of Cord's died during the heist. He wants revenge — and not against the thieves, but rather the Union soldiers who sold Pierre and Tuscarora the information. After the war ends, Cord asks the two to provide any information on the whereabouts of the traitors, leading him to Rio Lobo (where Tuscarora is staying). On the way, Cord teams up with both Pierre (Jorge Rivero), whom he nicknames Frenchy, and Shasta Delaney (Jennifer O'Neill). And as it turns out, the man who was selling the Confederates information is now a land baron using the town's law to steal any land he wants. Though not as directly a riff on another one of his films (as El Dorado is), Rio Lobo offers many familiar scenes that recall Hawks' earlier efforts: For example, Frenchy stumbles into the room of Amelita (future Paramount honcho Sherry Lansing), only to have her try to seduce him, which recalls moments in The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo. There's also just something in the way Hawks and longtime scripter Leigh Brackett named (and nicknamed) their characters that seems so distinctly Hawksian. For a final effort by a veteran, Rio Lobo moves well enough, although there are some noticeable distractions. Foremost, the cast isn't as strong as Hawks' usual ensemble efforts: O'Neill and Rivero come across as the community-theater versions of Hawks leads, and like most of Hawks' later filmography, the movie looks like a TV production (a problem alleviated slightly by the restoration and letterboxing on the DVD) with its back-lot locations and flat cinematography (here the culprit is D.P. William H. Clothier). Paramount's DVD release of Rio Bravo presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Keep-case.

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