You know…I don’t think I’ve seen Rio Bravo since I was a kid. And even then, it was on a hand-me-down black & white TV my folks gave me after they splurged on a massive Magnavox for the living room. Not the best way to watch any movie, let-alone a big Howard Hawks western.
Of course, I had no idea who Hawks was at the time, nor was I a big John Wayne fan. However, my local independent TV station showed a lot of old movies on weekends, and I was so jazzed to suddenly have a TV in my bedroom that I would’ve watched anything. That movie just happened to be Rio Bravo. While westerns weren’t my favorite genre, I remember liking this one quite a bit.
Times change, as do most people. A classic film fan my entire life, I certainly know who Howard Hawks is now and love a good western (High Noon being one of my personal favorites). However, my indifference to The Duke has never changed. While he’s been in some great films, I’ve never been of the opinion they were great because of him.
|"Damn, where'd I park my horse?"
Wayne & Hawks’ reasons for making Rio Bravo remain dubious (this was their answer to High Noon, which they deemed un-American), but there’s no disputing the results. It’s a timeless story, compellingly told and well-paced despite a lengthy running time. While there are many great moments of drama, suspense and humor, what really makes the movie are the characters, the most engaging being Dude (Dean Martin), Sheriff Chance's alcoholic deputy. When circumstances offer the opportunity for redemption, Dude’s transformation is believably affecting.
Martin surprisingly deliver’s the film’s best performance, but Angie Dickenson is also fun - and gorgeous - as Feathers, a card shark (and unlikely love interest) with a shady past. Wayne is, of course, simply John Wayne. I personally think Chance would have had more depth if played by, say, Jimmy Stewart or Glenn Ford. But that’s just me, and ultimately, Rio Bravo is still arguably Wayne’s best western. It’s an indisputable classic that has aged remarkably well, especially with this terrific 4K UHD release.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By filmmaker John Carpenter (who loves thismovie) and critic Richard Schckel