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    Rio Bravo [28]

    Movie Reviews
    Rio Bravo is one of my favorite cowboy/western movies of all time and one of my all time favorite movies in general. This movie is apparently one of Quentin Tarantinos top three as well as #228 (currently) of the IMDB.COM top 250. This movie could have worked in black and white, but is enhanced by the color of the costumes. Of course, Rio Bravo mostly conforms to the hat convention: Good guy big white hat, bad guy big black hat, sidekick - funny hat, supporting cast smaller hats. The Indians are no longer the bad guys, but instead have been replaced by the corporate cattle barons. The cattlemen are the gangsters of the era complete with tough thugs.

    In Rio Bravo, John Wayne plays a Sheriff of Presidio County Texas, John T. Chance. Walter Brennan plays Stumpy, his archetypical limping sidekick. The lighting is stark for the opening sequence in a saloon. A bum (Dean Martin as "Dude" also called "El Borrachon"), comes into the saloon desperately looking for a drink. Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) tempts him with a shot of booze, then throws a coin for him into the spittoon. As Dude reaches for a coin, a booted foot kicks it away. The camera shifts up and we see that the boot belongs to Sheriff Chance. Dude, Chance, and Joe then get involved in a brawl. At the conclusion of the bar fight, big bad Joe Burdette guns down a bystander. The unlucky patron was an an unarmed man who was attempting to restrain Joe from slugging the obviously beaten Dude. Dude and Chance witness the cold-blooded murder. Chance apprehends Joe Burdette in another saloon and takes him to jail. Now Chance must guard Burdette and wait for the marshal to arrive. We never see the marshal in the film, since the real goal is for Chance to stay alive while cattle man Nathan Burdette (John Russell) tries to rescue brother Joe from the jail.

    Chance gets unexpected help from singing cowboys Dude and Colorado (Ricky Nelson). In a jail interlude Dean and Ricky sing My Rifle, My Pony and Me, and (Get Along) Cindy. The jail has some excellent acoustics during this sequence.

    Of course, there are women and booze in the mix to complicate things. Feathers (Angie Dickinson) has fallen for Chance and does not want to see him hurt. Feathers is the widow of an unsuccessful card shark. Now she moves from town to town trying to stay ahead of the law. Dude was formerly Chances deputy until he went on a drinking binge after losing a girl. Dudes bout with the alcohol withdrawal shakes ends abruptly just because of a piece of music played by the Cantina band in Burdettes saloon. That piece of music is "Degello" or "The Cutthroat Song", a horn ballad supposedly played by Santa Annas troops before the attack of the Mexican army on the Alamo. (Side note: Why does Colorado end up being the only one who knows the tune) The message is plain enough, no quarter from Burdette.

    The casting is what brings this movie together, as the plot follows the standard complication, tension, and resolution. Dean and Ricky were superstars in their own genres and could have been seen as intrusive to the work of the Duke. However, they all work well together as if hanging out on the set was fun outside the film shooting. The filming was done in old Tuscon, Arizona. Thus you have the saguaro cacti everywhere; and I am not sure if they can be found in Southeast Texas.

    The tension is as palpable is in High Noon and amplified by the excellent Rio Bravo theme. Unlike High Noon, the person to arrive will be the marshal. The bad Burdette men are already hanging around in town, hoping to get a shot at Chance or Dude. Interestingly enough, director Howard Hawkes made this movie as somewhat of an anti- High Noon to protest the supposition that frontier townspeople would not step up to support their local sheriff.

    In the movie, Chance, Dude, Stumpy, and Colorado figure out just a little too late that they should hold out in the jail until the marshal comes. Unfortunately, Dude gets taken hostage. This leads up to the climactic prisoner exchange sequence. I have not been able to look at any prisoner exchange movie in the same way since. The lesson learned here would be, make sure each prisoner gives the other a wide berth.

    This movie has some excellent John Wayne delivered lines, like "Sorry do not get it done, Dude!" John Wayne had a knack for making any line sound menacing. Clint Eastwood is another actor with this talent. The Rio Bravo plot was basically repeated in El Dorado, where this time Robert Mitchum played the drunken deputy. Tough guys fight it out. The final prisoner exchange is repeated. Too much of a good thing {BB}

    Added: September 3rd 2004
    Reviewer: BB
    29 Point Scale Score: 28    [28]

    Related Link (IMDB): IMDB
    Hits: 3390
    Language: english


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