Friday, September 16, 2011

Rio Lobo

Howard Hawkes directed many great films; unfortunately, Rio Lobo is not one of them. This 1970 movie, starring John Wayne and Jorge Rivera, also includes Robert Donner (Preacher in Never Trust an Honest Man, Nate in The Bounty Hunter, and Charlie Taylor in The Day the Amnesty Came Through), who can be recognized by his voice, though not the white hair of his character, and Jack Elam (Boot Coby in Bad Night in Big Butte) in small roles, as well as Boyd “Red” Morgan (Augie Helms in The Fifth Victim) in an uncredited role as a train engineer. There are three female co-stars and since they all look alike, it is hard to tell them apart.

Rio Lobo opens with scenes of gold being loaded onto a train by Union soldiers during the Civil War. It is intercepted by Confederate soldiers in a daring and well-planned train robbery, which is the best part of the movie. Wayne, playing a Union colonel, vows to recover the gold and leads a troop of soldiers in search of it. However, he is captured by the rebels though ultimately he escapes and the rebels are the ones who are subsequently captured and spend the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp.

When the war ends, the colonel seeks out the Confederate captain, played by Rivera, and his sidekick because he wants to know who gave the rebels information about the gold. The rest of Rio Lobo deals with how the three of them find the man who betrayed the Union and what they do with him and his supporters, as they have taken over a town and run it like their personal fiefdom.

The women’s dialog is very 1970s and it is jarring to hear them speak that way. In my opinion, Jennifer O’Neill, who plays one of the roles, overacts most of her scenes. But in one of them, she faints and when she revives, she finds that she’s been undressed and is in a hotel bed. When she asks who took her clothes off, Rivera’s character says they—meaning him and Wayne’s character--flipped a coin and he won, which reminded me of the scene in The Clementine Ingredient where Heyes and Kid flip a coin over who is going to pretend to marry Clementine.

The music soundtrack in Rio Lobo sounds very 1970s--very modern—and out of place. In many scenes where there is fighting, that also looks fake—the punches that are thrown are obviously not real. In the second half of the movie, the action takes place in a sheriff’s office and is very reminiscent of Rio Bravo, which in my opinion was a far better movie. During the climax, a couple rifles and pistols are submerged in water but, miraculously, can still shoot with no difficulty.

Perhaps one reason I had a hard time sitting through this one hour and fifty-four minute film was because it ostensibly took place in Texas yet was filmed at Old Tucson Studios (and in Mexico) and I recognized the scenery and some of the sets from having twice visited there, adding to the sense of unreality of Rio Lobo.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

McLintock!

There are many positive reviews of McLintock! but looking through the lens of 2011, I have a different view of the movie, which stars John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Since I had visited Old Tucson Studios while on vacation in August, where this 1963 Western was filmed and where one building used in the movie remains, I was eager to see McLintock!.

However, I was sorely disappointed. Theoretically, the plot sounds good: A prim and proper wife—she prefers Katharine but he likes to call her Katie--wants a divorce from her ranch-owning husband—George Washington McLintock, or GW. Their daughter (played by Stephanie Powers), returning from school in the East, finds herself in a tug-of-war between her parents, who both want her to live with them.

The girl, called Rebecca by her mother and Becky by her father, finds herself the romantic object of very different types of men and McLintock!’s subplot involves what she does about them. Unfortunately, many of the actors overact their roles, especially Maureen O’Hara, who actually makes Mrs. Fielding in Six Strangers in Apache Springs look good. In addition, several scenes go on much too long, especially the fight scenes and the chase scene at the end of the movie.

There are scenes with Indians and a Chinese cook, which seem to me to be stereotyping those ethnic groups. On the other hand, it is surprising to hear John Wayne’s character, the eponymous McLintock, refer to the Indians in a positive manner and to take their side in a dispute with the Army. One amusing point: McLintock! at one point refers to the Indians as Comanches but I heard them speaking Navajo!

Chill Wills (a rancher in The Biggest Game in the West) also appears in McLintock! As a sidekick to John Wayne’s character. He does a decent job with his role but is given some silly things to say and do, just like all the other characters. Leo Gordon (Ebenezer in Smiler with a Gun) also has a supporting role in this movie. The word “insane” is frequently used, which reminded me of Louise Carson saying it in Everything Else You Can Steal.

An introduction by Leonard Maltin situates McLintock! in the context of Wayne’s other work and states that it is a take-off of The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare which, since I have not read that particular play, I had not known. I suspect the source material is much better than this remake! There are a few bonus features: one describes the work Michael Wayne, John’s son, did as a producer of McLintock! and many other films; the second bonus feature interviews Maureen O’Hara and Stephanie Powers about their recollections of the movie and working with John Wayne; and the third describes the stunt work done on the movie. There is also an audio commentary that accompanies the movie but I could not bring myself to listen to it even though many people associated with the making of the McLintock! contributed to it.

As a comedy, the slapstick did not work for me at all. At 127 minutes, McLintock! dragged and I was very glad when it finally and predictably came to an end.