Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Howard Hawk’s 1959 western, Rio Bravo, written by screenwriting pros Leigh Bracket and Jules Furthman, was denigrated upon the time of its release, faulted for its leisure pacing, limited setting, and overall quirkiness. It’s gained a rep as one of the strongest (and strangest) Hollywood westerns as the years have progressed, cited by film mavens like Truffaut, Scorsese and Tarantino, serving as the basis for John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), while the great Hawks liked it enough to basically remake it twice as Rio Lobo (1970) and El Dorado (1967). The casting and character names are transcendentally loony: John T. Chance (John Wayne), Dude (Dean Martin), Colorado (Ricky Nelson), Stumpy (Walter Brennan), and don’t forget Feathers (Angie Dickinson). The action (when it intermittently appears) is staged in crisp Hawksian style, the dialogue crackles with cornpone asides, and the film features one of my all time fave movie moments—Martin, Nelson, and Brennan combining their diverse (Does that term quite cover it?) talents and delivering a jailhouse musical revelry “My Rifle, My Pony, and I”. The newly released DVD (a $40 box) includes a remastered print, commentary from the aforementioned Carpenter and a documentary from critic/historian Richard Schickel--an absolute must for Hawks followers or Western buffs.