Thursday, March 13, 2008

For The Thousandth Time: Part III (Gone To Bed Series)

GIVE EM' HELL JOHN. And, for my money, that's exactly what the Duke did... For this edition of my famous "Gone to Bed" series I write lovingly about a film that I am watching at this very moment. I went to bed to it last night and am doing the same tonight and I show it in my production courses (lesson plans on continuity). I have seen this film hundreds of times and never grow tired of it (hence its inclusion in this series of articles). The film of which I write is 1970's Rio Lobo.

The last film of legendary director Howard Hawks, Rio Lobo would prove to be his fond farewell to the industry as well as the movie-going public. For me, Rio Lobo represents memories of time well spent with my brother and grandfather. It was with them that I first saw this film, and on many subsequent viewings as well. Perhaps it is because they've both been gone for quite some time now that I am so fond of this film, but perhaps there's quite a bit more to Rio Lobo's resiliency than nostalgia. It is often regarded as a prime example of the Western genre's fall from grace and a poor last effort from Hawks. Neither claim is, in my opinion, valid.

Rio Lobo is the third incarnation of Hawks' Rio Bravo, with El Dorado serving as the bridge between the three films. El Dorado and Rio Lobo are essentially remakes of Rio Bravo - this is no secret or scam, they're admittedly remakes. Point being, however, that they are remakes in structure and theme, not story or plot. Each film has its own characters, back-story, specific settings and time, conflicts, etc. They do share similar structure and themes - as well as some plot points as well. None of this really means anything however as each film exists as a unique and specific text.

I love everything about this film. I love the Duke spoofing his image, one time leading man now aging, iconic gunslinger - hell, he's just "comfortable" as co-star Jennifer O'Neil states. Speaking of Jennifer, what can I say? She's just, well, just... not a master thespian in this picture. I think Jennifer grew to be a competent actress who occasionally gave very fine performances, but she was transitioning from model to actress in this film and well... it shows. Her performance shortly after Rio Lobo in Summer of 42' was quite simply, beautiful. Jennifer O'Neil had been a model since the age of 15 and her beauty and humor augment my love for Rio Lobo.

There are many fine performances in this picture, Jack Elam is fantastic as usual, Jorge Rivero proves an adept lead opposite John Wayne (no easy feat as Wayne munches almost any scene with any actor - your eyes just go to the Duke) Chris Mitchum is quite good, later CEO of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing is stunning and proves she would have been a formidable actress had she continued with her craft. It's just an all-around fun film.

The real star however has to be Jerry Goldsmith's score. Quite possibly my favorite composer of all time (and I've got dozens, from Waxman and Steiner to Elfman and Zimmer) the Maestro turns in a beautifully melodic, stirring, melancholy, rousing score. It only clocks in at about 40 minutes, but they are 40 amazing minutes. It is just an amazing and gorgeous score. I certainly could go on and on about it - but if you ever see the film you shall hear for yourself.

This picture is priceless to me. It simultaneously takes me back to a sweet, simple time - of 8 O'clock movies on WKBD Detroit, or of Bill Kennedy's "At the Movies..." - I would watch the movie with my Grandfather and Brother and we would bond over the Duke and with one another - enjoying the pleasures associated with a love for cinema. Now, years later, as those pleasures have no doubt been distilled into a pure concentrated 20cc dosage of nostalgia - I gladly inject that needle into my dvd player ALL THE TIME.


Approx. 300 times

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