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Rio Lobo – 1970 Hawks
- The final film of Howard Hawks (at the age of 74) is certainly one of his lesser works, and the least of the five John Wayne collaborations (four of them westerns including Red River, Rio Bravo, El Dorado).
- It brings back screenwriter Leigh Brackett, and there is talent here in the music as well (Jerry Goldsmith). Instead of getting Robert Mitchum to return from El Dorado, they cast his son.
- Jonathan Rosenbaum was one to point out that one of the most inspired sequences in the film (the opening train action set piece- the clever little hornet heist) was shot by the second unit team https://chicagoreader.com/MovieCaps/R/RI/17145_RIO_LOBO.html
- Unlike the other Hawks/Wayne westerns, the first chunk of this film is a war film.
- Wayne looks tired here for much of the running time, his only archiveable film after this is his swan song The Shootist in 1976. He looks like a man that was relieved to have finally won an Oscar (True Grit the year before in 1969). Sadly, until the wonderful Jack Elam shows up at the 75-minute mark there is nobody else in the cast that can act to help the Duke out either. They are all beautiful young people (Jennifer O’Neill, Jorge Rivero)—but not actors. Hawks was never one for bold stylistic visual flourishes, and without those, the margin for making a great film is thin. He needs actors that can deliver.
- Again, Jack Elam is excellent. He plays a variation on Walter Brennan’s Stumpy character in Rio Bravo– a funny, crazy old man who drinks and totes a shotgun. When he finally shows up in the film, I swear you can see Wayne’s energy in the film pick up to try to match Elam.
- The story starts out as a reverse of Rio Bravo with the bad guys holding the sheriff’s office and keeping Mitchum’s son captive, but then the good guys (Wayne, Elam and others) take over and hole up in the prison like both Rio Bravo and El Dorado (there is even a prisoner swap here just like those two films).
- Recommend but closer to the fray of the archives than the top 10 of 1970