BluRay/DVD Reviews

HONDO

By • Oct 11th, 2005 •

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(Paramount Home Entertainment) 1953 / 83 mins

Compact, boasting, with few exceptions, exemplary dialogue, deep, delicious Technicolor hues, and a riveting debut by Tennessee Williams diva Geraldine Page, who discovers her own, contemplative way to deal with the iconic presence of The Duke. She even garnered a Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance.

The narrative is rampant with surprises, all of them sure to be appreciated by lovers of Wayne’s films, and admirers of the western genre. Even the basic story, though one might initially assume it will be a SHANE rip-off, quickly and assertively goes its own way. And in some respects the film is almost shocking: if you remember Wayne’s notorious interview in Playboy magazine (after the integration movement of the early 60s had begun) in which he not only spoke in politically dubious terms about Blacks, but outright accused the Indian nations of being in the wrong for not giving us the land they selfishly horded, it’s something of a disconcerting revelation to see the Indian characters drawn as morally and thoughtfully three dimensional as they are here, prior to a far less positive and comparatively one-dimensional image of them in 1956’s John Ford/John Wayne flick THE SEARCHERS.

It’s a shame we don’t have both the flat and 3D versions of the film to enjoy, particularly since we are presented with the Intermission card used in theaters to provide a break while the projectionists changed the two reels used to create the overlapping 3D effect. However, perhaps the elements aren’t in good shape, or perhaps a deluxe version will appear some day.

Praise goes to Leonard Maltin and Frank Thompson for an equally tight, informed, and lively commentary track. The facts pour in, on Louis L’Amour (his first story-into-film), on director John Farrow (a martinet), on Technicolor and 3D (Wayne complained about the time-consuming, cumbersome equipment), about Lee Aaker as the SHANE-clone boy who sees Wayne as a father figure (Aaker appears on the commentary track).

Featurettes include Michael Wayne taking Maltin for a tour of the film vault in which not only some of the Wayne estate’s negatives are stored, but even the chaps he wore in STAGECOACH, RED RIVER, and HONDO.

This is a well-produced DVD and a lovely little film. Definitely a keeper for its many ingratiating virtues.


Special Features:
Commentary by Leonard Maltin, historian Frank Thompson, and actor Lee Aaker.
Several featurettes, including “The Making of HONDO” and “Profile: James Edward Grant.”

Crew:
Directed by John Farrow.
Screenplay by James Edward Grant, from a story by Louis L’Amour.
2nd Unit Director (final battle) John Ford.
Music by Hugo Friedhofer.
Cinematography by Robert Burks and Archie Stout. Art Direction by Alfred Ybarra.

With: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate, James Arness, Lee Aaker.

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