BluRay/DVD Reviews

EL DORADO

By • Jun 2nd, 2009 •

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I like EL DORADO better than RIO BRAVO. I think RIO BRAVO is the better film, but I’ve watched EL DORADO many more times. You understand that, don’t you? It’s like CITIZEN KANE is the better film, but I’ve watched TOUCH OF EVIL countless times.

Dean Martin outshines Robert Mitchum. Much as I love him, Arthur Hunnicut is bettered by Walter Brennan. Ricky Nelson Vs. James Caan? Well, Nelson sings and strums, which gives me the willies. But Caan does that lamentable Asian routine which, while not as grotesque as Mickey Rooney’s in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’s, still makes my skin crawl.

There’s all that, but far beyond all those one-on-one comparisons, RIO BRAVO does not have the elegiac nature of EL DORADO, so much of which is shot at night. Wayne’s paralyzed arm is a great physical and metaphorical device, an emblem of his mortality. RIO BRAVO is all light and comradeship, and I favor the imbalance of EL DORADO, with its moments of levity outweighed by the forces of gravity.

And finally there’s Wayne. I think this is the film he should have gotten his Academy Award for, rather than the affectionate mugging of TRUE GRIT. He’s wonderful in this; effortless and perfect. And I’m delighted at Peter Bogdanovich’s commentary track, which describes Wayne as at his happiest on the set with the guys, never in his trailer. I’d heard that over the years; it’s great to get a first-hand confirmation.

The earlier DVD was beautifully mastered. So is this. The colors are gloriously saturated. The supplementary gifts make it a great collectable. There’s a second commentary track featuring Richard Schickel, Ed Asner and author Todd McCarthy. Then, on a second disc, there’s a 7-part ‘making-of’ doc which employs lots of obscure stills of Hawks and Wayne on set. Another, smaller featurette has A.C. Lyles, long-time Paramount executive, remembering Wayne. Usually I trash the cover that houses the DVD box, but in this case it’s an elegant Black, with a small picture of Wayne and Mitchum within the dark borders, and it so fits the mood of the film, that it stays with the disc on my shelf.

Wayne did five more good films after his near-fatal lung cancer operation in ’62, and a lot of bad ones. One of the good ones was a documentary, produced by writer George Plimpton, who played a bit role in RIO LOBO, getting shot by Wayne as the payoff in the scene. It was part of a series of docs Plimpton made where he intruded on either sports events (PLIMPTON! THE GREAT QUARTERBACK SNEAK) or other tableaus, his amateur’s personality seeming insanely out of place. Amusingly, in this doc (PLIMPTON! SHOOT-OUT AT RIO LOBO – 1970), both Hawks and Wayne seem barely able to tolerate his presence on the set. I wonder if it’ll show up as a supplement to a double disc of RIO LOBO, a weak film in the Hawks/Wayne canon, but one that would be justified on DVD shelves by the inclusion of the Plimpton doc.

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