Dorado" on DVD
Duking it Out with
Howard Hawks' "El
Dorado" is a John Wayne oater in the classic tradition.
The Duke plays "one
of the four fastest shots around," a hired gun who shoots when necessary,
but who doesn't necessarily shoot. He's hired by a ruthless businessman
(Ed Asner) to put the muscle on a rancher, but when he shows up he runs
into his old friend (Robert Mitchum), who's now the local sheriff. Mitchum
gives him the straight goods on who's the good guy and who's the bad guy
in the El Dorado area, and Wayne decides he isn't going to work for Asner
So he travels on,
but a few months later hears from a fellow gunslinger (who's about to
take over the gig Wayne turned down) that Mitchum is now a drunken laughingstock,
and he heads back to El Dorado to save his old friend's life.
There's a lot more
to the story than this, of course, including an interesting wrinkle in
which Wayne's character becomes partially and temporarily disabled (at
the worst possible times, of course) and screenwriter Leigh Brackett (who
was writing "The Empire Strikes Back" when she died) has crafted a really
good story, full of interesting characters and situations.
This is an intelligent
Western, with strong male and female roles and good guys and bad guys
who belie the two dimensional stereotypes of Westerns are being populated
by "White hats" and "Black hats."
James Caan provides
an almost comic relief role that's a real change of pace from his later
macho characters - and he pulls it off well. Other supporting cast members
include Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Michelle Carey.
Wayne and Mitchum
are definitely the stars here, but they're surrounded by quality actors
in sympathetic roles.
The look and feel
of "El Dorado" is wide and airy, as befitting the Texas setting of the
film. Director and producer Howard Hawks knew how to make a big screen
Western, and it shows.
The DVD's widescreen
(enhanced for 16x9 TV's) picture is terrific; if we didn't know this was
a 1967-vintage film (with its "old movie" color look) - and if its major
stars weren't dead - we'd have thought it was shot yesterday. Audio is
Dolby Digital mono and it sounds fine, considering the source material.
You don't get a lot
of extras with this DVD, unfortunately. There's the theatrical trailer
and a paragraph or two on the box's rear panel, and that's about it.
Still, this is a classic
Western from near the end of the era and is definitely worth a viewing.
El Dorado, from Paramount
126 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital mono
Starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Edward Asner, Charlene
Hlt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, Michelle Carey
Screenplay by Leigh Brackett
Produced and Directed by Howard Hawks
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