Artisan // 1950 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // July 31st, 1999
Another film, another American hero.
Rio Grande is another John Wayne classic film or a long by-gone era. The third in a trilogy of US Cavalry pictures by John Ford (Fort Apache and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon), this film embodies all that was good about the US Cavalry including such chest-thumping themes as duty and honor. This is also the first of many joint screen appearances by Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and they are wonderful together.
Once again, this is a film originally released by Republic Pictures but which has since been acquired by Artisan Entertainment. As it turns out, Artisan has re-released and re-packaged this in their own packaging, but I got my hands on this version straight from them before the new release was available. As such, it is still swaddled in the Silver Screen Classics colors of the Republic days. Give Artisan credit for going after the titles owned by Republic. It has contributed to their rise in profitability, no doubt.
The image here is absolutely terrific. The original black and white, full frame picture is completely grain-free. Blacks are deep and dark and contrast is just right, both in bright daylight and in black, low-lit night scenes. Either Republic used an excellent print, or did some heavy restoration work on the one they had, for the image is virtually free from all nicks and scars. This is as good a black and white transfer as I have seen from a film this old.
Much like the audio in Sands Of Iwo Jima, this mono soundtrack is outstanding for its age. It lacks any serious hiss or tinny sounds. The dialogue tracks are very clear, though not as deep and resolute as today's best, but that is to be expected. The background (and foreground) track is filled with wonderful sounds including songs performed by The Sons of the Pioneers and the soundtrack of 22-time Academy Award nominee Victor Young.
Also like Sands Of Iwo Jima, this film includes a making of featurette hosted by Leonard Maltin. These are quality introductions to the world of these classic films. It's too bad Republic didn't get to continue the fine work they were doing on DVD. One can only hope Artisan will pick up the ball and keep running with these classics of the silver screen by adding more quality presentations on DVD, in addition to their quirky new independent film success with titles such as The Blair Witch Project.
I would have liked to see a commentary track or two on this film. It certainly would have made the experience that much more enjoyable. Other than that it is hard to find something about this disc to pick on. The acting and directing are first rate. The stunts are outstanding. The music is beautiful. And the cinematography is glorious. What's not to like?
Another John Wayne film I will not soon forget. As I have said before, I was never a fan of The Duke. Probably because my grandmother (may she rest in peace) was. I was probably just a rebellious little jerk, disagreeing with anything anyone in authority ever said to me (as if that has changed today -- yeah right). Maybe I should have listened more and talked less when I was a child.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making Of Featurette
* Theatrical Trailer