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Howard Hawks
John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, Michele Carey
Writing Credits:
Harry Brown (novel), Leigh Brackett

It's The Big One With The Big Two!

Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$6.000 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 5/19/2009

DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
• Audio Commentary with Critic/Film Historian Richard Schickel Featuring Actor Ed Asner and Author Todd McCarthy
DVD Two:
• “Ride, Boldly Ride: The Journey of El Dorado” 7-Part Featurette
• “The Artist and the American West” Vintage Featurette
• “Behind the Gates: AC Lyles Remembers John Wayne” Featurette
• Galleries
• Theatrical Trailer

• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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El Dorado: The Centennial Collection (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 18, 2009)

No use in pretending: I openly admit that I've never been much of a fan of Westerns. I was born just a little too late to embrace them during their heyday. Though they've experienced periodic revivals - most notably during the early Nineties, when Westerns grabbed Best Picture Oscars two of three years - I haven't been able to develop a great affection for them.

Nonetheless, I've seen a few I like - the classic Stagecoach impressed me most - and I'm happy to check out others to learn more about the genre. As such, I was pleased to receive a DVD copy of a "later-career" John Wayne effort, 1967's El Dorado. Wayne continues to remain the definitive American icon, and it's exciting to witness more of his work. However, while Stagecoach impressed me mightily, this much-later flick seemed less impressive – though still good.

The most intriguing aspect of El Dorado stems from its pairing of Wayne and Robert Mitchum. This was their second and final project together, and their only joint Western. Actually, it may have been the only one of the two films in which they truly interacted. Their prior pairing came in The Longest Day, a three-hour epic that packed in about eight million actors. I never saw that movie, so I don't know if Mitchum and Wayne had any scenes together. Based on that enormous roster of stars, I'd say there's a good chance all their scenes were separate.

That's definitely not the case in El Dorado, which matches them as friends. I didn't find much about Dorado that made it stand out in a crowd, but the easy banter between these two helped. Both characters are afforded some depth and the two actors relate to each other in appropriate and believable ways. It remains Wayne's movie through and through, but the addition of another sizable star helps make the show more entertaining.

As for the story, it combines the usual Western themes of honor and revenge. Wayne plays a hired gun who stays on the right side of a land dispute, and Mitchum works as the sheriff who tries to ensure Wayne's Cole Thornton won't tip the scale against the sympathetic party. All seems well until after a few months, Mitchum's Harrah hits the bottle due to the loss of a love and Thornton returns both to sober up his buddy and to make sure the simmering battle doesn't explode. Eventually it does, of course, and Thornton picks up a brash sidekick named Mississippi (James Caan) along the way. The usual shoot-outs and fights ensue.

El Dorado seems to be a pretty formulaic Western, but it's an enjoyable one. The lead actors fill their roles nicely, and the supporting cast works effectively as well. Caan wouldn't have been my first choice as the young bandit, but he does a strong job in the role - excepting his miserable "Chinaman" act, but that bit would have stunk no matter who did it.

Christopher George seems appropriately nasty - but not stereotypically so - as baddie Nelse McLeod. While I didn't think much of Michele Carey's acting talents as tough gal Joey MacDonald, I won't complain. She's amazingly sexy, though anachronistically so. She really looks like she just stepped out of the video for "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" and she doesn't fit with the rest of the folks.

The plot of El Dorado appears thin, and the characters are marginal for the most part, but overall it works, largely on the strength of its stars. Add some solid action and fights and the project offers a fairly entertaining and exciting film.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

El Dorado appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some spotty elements, the transfer satisfied.

For the most part, the film featured positive sharpness. Mild to moderate edge enhancement marred the presentation, and that side of tings force wide shots to appear a bit muddy. Still, the majority of the movie looked reasonably accurate. Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t concerns, but some source flaws materialized. I saw occasional specks, marks and blotches, though they remained reasonably minor.

Colors appeared good. The film went with a slightly dusty palette that usually seemed fairly natural. The hues were vivid and warm. Black levels looked deep and tight, while shadows were clear and concise. The source flaws and edge enhancement dropped my grade to a “B”, but it was still a nice presentation.

On the other hand, the film's monaural audio was quite good for its age. The sound seemed surprisingly robust and crisp. Dialogue occasionally suffered from some obvious dubbing that didn't integrate particularly well with the picture. Frankly, that aspect alone knocked my grade down from a "B" just because some of the re-recorded speech comes across fairly poorly. Other than that, however, dialogue seemed pretty warm and natural, and intelligibility was never an issue.

Effects appeared relatively powerful. They sounded clean and relatively realistic, and distortion was minimal. Nelson Riddle's score appeared fairly clear and bright. It could have used more low-end, but it fit the rest of the audio well. At times I heard a light layer of tape hiss, but this was not consistently apparent. The audio for El Dorado worked well.

How did the picture and sound quality of this 2009 “Centennial Collection” DVD compare with those of the original 2000 release? I thought both demonstrated similar audio, but the visuals demonstrated obvious improvements. The new transfer was a little cleaner and also seemed tighter and livelier. Colors, blacks and shadows came across as superior here. This was a major upgrade in terms of picture.

While the old disc included virtually no extras, the “Centennial Collection” package adds a mix of components. On DVD One, we find two audio commentaries. The first comes from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the story and comparisons with Rio Bravo, cast and performances, thoughts about director Howard Hawks, sets and locations, and some personal memories.

Maybe someday Bogdanovich will create a consistently interesting commentary – but not today. As is the case with virtually all of the filmmaker’s chats, this one has more than a few good moments, but those get weighed down by a lot of dead air and dull remarks. For instance, Bogdanovich actually utters this pearl of wisdom: “’A few months back’ sets up that it was a few months ago.” Thanks, Pete – without your insight, I’d never have understood what the phrase “a few months back” meant.

Sarcasm aside, Bogdanovich does offer some good thoughts here, especially when he digs into Hawks’ career and life. You’ll undoubtedly learn something from this track, but you’ll also find yourself bored on quite a few occasions.

For the second commentary, we hear from critic/film historian Richard Schickel featuring actor Ed Asner and author Todd McCarthy. The “featuring” part means that Schickel offers a running, screen-specific chat into which the remarks from Asner and McCarthy have been inserted. The participants cover Howard Hawks and his career, cast and performances, the source story and its adaptations, themes and connections to Rio Bravo, some interpretation of the tale, and a few other production elements.

Don’t expect this track to outshine the Bogdanovich discussion by a lot. Oh, I prefer it, as it seems more consistently satisfying and it lacks the tedious aspects of Bogdanovich’s discussion. However, it still comes with a fair amount of dead air, and Schickel doesn’t add a lot of memorable insight. I like Asner’s notes, and both Schickel and McCarthy manage to present decent facts about the production. Nonetheless, the commentary never becomes anything better than average.

Over on DVD Two, we find a seven-part featurette entitled Ride, Boldly Ride: The Journey to El Dorado. Viewed as a whole, this show runs 41 minutes, 50 seconds as it presents notes from McCarthy, Schickel, Bogdanovich, Asner, Paramount producer AC Lyles, director Howard Hawks (via archival interviews), film historian Michael F. Blake, film historian/author Scott Eyman, film critic/author Molly Haskell and actor James Caan.

“Ride” looks at the studio system in the 1960s and how older filmmakers like Hawks dealt with it. The program also examines Hawks’ films prior to Dorado and aspects of its development, the story/script and the influence of Rio Bravo, and elements of the production. “Ride” goes on to discuss photography and editing, Hawks’ themes, cast and characters, the relationship between Hawks and John Wayne, and a few related notes.

Of all the elements found in this set, “Ride” proves the most effective. Yes, it repeats some tidbits from the commentaries, and it also doesn’t quite dig into the details of the production as well as I’d like; it often goes for a philosophical bent that means fewer filmmaking nuggets. Still, we get a fair amount of those facts, and the piece moves at a good pace. It provides an informative take on the movie.

A few more featurettes appear. A vintage clip from 1967, The Artist and the American West fills five minutes, 28 seconds and looks at the work of painter Olaf Wieghorst, the creator of the art that appears during the film’s opening credits. In addition to info about Wieghorst, we find some staged – but fun – interaction with Wieghorst, Howard Hawks and John Wayne. This is a cool little historical artifact.

Behind the Gates: AC Lyles Remembers John Wayne goes for five minutes, 32 seconds. Lyles discusses Wayne’s work at Paramount and his interactions with the actor. It’s not the deepest piece, but Lyles provides a mix of reasonably interesting tales about the legendary actor.

In addition to the film’s trailer - the only extra found on the earlier DVD – we get some Galleries. These break down into “Lobby Cards” (8 stills), “Production Part 1” (19), “Production Part 2” (21) and “Production Part 3” (23). All prove to be interesting.

Finally, the set includes a booklet. The eight-page piece provides some short production notes and a few photos. It’s not memorable but it’s a nice way to finish the set.

I don’t know if El Dorado qualifies as a cinematic classic, but it remains a memorable Western after four decades. It does enough to satisfy and entertain to make it a good flick. Both picture and sound quality prove satisfactory, and we find a mixed but often informative set of supplements.

Western fans will find a lot to like in El Dorado, so they should snag this satisfying set. That goes for folks who already own the original 2000 DVD. The “Centennial Collection” set offers definite improvements in terms of visuals and supplements. Those make it a fine upgrade.

To rate this film visit the John Wayne Collection review of EL DORADO

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main