Rio Bravo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film came with a pretty average transfer.
While “average” doesn’t mean “bad”, I must admit that the image looked worse than I’d expected based on current standards. Source flaws were one moderate concern. Grain could be a bit heavy, and I noticed a mix of specks and marks through the flick. Though these weren’t prominent, I thought they seemed more noticeable than expected.
Sharpness also demonstrated some issues. Definition usually seemed fine, but the shots could turn somewhat soft at times. I didn’t think these tendencies became terribly distracting, but they left us with a less than concise image at times. Jagged edges weren’t a problem, but a little shimmering occurred and I noticed some edge haloes on occasion.
Colors were decent. The movie came with a rather brown tone much of the time, and this could make the result somewhat drab. Still, the hues usually seemed fine within the cinematic constraints of the setting. Blacks were appropriately dark and dense, while shadows showed nice delineation. At all times, the transfer appeared perfectly watchable, but it lacked the spark I anticipated.
As for the monaural audio of Rio Bravo, it appeared fine for a nearly 50-year-old flick. Speech could be a little thin, but the lines showed reasonable warmth and never suffered from any form of defects. Music lacked great dimensionality as well, but the score showed acceptable clarity and definition. Effects came along the same lines, as they were clean and without distortion but they failed to present much range. Some light background noise cropped up at times. This was a competent track for its age.
For this “Two-Disc Special Edition”, we get a broad collection of supplements. On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary from filmmaker John Carpenter and critic/film historian Richard Schickel. Both provide separate running, screen-specific tracks edited into one piece. They discuss cast and crew, story, characters and themes, sets and locations, music, and Hawks’ style as a director.
When we hear from Carpenter or Schickel, they offer some fine information. Schickel provides the majority of the material and he even presents some criticism of Bravo, a welcome choice given the preponderance of praise usually found in commentaries. We find nice insights into Hawks’ preferences in terms of visuals and story, his self-plagiarism, and the impact of his dislike of High Noon on Bravo.
Too bad we encounter so much dead air during this commentary. This doesn’t turn into a problem during the movie’s first third or so, but after that, we find lots and lots of gaps. Given the presence of two participants, this becomes a real drag. I think the track’s informative enough to overcome the flaws, but the problems make it less impressive than it could have been.
We discover a collection of promos in the John Wayne Trailer Gallery. It gives us the ads for Bravo as well as The Big Stampede, Haunted Gold, Somewhere in Sonora, and The Man from Monterey.
Over on DVD Two, we begin with two new featurettes. Commemoration: Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo runs 33 minutes, 15 seconds as it blends movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Carpenter, filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich and Walter Hill, UCLA Department of Film and Television’s Jonathan Kuntz and Steven Mamber, Howard Hawks Papers’ curator James D’Arc, and actor Angie Dickinson. We also find some old taped comments from Howard Hawks.
“Commemoration” looks at how Bravo acted as a personal reflection on Hawks and where it fit into his career at the time. The program lets us know of TV’s influence, the period popularity of westerns, and how these affected Bravo. In addition, we learn about casting and performances, the script, shooting the flick and related subjects, Hawks’ tendencies and their role in Bravo, some censorship issues, and the movie’s reception.
Only one modest problem occurs during “Commemoration”: repeated information from the commentary. Of course, if you skipped that track, this isn’t an issue, and it’s not a major concern either way. Despite some repetition, “Commemoration” offers a rich, incisive piece. It covers the nuts and bolts of the film well and also digs into various forms of subtext. I find a lot to like in this tight program.
Next we find the eight and a half minute Old Tucson: Where the Legends Walked. It features Kuntz, Old Tucson Studios tour guide Dan Schneider, Old Tucson Studios former owner Rob Shelton, and Old Tucson Studios entertainment manager Mark Kadow. We get info about Old Tucson Studios with an emphasis on its use in Bravo. The short piece gives us a nice examination of the locations.
For a look at the director, we shift to The Men Who Made Movies: Howard Hawks. Narrated by filmmaker Sydney Pollack, it lasts 54 minutes, 47 seconds and includes comments from Hawks across various years. Presented in chronological order, “Hawks” looks at career highlights. We find out things like the development of the director’s signature dialogue style as well as specific elements of certain flicks.
Also found on the 2005 Bringing Up Baby DVD, “Hawks” mainly acts as a compilation of movie clips. The majority of the show focuses on those. Pollack’s narration fills in some gaps and Hawks’ anecdotes tell us some details about the productions. The latter are good but they pop up too infrequently. The show becomes acceptably informative, but I’d prefer something with fewer film snippets and more behind the scenes details.
Finally, the set includes a Collectible Behind the Scenes Photo Set. It presents eight black and white photos from the film’s shoot. I don’t know how “collectible” these are, but they’re a nice touch.
Despite its length and casual pacing, Rio Bravo deserves its status as a classic flick. The movie involves us with its simple but powerful story, lively dialogue and interesting characters. The DVD comes with acceptable picture and audio plus some pretty good extras. No one will mistake this for a great DVD, but it serves its movie fairly well.