Tuesday, July 19, 2011

El Dorado (1966)

Rio Bravo For The 60s

- Howard Hawks' 1966 film El Dorado is technically a remake of his own 1959 film Rio Bravo - but it is almost difficult to call it a simple remake. Sure, it features a recovering drunk gun slinger, a talented and loyal young hired hand (now "Mississippi" instead of "Colorado"), John Wayne playing the same character (himself), an old man who guards the jail, a western town crawling with professional killers, and scenes that are a little more than reminiscent of Rio Bravo - but El Dorado has some differences as well. In El Dorado, the recovering drunk is the sheriff instead of Wayne's sidekick; instead of being a sure shot, our young hero cannot hit the broadside of the local saloon; and the story is a bit different, more involved, and equipped with different themes. Most remakes have failed to escape the shadow of the original or even exist as a good stand-alone film; but, while not as good a film as Rio Bravo, El Dorado is a very entertaining romp through the American West.

The music found throughout the film could have used some tweaking though - you wonder what exactly you are getting yourself into with the lame title song (but keep watching, it gets a whole lot better) and the entire soundtrack sounds like that which is found in the Chuck Jones era "Tom And Jerry" cartoons.

However, everything else in the film makes it a fun western. The entire film is shot very well with great action scenes, sets, and a classic western look. It is also a very funny film - while I would say that Rio Bravo is a better overall film, I will say that I certainly laughed more during El Dorado.

The cast is also great in all the roles. The actors playing the four main heroes in the film are actually an improvement over those seen in Rio Bravo: John Wayne is basically the same - he is still playing John Wayne only with a bullet in his back - but he is just as likable, Arthur Hunnicutt is a little easier to take than the sometimes overbearing Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo, and James Caan is twice the actor Ricky Nelson was - although it is extremely painful to watch him impersonate an Asian fellow while trying to sneak up on a henchman.

Robert Mitchum especially stands out in the film, giving an all too enjoyable portrayal of Sheriff J.P. Harrah, the tough-guy sheriff who is trying to recover his legendary reputation and shot as well as his soberness. Mitchum turns is very funny and lends a great presence to the film but he is also terrific in how he brings out the intricacies of his character - playing out this capable Sheriff who is buried under a mean yet amusing drunkard alter-ego to theatrical precision.

Despite the lack of a similar sucker-punch ending of Rio Bravo, El Dorado is a very fun escapist western film with plenty of action, adventure, and humor to satisfy you off your saddle.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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