Tuesday, June 19, 2012

206. Red River (1948)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Howard Hawks
Written By: Borden Chase, Charles Schnee
Main Cast: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, John Ireland
Click here to view the trailer


Man, oh man, these "Hawks Weeks" films have gone from great ("Sergeant York") to really awful, as "Red River" has officially taken the top spot on my "Worst Howard Hawks Films" list. But before the John Wayne fanatics come at me with rifles raised, allow me the chance to explain.

Thomas Dunson (Wayne) has big aspirations. In the beginning of the film, he abandons a wagon train and decides to head to Texas, along with his sidekick Groot (Brennan) and start a cattle ranch. At the time, Dunson has one bull in his possession. The next day, Dunson and Groot come upon a boy who was traveling with the wagon train, which had been attacked by Indians, the boy being the only survivor of the attack. Dunson takes the mouthy boy under his wing, mainly because the boy is in possession of a cow. Dunson finds his land and vows that in ten years he'll have a successful ranch. Fourteen years later, his dreams have come true and along with Groot and the boy, who is now a man, Matthew Garth (Clift), they've raised approximately ten thousand head of cattle. The only problem is that the war has left the country in an economic depression and cattle in Texas aren't worth much. Dunson knows that unless they can move the herd North, to a more populous and prosperous land, they'll lose everything. Dunson makes plans to drive the cattle to Missouri, along the Chisholm Trail. Along with a group of men, Dunson, Groot and Matt drive their ten thousand head North, but, of course, trouble lies ahead.

Call me crazy, but I guess I just don't find cattle drives all that exciting. When your entire plot hinges on taking ten thousand cattle from point A to point B and you still need over two hours of film time to get them there, then count me out. I just couldn't get into this film. It did absolutely nothing for me. My other BIG problem with this western was the lack of a bad guy. Where was the bad dude, with the gnarly mustache, the black duds and the hand that was almost as fast as the good guy's? If you were forced to pick a bad guy out of "Red River", then you'd have to point to Wayne and "The Duke" is never a bad guy. Of course, here he's a huge jerk, which is as un-American as Hitler scarfing down a German Chocolate Cake. Since when does John Wayne not play the gallant hero, they guy you love to cheer on? Since 1948 apparently! Also, Montgomery Clift didn't make a very good cowboy, if you ask me. I'd much prefer watching Monty woo Elizabeth Taylor or as a private in the Army. He just doesn't look like the type of guy I'd envision wrangling cattle in the Old West.


I really don't know what else to say, other than "Red River" was a real clock-watcher of a movie. I honestly couldn't wait for it to end. It bored me to tears and I just couldn't get wound up by cows. The ending is also very...soft, to say the least. I'm used to Westerns where there's a big shootout at the end, with good and evil meeting in the streets and settling their score. You know, a "this town's not big enough for the both of us" kind of thing. Instead, here we get a father and his adopted son exchanging punches for a few seconds and then being belittled by a woman, who convinces them that they shouldn't be fighting. Really? John Wayne got cooled off by a dame? Perhaps it was just the fact that this Western was a little different than the ones I'm used to. I'm pretty sure Sergio Leone and his brand of Westerns have ruined all other films in the genre for me. Although, I'm still looking forward to "Rio Bravo".

RATING: 3.5/10  Yikes! "Hawks Week" is really going to hell in a hand basket, isn't it? Oh well, I still have high hopes for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and, as I said, "Rio Bravo". Next up: "The Big Sky".


June 19, 2012  1:07pm

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