Donovan’s Reef

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

“Guns” Donovan (John Wayne) and “Boats” Gilhooley (Lee Marvin) are old Navy buddies who live in the lush of tropics of Hawaii, but this is not paradise all the time. The two spend most of their time inside Donavan’s Reef, a saloon and there, they argue and fuss, sometimes until their tempers explode. As such, the two end up in fisticuffs often and the other locals try to intervene, since they know how good of friends the two are, under their tough exteriors. So life is simple and pretty much normal, until Amelia Dedham (Elizabeth Allen) arrives in search of her father Doc (Jack Warden), another friend of Donovan and Gilhooley. She wants to take over control of the family business, but not with permission from Doc, instead through legal vessels. But as Amelia soon discovers, the island works in a much different fashion than the normal world, which means she could be in for much more than she expects…

This is an action/comedy with John Wayne, which was directed by John Ford and takes place in Hawaii. Yes, that sounds strange indeed, but Donovan’s Reef is a fun movie to watch, just don’t take it all too seriously, or you won’t enjoy yourself as much. John Wayne and Lee Marvin are terrific here and they have solid characters to work with, which results in some superb moments and yes, a fistfight or two for good measure. You’ll also see Jack Warden, Elizabeth Allen, Cesar Romero, and Dorothy Lamour, meaning this flick has one heck of a cast, to be sure. I’m sure some folks will criticize the storyline and dissect it to the pieces, but Donovan’s Reef is not the film to do that to, this is just for a good time and it shows. Ford’s direction is solid and the cast seems to be having a lot of fun, which enhances the entire picture. If you’re a fan of John Wayne or you just want to have a good time, then I recommend Donovan’s Reef.

I’ve read several writers claim this is an Elvis movie with John Wayne in the lead instead, which I don’t think is far from the truth. Wayne is best known as the fearless soldier or rugged cowboy for good reason, but as he proves here, he can tackle lighter material also. It seems like he is having a good time with this role, perhaps due to the comedic nature of the picture or the free vacation to Hawaii, which must have been nice. Wayne is terrific here and when he bickers with Lee Marvin, those are some of the film’s best moments. You can also see Wayne in such films as The Sons of Katie Elder, Hellfighters, Hatari, The Horse Soldiers, Jet Pilot, The Quiet Man, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The cast also includes Lee Marvin (The Delta Force, The Dirty Dozen), Elizabeth Allen (Diamond Head, Star Spangled Girl), Jack Warden (Dirty Work, The Replacements), Dorothy Lamour (Manhandled, Road to Utopia), and Cesar Romero (Lust in the Dust, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes).

Video: How does it look?

Donovan’s Reef is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I found this to be a very nice looking presentation, though it does look a little dated at times, which is to be expected, I think. The print used is cleaner than I had figured, although some debris is still evident, but an extreme amount. The colors look bright enough and never err, while flesh tones seem natural, never reddish in the least. The contrast is a shade soft here and there, but remains stark enough to keep the image as intended. I saw some edge enhancement, but nothing too bad and in the end, fans should be pleased with this transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

I wasn’t let down by the included mono option, but it is mono and as such, never sparks much at all. The track seems clean enough, free from all but minor distortion and harshness, despite the film’s age. The terrific music is well presented, while the various sound effects also come across in more than decent form. The dialogue is strong at all times, with crisp vocals and no volume issues in the least to report. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as English subtitles, should you need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

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