Rio Lobo

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Col. Cord McNally (John Wayne) was in charge when a Union pay train was hijacked, so he had to take action. A band of Confederate guerillas stormed the train and tried to make off with the loot, but thanks to McNally, the mission was a failure. But in the process, one of his finest was killed and as such, he wants justice for the crime. He is able to jail the leaders of the operation, Capt. Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Sgt. Tuscarora Phillips (Chris Mitchum), but the damage has been and nothing can bring back McNally’s friend. The assault on the train was not an isolated incident either, as numerous Union trains were being attacked by Confederate forces, as if someone had inside information on the shipments. As time passes and the war comes to a conclusion, McNally has become close to Cordona and Phillips, so he asks them for assistance in the matter. While the war has ended, McNally would still like to know who turned on the Union and leaked the information, so he could get some closure. The search for the traitors takes them to the town of Rio Lobo, where Phillips is from and has now returned to as a resident. The town has become overtaken by outlaws and other crooked folks, which leaves the locals in constant fear. Can even McNally forge a coupe to return peace to Rio Lobo?

This movie was released in 1970, but Rio Lobo plays like a throwback to the olden days of the western. Of course, with John Wayne involved and director Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo, His Girl Friday) behind the camera, this one had immense potential from the start. And if you’re looking to take a movie back to the good old days, it helps to have people involved that worked in those days. Hawks and Wayne are such men and they even worked together on numerous projects, though Rio Lobo would be their final collaboration. By this time, audiences were losing interest in westerns and Wayne was starting down the path to retirement himself. But with the throwback to the classic western style, Rio Lobo had an edge, as most westerns from the 60s were harsh and featured anti-heroes, so this was a breath of fresh air at the time. I had seen Rio Lobo several times before this DVD edition and I have to admit, I was underwhelmed. I mean, it has some good moments and offers a solid experience, but it never rises above average on the whole. I am not a diehard western fan, but I do own numerous genre efforts, so its not that I dislike the genre, I just wasn’t as taken with Rio Lobo as some folks are. But unless you’re a Wayne devotee, then just give this disc a rental, as Paramount has done little to warrant a purchase.

In this movie, John Wayne breaks away from his usual genre connections and stars in a western. Ok, so that is about as false a statement as one could make, since of course, Wayne is best known for his westerns. I know he also worked a lot in war pictures, but The Duke’s most lasting efforts have been westerns. I have seen most of Wayne’s movies, westerns or otherwise, so I knew what to expect from Rio Lobo. Wayne was an icon of cinema, but his fame was more about attitude, instead of pure thespian skills. Yes, he could handle basic roles and turned in some excellent work, but in most cases, he was playing the same character over and again. But people liked the movies and in the end, I suppose that is what matters. As I look over his career however, it becomes obvious how limited his skills were. As with many other actors though, Wayne knew how to play up his strong points, of which his screen presence was the strongest. In Rio Lobo, he offers more of the same, but he is still fun to watch. Other films with Wayne include Big Jake, The Green Berets, Donovan’s Reef, North to Alaska, and The Searchers. The cast also includes Jack Elam (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Support Your Local Sheriff), Jorge Rivero (Evil Eye, Werewolf), and Jennifer O’Neill (Scanners, Summer of ’42).

Video: How does it look?

Rio Lobo is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I’ve been quite pleased with these CBS releases by Paramount, as the transfers have been excellent. This holds true with this release, as the print looks almost brand new, which is impressive. I saw some minor defects, but they were minimal and infrequent, so no need for concern. I found colors to be natural and bright, while flesh tones appear normal at all times. The contrast is smooth and stark, thanks to refined black levels that provide adequate detail throughout. Given the film’s age, I am surprised it looks this good, so once again, kudos to Paramount.

Audio: How does it sound?

As I had just watched Paramount’s release of Le Mans, I had high expectations for the new Dolby Digital 5.1 option found here. Of course, Rio Lobo isn’t the same kind of material as Le Mans and in specific, it lacks the same kind of audio potential. I could hear some good surround presence, but this just isn’t as active as I expected. Then again, I’d rather have a natural sounding track like this, as opposed to one in which surround use is forced. The music has a little bit of life and sound effects are solid, so no real complaints here. The dialogue is clean and clear throughout, with no volumes troubles to mention. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround option and a French language track, as well as English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes no bonus materials.

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