Sunday, August 28, 2016

RED RIVER (1948)

Howard Hawks only made a handful of westerns and as far as I'm concerned, every single one of them is great.  RED RIVER is Hawks' first credited western and it tells the story of a tough cowboy (John Wayne) who over the course of 14 years builds a massive cattle ranch deep in the heart of Texas.  So now with over 9,000 head of cattle he plans on driving his herd up to Missouri here he can sell them for a good profit.

Wayne and his men set out for the trip north, but after a few weeks the rugged, unsettled land and Wayne's cruel disposition begins to wear on the men and eventually RED RIVER turns into "Mutiny on the Bounty" on horseback.  And there's nothing wrong with that because "Mutiny on the Bounty" is one of my favorite novels of all time.

The story for RED RIVER is great, but what really pushes the film into classic territory is the performances by the entire cast (especially Brennan, Clift and Wayne) and the perfect direction by Hawks.  His direction is so smooth that the images just slide into eyeballs without you even realizing it.  Scene after scene go by and you don't even notice the cuts.  And the camera is always where it should be.  RED RIVER is an amazingly smooth film to watch.

Beautiful scenery, great acting, just the right amount of humor to ease the mood when needed, Wayne's first film with a darker role, a super quick glimpse of Shelley Winters as a dance hall girl and a quick pace that even after two hours leaves you wanting more.  Highly recommended for fans of classic westerns.
Shelley Winters