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Rio Con Queso
on October 15, 2004
By 1970, John Wayne had his Oscar in his pocket and Rio Lobo on some inspection looks like just a lot of good, clean fun he and the cast decided to have, with no particular regard for making cinematic history. The plot rambles and has some implausabilities-like why does the Duke, who plays a Yankee, go home to Blackthorne, Texas? And Jorge Rivero as a Confederate officer takes some getting used to. Same thing, different reason, with Jennifer O'Neill. She seems too contemporary for a historic setting and her acting is questionable. However, by dogies, she is just so beautiful (and one of the hottest actresses in demand in the early 70's) that she can be forgiven for any dramatic failings.
One of the strengths of the film is the Duke's self-deprecating humor is in fine display, and so is John Wayne himself. Chisum, which was made about this time, is a better film in my estimation, but Mr. Wayne is practically relegated to a supporting player in it. In Rio Lobo he is in almost every scene and that alone makes it a pleasure to watch. Jack Elam hams it up and David Huddleston adds a nice touch of comedy. Trivia buffs will enjoy Sherri Lansing (future studio head) in the near buff and George Plimpton, fresh off his Paper Tiger days, getting a bit role as a short-lived bad guy.
As for improving the movie, it suffers because the death of the lieutenant, which is the main motivating force for Wayne's character to go after the bad guys, is little seen by the audience. We need to connect with this guy so we feel strongly that justice must be done. This character should have been played by a well-known actor in a cameo role. An obvious choice would have been Patrick Wayne. Then the audience would know the character even though their presence onscreen is brief and make a stronger emotional connection with them. Another thing is the sheriff of Rio Lobo is supposed to be a really mean hombre, but we don't have enough scenes with him to establish this. At the very least, a scene should be added where he brutally questions the Sherri Lansing character and scars her. It wouldn't have to be graphic-just enough to once again emotionally connect with the audience.
Mr. Wayne's DVDs are not getting the attention that his fans deserve! George Plimpton had a television special on making Rio Lobo-this should be an extra included. And, my gosh, The Alamo had 500,000 feet of film shot-some by John Ford. What do we get in bonus material? ZIP! NADA! JACKSQUAT! C'mon Hollywood, this is THE most important film actor of the 20th Century! Get off yer duffs and find this stuff. This is HISTORY!