68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Great Balance for its time,
This review is from: Hondo (Full Screen) (DVD)
John Wayne stars as Hondo Lane, a half-Indian message carrier and gunslinger in New Mexico. He first shows up at the ranch of Mrs. Angie Lowe after getting away from Apache attackers. This takes place in the ending days of the "Indian round-up" years, when only a few bands of Apache were left. Hondo takes a liking to Angie and her young son, but soon heads out to deliver the message.
In the meantime, the Apache have always been fond of Mrs. Lowe and had a good relationship with her - and the chief takes a personal interest in her son. He tries to convince Angie to choose a new husband from amongst his braves. She insists that her husband will be back soon to stay on the remote ranch with her.
Hondo runs into the wayward husband in a bar, only learning his name after punching him out. In an attempt to get the husband back to his wife, Hondo takes the man's horse and says that Mr. Lowe can retrieve it at the ranch. Angry, Lowe pays a guy to go with him after Hondo. Apaches attack and kill the paid bodyguard, and Hondo shoots an Apache to save Lowe's life. Lowe repays Hondo by attempting to shoot him in the back. Hondo is forced to kill him. He takes Lowe's tintype of Lowe's son to bring back to the mom.
Along the way, the Apaches find Hondo and are about to torture him to death when the Apache chief recognizes the tintype. Hondo still has to fight - and triumph over - the brother of the Apache he killed. The Apache chief brings Hondo back to Mrs. Lowe, who claims Hondo as her husband in order to get him in away from the Apaches. Hondo tries several times to tell Angie what happened, but each time she doesn't want to hear it. She does end up hearing the truth from someone else, but when Hondo then attempts to tell the boy, Angie refuses to let him do it. She scolds Hondo that his need for the truth is so great that he'd damage the boy's sense of well being and security to achieve it.
The movie is a rather complex story, based almost exactly on the story by Louis L'Amour. John Wayne loved the story so much that he specifically hired a favorite script writer to adapt it into a movie for him. It was filmed to be watched in 3D, so there are several scenes with knives poking at the screen and people standing in the foreground. You might think this would make the movie look cheesy, but really you're normally lost in the storyline or the gorgeous landscapes.
This movie came out in 1953 and for an era that saw many "slaughter the Indians" movies, it's pretty impressive in its even handedness. Angie likes the Apaches and has been friends with them since childhood. Hondo is a half Indian, and had an Apache wife while he lived with them for 5 years. You get treated to many scenes with Apaches speaking in their native Apache tongue. Hondo makes it pretty clear that the only reason that the Apache are rising up are that the US government has been actively deceiving them and betraying them. He explains that the Apache are very much against lying, and that he is the same way.
Compared to many other westerns, this does a reasonably good job of showing shades of grey, not just 'Good' and 'Bad'. The Apaches were pushed into the war, but they're prepared to kill an innocent woman who has lived on this land from birth. The settlers are sometimes obnoxious about their desire to get rid of the "natives". In the end, Hondo says that he imagines this will be the end of the Apache way of life, and that it's a shame.