“Hondo” (1953)

MOVIE REVIEW: “Hondo” stars John Wayne (True Grit [1969], Stagecoach [1939]), Geraldine Page (Sweet Bird of Youth, The Trip to Bountiful), Ward Bond (The Quiet Man, The Maltese Falcon), Michael Pate (The Court Jester, Matlock Police [TV series]), James Arness (Gunsmoke [TV series], Them!), Lee Aaker (Destry, Bye Bye Birdie), Rodolfo Acosta (And Should We Die, Rio Conchos), Leo Gordon (Maverick, The Haunted Place), and Tom Irish (Father of the Bride [1950], Seven Angry Men). It is directed by John Farrow (Around the World in 80 Days [1956], Wake Island), with the screenplay being written by James Edward Grant (The Alamo, The Comancheros). Hondo Lane (Wayne), an army dispatch rider, stumbles upon a lone homestead on Apache territory. With the United States having broken their treaty with the Apache, Hondo seeks to save the woman and kid living on the farm from vengeful Indians.

What a perfect time to review a John Wayne film. For those of you who don’t know, at the time of posting this a John Wayne exhibit is in the process of being eradicated from USC. The exhibit, made in 2012, was meant as a showcase of the legendary actor’s work through props, photos, and whatnot. Now, because of some racy comments made in a Playboy magazine in 1971, Wayne’s exhibit is getting the boot. Poor Wayne. If only he know what would happen fifty years later when taking that interview. My question is… who inspected the Playboy magazine to find this interview? Does anyone really read the interviews with those magazines? It’s my understanding that people get off the pictures of models more than the editorials of fully clothed individuals. Guess I was wrong. Moving on, we have “Hondo,” a shot-for-3D western that brought Wayne back on the saddle after a three year hiatus from the cowboy genre. It’s got Indians, generals, and a whole slew of horse races and gun fights. The film did modestly well for its time and has been regarded as a Wayne classic (even though it’s one of his lesser known). With this movie, you get what you paid for, that being an old western. They’re a dime a dozen. Of course, I haven’t seen as many as the older demographic who grew up with them, so my analysis is a bit more lenient on this picture. Wayne’s character of Hondo is a peculiar one. He’s half-Indian, just trying to get by amidst a war-torn frontier. In pure Wayne fashion, he’s also a man’s man; rough around the edges, dealing sheer force to any person who stands in his way. Admittedly, this is the first Wayne film I have seen fully. I saw bits and pieces of “Stagecoach” a few years ago, but not enough to fully remember his performance. Yes folks, I’m a bum. There’s a lot of classic features and stars I have yet to see. But I’m making my way, one slow punch at a time. To put it plainly, “Hondo” is no Sergio Leone. It’s an alright western that has a more interesting backstory than the actual film itself. I found myself fascinated with the bonus features of the blu-ray, which dipped into the history of the Apache, John Wayne’s film gang, and the screenwriter he trusts the most to write dialogue for him. For film buffs, it’s a treat. In fact, it makes you appreciate the movie more (though in a more time-capsule, historic sense than actual entertainment value). “Hondo” held enough good elements to keep me interested throughout its duration, with alright performances, breathtaking cinematography, and some surprisingly solid action sequences. Not necessarily the bar brawl (which was a few punches, though comedic), but the huge set piece towards the end of Indians surrounding Wayne and co. Sure, it’s not a tactic the Apache would’ve pulled in real life, but it was cool visually. Seeing Wayne in action for the “first time” was also fun; I liked deconstructing his performance and seeing what all the hubbub was about. He did a good job for what it’s worth, though I think I’ll need to watch him in more prolific pieces of cinema. The character of Hondo is at the very least has a cool dimension to him, where he adopts certain customs from the Apache, like not telling lies. He’s blunt and to the point, and arguments over telling the truth come up. Made for better, deeper material than just a rough cowboy being gritty for gritty sake. Overall, “Hondo” is a fairly entertaining picture with enough going for it to keep you up. It’s not the best, nor is it the worst. The film is well-put together (as I said, great cinematography), even with the typical tropes you’d find in a genre such as this. FINAL SCORE: 70%= Burnt Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““Hondo” (1953)

  1. Pingback: July Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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