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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Rio Grande: CE (1950)

Kathleen York: Aren't you going to kiss me goodbye?
Kirby York: I never want to kiss you goodbye Kathleen.

- Maureen O'Hara, John Wayne

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: November 12, 2002

Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Claude Jarman Jr.
Other Stars: Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen, Chill Wills, J. Carrol Naish
Director: John Ford

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for all audiences)
Run Time: 01h:45m:01s
Release Date: October 22, 2002
UPC: 017153130072
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+B+ B

DVD Review

Separated from his lovely wife and estranged from his son, Lieutenant Colonel Kirby York (John Wayne) devotes all his time to commanding the cavalry. Situated amid the lonely confines of Fort Stark near the Rio Grande, he maintains a stern presence while gaining little enjoyment from his duties. Does a compassionate presence still exist within this courageous figure? When his son enlists in the cavalry under his command, York must deal with the demons of the past. Meanwhile, frequent attacks from aggressive Apache tribes create a danger that could quickly sever this new familial bond.

The last of the John Wayne/John Ford cavalry trilogy, Rio Grande focuses on issues of honor and duty and their conflict with family needs. Following Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, this story is generally regarded by critics as the least effective of the three films. However, it remains an often-stirring tale of the personal difficulties of cavalry life. Maureen O'Hara and Wayne star in the first of five screen combinations for the duo, who exude a believable chemistry with only brief glances. O'Hara has a wonderful screen presence and brings impressive depth to a possibly one-note character.

After failing math at West Point, innocent Jeff York (Claude Jarman Jr.) enlists in the cavalry to the extreme dismay of his mother Kathleen (O'Hara). The young man has not seen his father in 15 years, and he remains stoic during their initial meeting. Kirby maintains a stern countenance, which immediately creates a quiet bond between them. Intent on removing her son from a path similar to his father, Kathleen arrives to return him to more civilized avenues. The first meeting between her and Kirby is a classic moment that reveals a surprising subtelty to Wayne's acting. They both gaze longingly at the other, but neither will easily admit their continual attraction. In the hands of lesser actors, their romance would veer into conventional boredom, but it generally remains interesting throughout the film.

Directed by the legendary John Ford, Rio Grande features the usual array of impressive stunts and remarkable scenery. The work with horses is especially well done, including a memorable Roman-riding scene. Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., and Claude Jarman Jr. all perform the stunt of standing above two horses in an incredibly dangerous moment. The Apache battles also showcase notable stunt work as horses and wagons fall in all types of manners. Filmed in Moab, Utah—a smaller version of Monument Valley—this movie features several picturesque landscapes. The Colorado River covers nicely for the title waterway, and it leads to a believable story.

While offering some interesting conflicts, this tale never reaches the very top echelon of the Western genre. It showcases a compassionate romance and decent action, but the complexity level falls short of the best entries. Wayne, O'Hara, and the supporting cast all do a nice job in carrying an only acceptable script. Certain areas move too slowly, including several lengthy songs from the Sons of the Pioneers. These interludes provide a refreshing change-of-pace, but they sometimes distract from the central story. The Native American conflict is also underwritten, as they serve only to further the plights of the Yorks. Even given its minor flaws, Rio Grande remains an entertaining picture. Wayne and O'Hara are engaging, and Ford's lush outdoor direction helps to create an enjoyable atmosphere.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Rio Grande appears in an impressive full-frame transfer that maintains a decent picture throughout the film. A few minor specks do appear on the print, but they are understandable given its tremendous age. The outdoor vistas look especially stunning, and the darker scenes offer just a minimal level of grain. Considering the time period of the original print, this transfer succeeds in nearly every aspect.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This disc contains both the original restored mono track and an enhanced 3.1-channel audio transfer. The first option is surprisingly powerful and does not emit the hiss often found in this type. It does have major limitations in its range, which keeps the audio focused in the front and middle of the sound field. The "enhanced" track does increase the scope and provide a slightly clearer sound, but the major differences are fairly minimal.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
0 Other Trailer(s) featuring Rio Grande: CE, High Noon: CE, The Quiet Man: CE
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Maureen O'Hara
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:04m:40s

Extras Review: This collector's edition of Rio Grande features a rare treat—a scene-specific commentary from lead actress Maureen O'Hara. While there are significant breaks in the track, it still contains plenty of intriguing material. She seems to truly enjoy recounting stories about the Duke and director John Ford. Certain tidbits will also appear in the documentaries, but it is refreshing to hear O'Hara directly speaking about the events occurring on the screen.

The Making of Rio Grande is an effective 1993 documentary hosted by film expert Leonard Maltin. Running about 21 minutes, it delves into the central elements of the production, including the cast and shooting. Harry Carey Jr. and Ben Johnson both discuss their enjoyment of the production and offer a few notable memories. Maltin injects some interesting views, which helps to paint an insightful overall picture. Michael Wayne (John's son) also appears and recounts material about his father.

Along the Rio Grande focuses primarily on O'Hara's involvement in the picture. She discusses the dangerous stunts, working with John Wayne, and her tremendous appreciation of John Ford. This 18-minute documentary also includes comments from Andrew V. McLagen (Victor's son) about his father's involvement. While not as interesting Maltin's feature, it does contain some noteworthy insights.

This disc also includes the Artisan DVD trailers for the collector's editions of Rio Grande, High Noon, and The Quiet Man. Although the preview for this picture mentions the original theatrical trailer, it does not appear on this release.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Prior to the creation of this film, John Ford, John Wayne, and Maureen O'Hara were all focused on doing The Quiet Man—a personal Irish epic with less commercial appeal. Republic Studios' Herb Yates told them he would finance that picture if they first did a black-and-white Western. The result of this deal was the quick shooting of Rio Grande, which actaully became a memorable film. It has aged well and should continue to draw new fans with this DVD release.


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