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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > 3-D > Hondo (2-D/1953)

Hondo (1953/2-D)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



One of John Wayne’s oddest films is Hondo from 1953.  It was shot for 3-D, was one of the only times Wayne played a non-white character, was a Native American (!), an infamous killer and was part of his long-running work with Warner Bros. in the 1950s that added to his long term box office success.  The story of the lead cowboy coming into town and taking on the change about to take place has him willing to protect a woman (Geraldine Page) and her son while “deadly” Apache “Indians” are on their way to go on a killing spree.  He is unconcerned at first, but that won’t last.


This being a Hollywood production, that is not going to happen and that it is in 3-D, you will get all kinds of fighting.  However, the 3-D type effects are not overused as far as one can see in 2-D, but has as good a script and story as a rich yet standard narrative.  The then little-known Louis L’Amour’s story was turned into a screenplay by Wayne regular James Edward Grant.  The result is a rich, unique film despite its limits, an early example of B-movie material being done on an A-level for the most part.  Ward Bond, Michael Pate and James Arness also star.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot by cinematographers Robert Burks, A.S.C., and Archie Stout, A.S.C., in (and only in) WarnerColor, not done in any dye-transfer process (particularly Technicolor), but this transfer shows that restoration work done over ten years ago has really paid off.  Too bad it was not reissued in 3-D when Technicolor did their latest dye-transfers runs (1997 – 2001) the way Warner did with Giant (1956), but this is one of the few good pure WarnerColor films we have seen on DVD to date.  So many films with that color process have faded and/or have other major problems.  This copy of Hondo offers another alternative to how (and that) WarnerColor films can be saved and preserved.


The Dolby Digital sound is here in a 5.1 mix and 2.0 Mono mix.  The film seems to have begun as a 4-track magnetic stereo picture when issued in 3-D, then possibly reissued monophonic-only when it went from 3-D to 2-D, but the 5.1 mix is the better mix here and suggests the possibility that the film was issued in stereo before being shelved.  This is better than just having Pro Logic stereo surround like Warner Bros. has on their DVD of the absolutely stereo 3-D classic House Of Wax.  The old MPI VHS tape seems to have been issued in Hi-fi analog FM stereo, so that further backs such suggestions.  We could not get all the information about this as the time of this posting, but will follow-up on the full story when we learn more.


Extras include preview for all the Wayne films coming out of the Batjac deal, original trailer for the 2-D release of the film, Leonard Maltin intro., profile of writer Grant, focus on actor Bond, stills, Apache featurette, making of featurette and full length audio commentary by Maltin, actor Lee Aaker and historian Frank Thompson.  The DVD has been issued by Paramount because Wayne’s estate retained it and are doing the distribution of these films with them much the way most of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950s films from Paramount are handled by Universal.  Though no masterwork of cinema, Hondo is a key 3-D work and one of Wayne’s better films.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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