El Dorado Howard Hawks

El Dorado Howard Hawks
By 1967, a studio Western with John Wayne, directed by Hollywood legend Howard Hawks, just seemed obsolete and out of date. Hawks was known in Hollywood as an adaptive director, a populist auteur with an invisible style who could work in any genre. For reasons I've never figured out he became revered by many great directors: Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, John Carpenter and even Quentin Tarantino. El Dorado is a by-the-numbers Western featuring the swaggering John Wayne as a hired gun who enters into a war between local drunk sheriff (Robert Mitchum) and a band of bullies, headed by none other than Ed Asner. Tagging along is a young James Caan, as Wayne's affable young protégé. For 1967, it probably provided enough adequate genre entertainment for audiences. After a meandering first hour the second half has the same rhythm and focus as Hawk's Rio Bravo. Hawks handles half-a-dozen key characters, confidently moving from comic relief to taut action and suspense. Although at 126 minutes it's 20 to 30 minutes too long. In the annals of cinema history though, it's a supremely average and forgettable entry in the genre. For casual Western fans, without the stylistic stamp of authorship, like the mythological majesty of John Ford, the minimalist humanism of Budd Boetticher or the revisionist hyper-styling of Sergio Leone, it's a picture for old Hollywood cinephiles only. Paramount has packaged the film as a two-disc Centennial Collection, containing a wealth of extra material. Peter Bogdanovich once again muses eloquently on one of the commentary tracks. Forgiving his ridiculously pretentious, but trademark, cravat, he's a marvellous anecdotal storyteller when it comes to film history. Renowned critics Richard Schickel (Time) and Todd McCarthy (Variety) along with (still alive) Ed Asner combine on the other running commentary. The seven-part "making of" on disc two is well produced and is more than just a recycling of older material. (Paramount)