Hondo [Blu-Ray] John Farrow

Hondo [Blu-Ray] John Farrow
John Wayne plays Hondo Lane, a notoriously independent (and part-Apache) gunman who befriends a mother (Geraldine Page) and son (Lee Aaker) living on a ranch in what has recently become Apache territory. Despite something resembling a friendship between the mother and the Apaches (based on their adopting her son as part of their tribe), their treatment of her could be described as threatening, in a passive-aggressive way. In one cringe-worthy scene, they almost force her to choose a husband from a selection of showboating Apache men. Hondo takes it upon himself to keep this adopted family safe while negotiating with the threat of the Apaches, the arrogance and hubris of the American cavalry and the mother's actual husband, who happens to be a deadbeat drunk. Hondo consists mostly of generic Old West constructs and archetypes that the studios had created over time, but within those constructs the film examines the psychology of its characters with surprising nuance. The film tackles race, death and morality in its brief 84-minute running time and handles each issue with surprising aplomb. For a Western that prominently features Native Americans portrayed by Caucasians in red face, the representation of the Apaches in Hondo is relatively sympathetic. While they are strongly stereotyped as Hollywood-lite versions of Rousseau's Noble Savage, they have a strong moral code, and the responsibility of the conflict between Apaches and colonialists is placed squarely on the shoulders of the treaty-breaking white man. Among other little pleasures the film offers is a charismatic lead performance by the almost always-reliable John Wayne, whose world-weary delivery lends the film some needed gravitas. Made in 1953, Hondo arrived in theatres at the tail end of Hollywood's first fling with 3D technology. The effects of shooting in 3D can be seen in the film's awkward compositions, which emphasize multiple planes of focus and sometimes compromise the otherwise beautiful Western cinematography. Aside from that tidbit of trivia, Hondo is a Western created firmly from the John Ford mould (although it was actually directed by John Farrow), even if it isn't as elegantly constructed as something like Stagecoach or The Searchers.The Blu-Ray for Hondo is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which will cause complaints among some purists who believe it should be presented in its original 1:33:1 ratio. The Blu-Ray also includes an adulatory and totally unnecessary introduction from critic Leonard Maltin and a commentary with Maltin, "western historian" Frank Thompson and Lee Aaker, who plays the child in the film. A three-part "making of" feature covers the production of the film, but also focuses on screenwriter James Edward Grant and Ward Bond, a recognizable character actor who plays an old friend of Hondo's. Other special features include a featurette on the Apache, a short Entertainment Tonight feature (with Maltin again) on the John Wayne estate vault and all the memorabilia within, along with the usual photo gallery and theatrical trailer. (Paramount)