Director Howard Hawk’s Rio Bravo is based on the short story of the same name by B.H. McCampbell. It takes place in the American West and tells the story of a small-town sheriff, John T. Chance, who enlists the help of “Dude,” a hard drinker with a past, “Stumpy,” an ornery codger with a bum leg, and “Colorado,” a quick-with-a-gun whippersnapper, to help him prevent the leader of a local band of outlaws from busting his brother — whom Chance arrested for murder — out of jail.
John Wayne was the epitome of the man’s man, and this film aptly showcases his charismatic demeanor and faultless delivery. The ensemble cast lends credibility to the proceedings, and Howard Hawks’ steady hand keeps things firing on all cylinders. Rio Bravo is a true classic that has earned a place among my John Wayne favorites.
Along with East of Eden, Rio Bravo is one of the catalog greats recently restored and remastered by Warner Bros. This is a period film that relies on visuals to convey its time frame, mood and thematic tone. Looking at the film’s opening sequence, the level of depth and definition is immediately obvious. I could detect finer details in closeups, interior shots, and within backgrounds during wide-angle pans. Some innate softening crops up, but fidelity seems unaffected. The cinematography employs lots of earth tones, and primary colors like red and blue are vividly reproduced. Grain is visible, occasionally with more density, which impacted a handful of backgrounds. I found the presentation to be very tame in terms of its use of dynamic highlights, both bright and dark, however much of that is owed to the nature of the photography. In general, the 1.37:1 image looked fine, making for a noteworthy rendering of the film’s elements.
The 2.0 mono audio offers excellent clarity and detail, which pays dividends during both the film’s more active and quieter moments. Dialogue is reproduced without harshness and sounds surprisingly full-bodied. Bass frequencies are held to the upper registers which doesn’t leave much work for the subwoofer, but I never missed them and the track sounded great.
Bonus features are noticeably scant with only a legacy audio commentary by superfans John Carpenter and Richard Schickel, which is quite good. A printed code for a Movies Anywhere digital copy rounds out the package. Rio Bravo is a terrific western fable that successfully blends action with dramatic themes that give it a timeless appeal. This outstanding Ultra HD Blu-ray edition is essential for enthusiasts.
ULTRA HD 4K BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Warner, 1959
ASPECT RATIO: 1.37:1
HDR FORMAT: HDR10
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
LENGTH: 141 mins., NR
DIRECTOR: Howard Hawks
STARRING: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, John Russell, Ricky Nelson