February 29, 2008

Rio Grande isn't grand

Here's my review of the last of John Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy" of movies:John Ford offered a fairly sophisticated view of the Apaches, at least for a mid-century Western, in Fort Apache. He identified Cochise and other Apaches by name and gave them some noteworthy face time. But here the Indians are faceless enemies with no human qualities (except perhaps incompetence).

They chant eerily. They attack and kill. They use spears when rifles would be more effective. Their stupid moves (stopping in the village, getting drunk, leaving the children unguarded) outweigh their smart moves (raiding the fort and attacking the wagon train unexpectedly). In short, they're savages, and no match for our stalwart heroes.
Now we can rank the three movies in order:

Fort Apache--7.5
Rio Grande--7.0
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon--6.5

So none of these movies is a masterpiece, despite what the fawning critics have said. And Rio Grande, usually considered the weakest of the three, is better than She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

For more on the subject of John Wayne and his movies, see Straight Shootin' with the Duke.

Below:  Some of the human drama that makes Rio Grande worth watching.

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