Rio Grande (1950)

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Released 2-Jun-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 100:43
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Ford
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring John Wayne
Maureen O'Hara
Ben Johnson
Claude Jarman Jr.
Harry Carey, Jr.
Chill Wills
J. Carrol Naish
Victor McLaglen
Grant Withers
Peter Ortiz
Steve Pendleton
Karolyn Grimes
Alberto Morin
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Dale Evans
Stan Jones
Tex Owens

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    John Wayne is Colonel York, a cavalry officer stationed near the Rio Grande river, which forms the border between the US and Mexico. A band of renegade Indians led by Naches makes raids into the States, then retreats to their mountain hideout across the border, where the cavalry is forbidden to follow.

    After a raid, Naches and some of his men are captured, and held in a stockade inside the camp. Meanwhile, York has asked for 180 men as reinforcements, but the War Department have sent him only 18, one of whom is his own son whom he hasn't seen for 15 years. Jeff York (Claude Jarman Jr) has failed his West Point mathematics exam and been kicked out of the Academy. Enlisting as a trooper, he is followed to the camp by his mother Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara), who left her husband after a Civil War incident. However, they are obviously still attracted to one another. When Naches is rescued by his fellow Indians, York is given unofficial orders to foray into Mexico to end the Indian menace once and for all.

    There's a lot more to the film that I won't mention here - you will just have to see it for yourself to find out the rest. This is generally referred to as the last and least instalment in John Ford's "cavalry trilogy", the first two being Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. It has been years since I saw either of these films, but my dim memories suggest that this indeed is not as good as those two. Still, this is an enjoyable film. For mine there is a little too much of the Irish humour that occasionally goes over the top in Ford's films. There is also a lot of sentiment, though of course the real story of this film is the rekindling of the romance between York and Kathleen, so it is not out of place. The film is beautifully shot and it moves along at a reasonable pace despite a slow start. John Wayne gives a fine performance as York, playing well off Maureen O'Hara, and their scenes together are the best in the picture. Rio Grande also features many of Ford's stock company of actors, including Victor McLaglen as the Irish comedy relief, Harry Carey Jr., Ben Johnson and Jack Pennick. If it doesn't reach the heights of its predecessors, it is still a better film than most westerns.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, close to the original 1.37:1.

    The black and white transfer is quite sharp. There is a good level of detail present. Shadow detail is not the best, with some murky shadows present, but this is not a major distraction. Blacks are very dark and rich.

    There is little in the way of film to video transfer issues apart from some noticeable edge enhancement throughout the film.

    There are the usual film artefacts on display, with some dirt and the occasional white speck on display, as well as some scratches.

    Subtitles are clear and readable, and most of the dialogue is translated verbatim.

    This is a single layered disc, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio channel is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and there is no surround encoding.

    The audio is pretty good, with clear dialogue and effects. This is perfectly acceptable for a film of this vintage, though of course it does not have the wide dynamic range of more recent recordings.

    The music is by Victor Young, and is pretty good. There are also songs sung by the Sons of the Pioneers, who normally feature in Roy Rogers films. One of the songs was written by Rogers' wife and frequent co-star Dale Evans. The songs lay on the sentiment even thicker, though the scene in which they serenade Mrs York is one of the best in the picture.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Two US editions of this film have been released. Each sounds as if it has the same video transfer as the Region 4, but each has extras. The first edition sported a 21 minute featurette hosted by Leonard Maltin about the making of the film, plus a theatrical trailer. The newer Collector's Edition has an additional featurette called Along the Rio Grande, hosted by star Maureen O'Hara, and an alternative 3.1 audio track. O'Hara also provides a feature length audio commentary, making the Collector's Edition the obvious choice for fans of this film.


    A fine if not great John Ford western.

    The video quality is pretty good considering the age of the film.

    The audio quality is very good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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