Rio Lobo (1970)

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Released 13-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 109:35
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Howard Hawks

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring John Wayne
Jorge Rivero
Jennifer O'Neill
Jack Elam
Christopher Mitchum
Victor French
Susana Dosamantes
Sherry Lansing
David Huddleston
Mike Henry
Bill Williams
Jim Davis
Dean Smith
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French Titling
German Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Towards the end of the American Civil War, Union troops are ferrying a gold shipment by rail under the leadership of Colonel Cord McNally (John Wayne). Like previous shipments, this one is stolen by some Confederate troops in a daring raid. While tracking the thieves McNally is himself captured by the Johnny Rebs, who force him to lead them through enemy lines. McNally manages to turn the tables and capture two of the rebels, Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Tuscarora Phillips (Christopher Mitchum, son of Robert). When they refuse to name the Union soldiers who are selling them the details of the gold shipments, McNally hands them over as prisoners of war. The war over, McNally tries to convince the two former Confederates to name the traitors, but they only know the two by sight. Back in Texas, McNally crosses paths with one of the traitors who is after a young woman named Shasta. After despatching the evildoer with the aid of a suddenly materialising Cordona, the three head off to the town of Rio Lobo to catch the other traitor.

    This was the last film by Howard Hawks, the fifth he made with John Wayne, and it shows the hand of a tired director. There is little in the way of energy or spark in this film, with some poor performances by the supporting leads and action sequences that do not always convince. There is also that annoying detail of everyone's clothes looking like they just came off the rack at the General Store, not lived in at all. This, coupled with the at-times unnatural lighting gives the effect of this film looking like something from television. Some sequences do not seem to hang together well, though this could easily be the fault of the editing as much as the direction. Hawks was a fine director, but after more than 40 years in the saddle and at the age of 74 he just wasn't able to lift this above the ordinary. In a bizarre footnote he would die seven years later after tripping over his dog.

    Wayne genially ambles his way through the film as he usually does, but at times he takes second fiddle to the two supporting leads, which is a pity as they provide little to the film. Jorge Rivero is bland and uncharismatic as Cordona, while Jennifer O'Neill is easy on the eye but embarrassingly inept as Shasta. It is left to the late great character actor Jack Elam to steal every scene he is in as old man Phillips.

    Despite the problems I have highlighted, this is still an enjoyable film if only for Wayne's charisma and Elam's eccentric performance, and the fact that it does not take itself all that seriously. Unless you are a diehard fan of the Duke this is one you should rent before buying.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1.

    Generally the transfer is fine apart from an excessive amount of grain. The image is quite sharp and clear, with a reasonable amount of shadow detail, though even the night scenes are brightly lit. Colour is good and accurately represent the the slightly lacklustre, pastel look of an early 1970s Hollywood film, with very dark and clean blacks and no sign of low level noise.

    In terms of film to video artefacts there is a small amount of aliasing from time to time, but it is barely noticeable and therefore not distracting. It seemed that there was some Gibb effect artefacting present, but it is hard to tell whether it is this artefact or simply a result of the higher than normal level of grain in this transfer. The grain levels seem to improve over the course of the film, but especially during the opening heist sequence the grain is very obvious. There is a little edge enhancement, but you really need to look closely to see it so I would not consider it a problem.

    Film artefacts were almost non-existent. During the night raid on the Ketcham house I could see occasional white spots against the black sky, but for the most part I did not see any film artefacts. Obviously this was taken from a print in excellent condition.

    Subtitles are provided in more languages than you could poke a stick at. The English subtitles are clear and easy to read, and generally seem to be accurate to the dialogue.

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

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


    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 5.1, with several alternative languages available. It is probable that the original audio was mono, but we do not have that option available on this disc.

    This is a pretty good audio track, although the surround mix really does not do much. Some effects are directed to the rear channels, but apart from some rumbling from the train in the opening sequence and an explosion late in the film the subwoofer does not get a workout. The bulk of the audio is directed across the front channels.

    Dialogue is generally pretty clear, though I did have trouble with Jack Elam's delivery of a line that sounds like "well, I'll be a suck-egg mule" but according to the subtitles is "well, I'll be a sucking mule". I have listened to it several times and it still seems like the former rather than the latter, although the former does not make much sense.

    The music is by Jerry Goldsmith, and suits the film although it is not particularly memorable. Goldsmith melds flutes and drums into the army themes in order to create a martial feel, but apart from that I did not notice much about the score, which is probably a good thing as usually a score should not draw attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is not an extra to be seen.

R4 vs R1

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

    By all accounts the US Region 1 release has the same transfer as the Region 4, and does not include any extras either. The Region 1 does have an alternate English audio track in 2.0, but only has the French alternative language track. Given the lack of a material difference between the two releases I will call this a draw.


    Just under two hours of an amiable if undistinguished western.

    The video quality is reasonable despite an excess of grain.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, July 21, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Re: "Well, I'll be a suck-egg mule." - T.D. Moore