A Movie A Day: Quint visits EL DORADO (1967)
I’m looking at a tin star… with a drunk pinned to it.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow Ed Asner from yesterday’s obscure Sidney Lumet drama DANIEL to a slightly less obscure Howard Hawks western starring John Wayne called EL DORADO.
Going into this movie I had RIO BRAVO on the brain because of a dialogue that started up in the AMAD talkbacks when I covered RIO BRAVO in the early days of this column. I had heard of EL DORADO, of course… who hasn’t? But I wasn’t aware that it was a reteaming of the core creative force of RIO BRAVO and considered a semi-remake of RIO BRAVO.
You have John Wayne returning to star, Howard Hawks returning to direct and Leigh Brackett returning to write, but you also have a story that has some extremely similar characters and plot points. Wayne in the lead, a drunk side-kick trying to shake off the drink to win back his dignity and the respect of his friends and enemies alike, a strong female love-interest, a young, flashy gunslinger, a wise-cracking old deputy and an evil, rich and powerful baddie who is held in prison as his posse tries to find an angle to rescue him or assassinate his captors. All that adds up to a similar experience as RIO BRAVO, but it’s not as similar as I expected going in.
I wouldn’t even go so far as to call this an unofficial remake, but more an early attempt at a reboot. Wayne is a radically different character, a gun for hire instead of a sheriff, but he plays it with pretty much the same moral code as John T. Chance. James Caan fills in the role of Wayne’s young-gun sidekick, with a noticeable change… well, for one, Caan is a much, much, much better actor than Rick Nelson, but they also give him a great character twist: He’s no good with a gun.
His weapon of choice is a knife, which I loved and honestly wish they did more with, but I can’t complain. Wayne takes him to visit a Swedish gunsmith (no shit) about halfway through the movie where he is given a gun that can’t miss whatever it’s aimed at. It’s a sawed off shotgun that packs a fuck of a punch… it like a portable havok machine, ripping up everything in its sights.
Robert Mitchum plays the drunk sheriff (as opposed to the drunk deputy played by Dean Martin in RB) about the same, but on top of a shift of characters and character dynamics they also rework the structure.
We get a lengthy set-up to the main story, that of locking up the town’s resident villain (played by Ed Asner, of all people) while his gang is outside trying to force him out, that has Asner initially trying to hire Wayne to be his lead gunman. In fact the opening of the movie is Mitchum confronting Wayne, rifle in hand, demanding to know why he’s in town, who’s side Wayne’s on.
Turns out Asner has it out for a particular family that had settled on a plot of land and for almost two generations have worked hard and waited for prosperity. When it finally comes, Asner tries to intimidate them off of it, willing to go as far as murder the entire family… and it’s a big damn family.
But Mitchum’s Sheriff JP Harrah is always in his way. When Wayne finds out that part of the deal is to take out his friend, the Sheriff, he declines Asner’s offer, but not before word starts around the little town that he’s been hired by Asner as an assassin.
That word gets back to the MacDonald family, those poor bastards who are doing everything they can to keep what’s rightfully theirs, and the patriarch leads his horses back home, leaving one of his younger sons to stand watch. The boy is supposed to fire a shot in the air if he sees someone approaching, but he ends up falling asleep and is startled when Wayne comes riding throught he canyon.
The boy’s reaction is to take a shot at Wayne, who returns fire without even thinking and finds he has gut-shot this boy, a kid that can’t be much older than 16. The boy ends up dying, but not before talking with Wayne a bit, at least for him to know who he belongs to.
Then Wayne has to deliver the boy’s body to his father (RG Armstrong) and try to explain the situation. Forgiveness is given by the father, but not by one of the boy’s sisters, the fiery Michele Carey, who goes after Wayne.
She takes a shot at him and it actually hits, which gives Wayne an injury that comes back to haunt him, striking at the most inopportune moment in the last act of the movie.
This makes for a very interesting turning of common formula. Some 6 or 7 months pass inbetween act 1 and act 2 and we have Wayne with a bullet resting against his spine, causing him sever spasms and partial paralysis at random moments and you have Mitchum’s character, who goes from badass, completely together JP to incompetant drunkard, which gives us much more handicapped heroes than expected.
In RIO BRAVO, Dean Martin was a mess when we first meet him and his journey is explored much more thoroughly, but Mitchum isn’t given that much luxury, so what they end up doing is make him much more extremely affected. It’s almost more like he is high on meth than just constantly drunk.
I’m sure there must be a PULP FICTION Bealtes or Elvis thing going on between RIO BRAVO and EL DORADO, people constantly arguing which is the better movie. I have to say, like a proud parent, I love them both, but I will admit that RIO BRAVO has the edge for me.
There’s something to RIO BRAVO, a class and elegance, that is lacking in EL DORADO, even if EL DORADO has a much more layered and interesting young sidekick in James Caan’s Mississippi. Arthur Hunnicut is great in the Walter Brennan role, but Brennan is hands down the best character actor and gives so much personality to the bitter, complaining, but loyal deputy that I just can’t help but give the edge to RIO BRAVO.
It’s mostly in Howard Hawks’ filmmaking, though. EL DORADO is very inventive, but Hawks doesn’t nail the iconography he was able to in RIO BRAVO. However, it’s almost pointless trying to compare and contrast these movies and I feel bad for doing it. Both movies are great and if you mash them up together I think they fill each others’ weaknesses very well, which leads me to believe that an amalgam of both movies makes the perfect version of this story, with most of it being RIO BRAVO for it’s perfect pace, iconography, score, cinematography, but also EL DORADO trading in some of it’s far superior casting, most notably with James Caan’s character.
Final Thoughts: Great little movie and a perfect double feature with RIO BRAVO. It is just different enough to not make itself feel like a complete retread of RIO BRAVO, but not so different that it’s unrecognizable. A real fun, entertaining and often times beautiful movie. Definitely give it a shot.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Saturday, November 15th: THE GAMBLER (1974)
Sunday, November 16th: ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (1984)
Monday, November 17th: SALVADOR (1986)
Tuesday, November 18th: BEST SELLER (1987)
Wednesday, November 19th: THE HOLCROT COVENANT (1985)
Thursday, November 20th: BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962)
Friday, November 21st: WHITE HEAT (1949)
There's another classic we'll be hitting on the AMAD column, White Heat. But first we have a James Caan-a-thon, which leads into a James Woods-a-paloosa. It's a man's man week, I guess. See you folks tomorrow for THE GAMBLER, following Mr. Jimmy the Dream Caan.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Nov. 15, 2008, 3:23 a.m. CST
Nov. 15, 2008, 3:24 a.m. CST
by Dr Eric Vornoff
comparing these 2 movies is pretty pointless, I think. They both work great in their own right. You failed to mention the central theme of El Dorado (which differentiates it most from Rio Bravo): Aging and the approachment of death, hence the use of Poe's great poem: "he grew old, this knight so bold, and over his heart a shadow, fell as he found, no spot of ground, that looked like El Dorado"
Nov. 15, 2008, 3:25 a.m. CST
by Dr Eric Vornoff
but at least I had something to contribute.
Nov. 15, 2008, 3:39 a.m. CST
When I flex it feels like I'm cumming!!!! <p>http://tinyurl.com/5z9hfj
Nov. 15, 2008, 3:48 a.m. CST
...the badassitude of Nelse McLeod, my favorite character in the film. In another movie this guy would have been a villain. In truth he is the mirror image of Wayne's Cole Thornton. Both hired guns, neither of them evil. They just happen to be on opposite sides. And I really dig the mutual respect that they have for one another. <p>Shame on you, Quint, for dissing McLeod like that.
Nov. 15, 2008, 4:32 a.m. CST
You gotta love the Duke. He was underated as an actor. His performance in The Shootist, The Cowboys and The Quiet Man are just plain perfect.
Nov. 15, 2008, 4:33 a.m. CST
if you had seen El Dorado first which one you would have liked better, it tends to be my experience that of these two (there's a 3rd that's less talked about, Rio Lobo) the one you see first is the one you like better<P>I also can't believe you didn't mention the awesome nighttime/courtyard gunfight--that's a highlight for me and the scene that I define El Dorado by
Nov. 15, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST
You have never seen White Heat? Prepare to be blown away!
Nov. 15, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST
I cannot believe you havnt seen this masterpiece Quint. I cant look at my signed Robert Shaw picture without feeling let down :-)
Nov. 15, 2008, 5:13 a.m. CST
Yeah, I also think the Duke was under utilized, when they let (or pushed?) him, he was capable of a level of nuance he rarely gets credited for.
Nov. 15, 2008, 5:45 a.m. CST
if it wasn't for the holcroft covenant, El Dorado -> White Heat would be the best run of films in amad history. You're gonna have a good week Quint!
Nov. 15, 2008, 6:04 a.m. CST
The Duke didn't/couldn't overshadow him in this movie (but still does fine), which doesn't try to take itself so seriously as Rio Lobo...where Dean's acting seemed a little off. El Dorado is one of my favorite westerns of all time & worthy of one or two annual rewatches due to the little comedy & spectacular performances from the actors (except Caan & the Duke's main squeeze)....whereas Rio Lobo isn't worth my time. Wow, boy do I disagree with this review...oh well...
Nov. 15, 2008, 6:09 a.m. CST
by greigy just wanted to say
Nov. 15, 2008, 6:13 a.m. CST
by greigy just wanted to say
Nov. 15, 2008, 7:16 a.m. CST
Makes me smile because it's very Batmanesque at times. Still, it's a great movie. I own Rio Bravo too and I can't choose between them which is the better one.
Nov. 15, 2008, 8:03 a.m. CST
I meant "Rio Bravo" rather than "Rio Lobo"....musta been a Freudian slip as "Bravo" seemed a little like a dog to my mind...
Nov. 15, 2008, 8:12 a.m. CST
One of my favorite lines is when James Caan tells everyone he shot someone. He can tell because he was limping. Then the Duke replies that he was limping when he got here.
Nov. 15, 2008, 8:28 a.m. CST
you ain't seen White Heat?
Nov. 15, 2008, 10:03 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
A number one. I need to see this.
Nov. 15, 2008, 11:05 a.m. CST
"I am the last guy in the world that you want to fuck with"
Nov. 15, 2008, 11:29 a.m. CST
by Gungan Slayer
I mean damn. Wayne. Mitchuim. Caan. Hawks. Arthur Hunnicutt. Christopher George. I mean damn. I love Rio Bravo, and I don't care that this is basically a retelling, but El Dorado is such a fucking awesome movie. Love watching it every single time. Ride boldly ride, in search of El Dorado. Don't make 'em like they used to.
Nov. 15, 2008, 11:53 a.m. CST
Nov. 15, 2008, 12:11 p.m. CST
But, perhaps as Bloo said, that is because I saw this one first. I could go on and state popint by point why I feel this is the better picture, but it will all be coloured by the fact that I saw this one first. Just a shame the BBC 1 spin-off failed to faithfully capture the magic.
Nov. 15, 2008, 2:10 p.m. CST
Rio Lobo was the released in 1970 (Hawks last film) and has the same director (Hawks), star (Wayne) and writer (Leigh Brackett) as Rio Bravo and El Dorado. Like El Dorado it’s more of a variation of Rio Bravo than a direct remake. Hawks uses the same basic framework but plays with the structure and characters. Each also reflects to some degree the state of filmmaking during the time period they were produced (late50’s, middle 60’s, late 60’s/early 70’s). No radical departures but each different stylistic/technical feel. Worth a triple feature if just to pick your favorite ‘crusty sidekick;’ Walter Brennan, Arthur Hunnicutt or Jack Elam.
Nov. 15, 2008, 2:13 p.m. CST
by Don Lockwood
I love both of the movies, but I give a slight advantage to Rio Bravo. If Rio Bravo had James Caan in it instead of Ricky Nelson, it'd be hands-down my favorite. I've never cared for the Michele Carey character in El Dorado and let's face it, Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo, yowza.
Nov. 15, 2008, 2:16 p.m. CST
by Don Lockwood
Also, I dunno if it was a cover-up that isn't covered anywhere on the net, but most sources list his death as heart attack contributed to by a heart contusion he got years earlier in a stunt accident.
Nov. 15, 2008, 8:12 p.m. CST
But I'd like to see Jimmy Caan try to sing backup on My Rifle,Pony,and Me!Okay,not really,but you get my point.Regardless, I love both movies.
Nov. 15, 2008, 8:14 p.m. CST
Maybe I'm mixing it up with something else.
Nov. 15, 2008, 9:15 p.m. CST
A bootleg of the Star Trek trailer is up at you tube see it before its gone. http://tiny.cc/x4j3K
Nov. 17, 2008, 9:05 p.m. CST
Wayne confronts one of Asner's gunmen (none other than Robert Donner,later a co-crazy cohort of Robin Williams in "Mork and Mindy") He forces Donner out into the street where an ambush meant for Wayne is set up...Donner tries edging away in a different direction, but Wayne barks "Not that way.."...and puntuates the word 'way' with a warning shot, firing over his own dialog. A great Hawk-sian bit... Another priceless moment...in the middle of the bell tower gun battle, Hawks uses a Hitchcock-type process shot to show a bad guy tumbling to his death. And how 'bout some love for Christopher George as Asner's principal gunmen. I don't think he's ever shown shooting or killing anybody...but somehow you know that he's ultra cool and incredibly lethal.
Dec. 18, 2008, 2:59 p.m. CST
...was played by Olaf Weighorst, the artist who did the paintings seen in the opening credits.
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