In this Western ‘The Duke’ John Wayne plays a veteran gunslinger who teams up with his old friend, an aging sheriff played by Robert Mitchum, a young knife-thrower (James Caan) and the sheriff’s deputy to mediate a ranch war in El Dorado. The film is directed by Howard Hawks. He and John Wayne teamed to film the excellent Rio Bravo a few years previously, and you can tell because El Dorado bears many similarities.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Rio Bravo is one of my favourite Westerns and while this one doesn’t have as much tension it’s still enjoyable. John Wayne is great and so are his co-stars, Robert Mitchum especially. Some of the dialogue between the three main characters was really sharp and snappy. At the beginning the timeline jumps around a little bit. It’s necessary to get the story points in place but it does feel somewhat unwieldy. There are moments of true drama throughout the film, although I thought the final battle was lacking some suspense. There were two things that I really didn’t like though. One was the effect used when Mississippi (James Caan) jumps under some horses. I know it’s an old film and I usually give some lee-way to old films when it comes to effects, but this reminded of when in Scooby-Doo cartoons there was one part of the room shaded a different colour so you knew that was the bit that was the trap door. The other bit was casual racism which again involves Mississippi. He impersonates a Chinese person and it’s just awful, I mean, I can’t believe there was ever a time when such laziness was acceptable. He’s a blonde cowboy and his idea of an impersonation is to hunch his shoulders and squint his eyes. Come on.
Anyway, aside from those couple of things I liked the film a great deal. It lacked the tension of Rio Bravo but the characters and the interplay between them were great, there was some gorgeous scenery used and it’s a good, solid Western.