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on 14 October 2010
This collection contains the following:

* HONDO (1953; director John Farrow)
* McCLINTOCK! (1963; director Andrew V. McLaglen)
* TRUE GRIT (1969; director Henry Hathaway)
* RIO LOBO (1970; director Howard Hawks)
* EL DORADO (1966; director Howard Hawks)
* BIG JAKE (1971; director George Sherman)
* THE SHOOTIST (1976; director Don Siegel)
* THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER (1965; director Henry Hathaway)
* THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962; director John Ford)

I bought this collection about two years ago and it has provided me with hours of great entertainment. These are quality films, some of them genuine classics. I will briefly review some of them here (excluding three I have not yet seen):

* THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is one of John Ford's often overlooked but very great films which expertly explores themes like the handling of violence, machismo, order, and Civilisation versus Lawlessness. James Stewart plays an attorney, new in town and unarmed, and John Wayne is the bullish local rancher, both up against forces of crime in a small town. Stewart becomes a local schoolteacher and also teaches reading and writing to the illiterate members of the adult population. The film mostly revolves around his attempt to use US law to deal with a criminal making trouble in town (which is at odds with Wayne's method - the gun). This film is in beautifully shot black and white (all of the other films in this set are in colour) and belongs to John Wayne and James Stewart equally.

* THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER was a surprise to me, I had never heard of it before and after reading that it was a Western loosely based on King Lear I wasn't sure that I would like it. Westerns that grapple with Shakespeare have never worked for me as they are usually either absurdly bad or good but too earnest (and as an unfortunate result, dull). However, this film (along with another superb 'Shakespearean' Western, also based on King Lear: BROKEN LANCE) is entertaining, moving and exciting with good characterisation and a storyline that satisfies to the end. I enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

* EL DORADO. What's not to love? A film rich in humour, action and memorable characters. Robert Mitchum is my favourite as the sheriff, giving a convincing performance both as a lonely, jaded drunk, and as a highly skilled and professional gunman. However, he needs a lot of help, support and coffee to transform him from the former to the latter! John Wayne plays a professional and fatherly gunslinger, and James Caan is good fun as 'Mississippi', an angry, roguish and misguided young dude seeking vengeance on the man who killed his old friend but also subconsciously seeking a father figure and some decent shooting lessons (guess who provides these). He is also prone to quoting Edgar Allen Poe's Eldorado poem:

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

This film is the second of Howard Hawks's two remakes of his great revisionist Western, RIO BRAVO (1959). The last remake was RIO LOBO in 1970 which I have not yet seen. Wayne stars in all three (of course!) but between this and RIO BRAVO, EL DORADO is my personal favourite. It is at least as well acted as the original and funnier too. I feel that RIO BRAVO suffered from miscasting the squeaky-clean Ricky Nelson as Colorado Ryan (similar to Caan's Mississippi). Ricky, if you don't already know, was a pop idol of his day who simply doesn't cut it for me as an inhabitant of the Old West or a member of Wayne's gang. His performance is lacklustre and forgettable. Caan, on the other hand, plays an almost identical character here but is far more convincing. He would go on, of course, to play a similarly hotheaded character in The Godfather later.

Don't watch EL DORADO expecting a masterpiece but enjoy the interaction of the characters played by actors who are so obviously having a rollicking good time. N.B. it's great to watch in the evening with nacho crisps and a little whisky!

* TRUE GRIT is a good family movie, based on the novel of the same name by Charles Portis which was at the time considered to be so great that it was to be entered into the American literary canon - that is, before Hollywood made it into this film, after which the literary elite turned their backs. John Wayne famously won his only Oscar for his performance here as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The story is of a young girl whose father has been murdered by his hired worker seeking revenge, enlisting Cogburn to help her to do so. I haven't watched it for many years but I did see it on TV as a kid with my parents and I enjoyed it. These days the cowboy humour is a little corny for me and I prefer the brilliant remake (directed by the Coen Brothers) which was made a couple of years ago and starred Jeff Bridges. Watch that one for historical accuracy and faithfulness to the source material, excellent modern cinematography and action. Watch this one to enjoy with family, for rainy day entertainment or just to compare to the remake.

* HONDO starts off very well, leisurely and carefully, as a stranger (Wayne) wandering through the land with only his rifle and a dog for company comes across a homesteader woman living alone with her young son. She gracefully gives him accommodation in her home and he in turn helps her with daily work. A bond grows between he and the boy as Wayne, again, provides a father figure to a fatherless youngster, and is also good company for the wife, who insists that her husband will soon return (Wayne believing otherwise). What I really love about this film is the dialogue between these two characters, corny but often poetic, sometimes prickly and sometimes warm, more like a play in places that a movie. One example:

Angie: And then you come along and you're good and fine... and now in your vanity, you want to spoil Johnny's chances and mine.
Hondo: Varlabania.
Angie: What?
Hondo: When the Indians finish up their squaw-seekin' ceremony, they only say one thing: "Varlabania". It means "forever". Forever.

After the first third of the film or so the action gets going and hardly stops until the end. It's good for action lovers but for me it dragged after five minutes, and almost seems to have been put there to make up for the slower and wordier opening scenes. For me, this film is at its best when it is concentrating on the story between the characters and the overall theme i.e. what a good man is, whether as an all-round human being or specifically in the role of father and husband, and not in an overly idealistic or sentimentalised fashion, but in everyday reality. I liked it very much for this and have seen it twice.

* THE SHOOTIST was John Wayne's last Western and was created as an elegy to the Old West. Wayne plays an old gunfighter who is dying from cancer, James Stewart gives a quality turn as his sympathetic but honest doctor and Lauren Bacall plays a lonely widow whose room Wayne books to live the remainder of his days in. As you can expect however, this particular gunman does not intend to die in bed but outdoors and in fastpaced action, and he gets an idea of how to go out with a bang instead of a whimper. It's well acted, slightly predictable and feels too short but is very enjoyable.

* McCLINTOCK!, RIO LOBO and BIG JAKE I have not yet seen, and the reviews I have read of them are mixed, but they look entertaining enough to watch on a wet weekend.

* BONUS MATERIAL: Aside from the films themselves there are some wonderful extras included too, well worth checking out and unmissable if you love old Westerns. HONDO in particular is studded with them, including an introduction with Leonard Maltin, a documentary on the film itself and another very insightful documentary on the screenwriter (and director) of Hondo, James Edward Grant, who was a frequent John Wayne collaborator/friend and very respected in his time. This one in particular is my favourite, being highly informative and engaging. Off the top of my head I believe there is also a portrait documentary of Ward Bond in this collection somewhere, who was a regular co-actor and friend of Wayne, as well as a famous Western stalwart. These are not slapdash mini-documentaries or 10-minute features of the kind that you get with so many DVD's, but well researched and extensive features that told me a lot I didn't know. I don't believe you can find them anywhere else, so something to remember if you want another reason to buy this.

I bought this for myself as a further introduction to Wayne's Western titles, having seen only a couple of his other 'oaters' (or 'horse-operas', as Westerns are sometimes called). I have now watched more than eighty Westerns over the last three years and I can say that this set was in part responsible for making me both a John Wayne fan and a Western enthusiast (along with Sergio Leone's excellent Dollars Trilogy, also worth a look). If you have also seen and enjoyed any of his movies and would like to go further you cannot go wrong with this, especially considering how many films are included and the fair price. Highly recommended.
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on 18 June 2012
With the exception of Hondo, this is primarily a collection of some of Mr. Wayne's late career roles, including his final film `The Shootist.'

The packaging itself isn't great, nor is it the worst I've seen. As other reviewers have mentioned, the discs come in cardboard sleeves that are sure to scratch or damage them over time. I placed them all in plastic sleeves and then reinserted them into the box, and it seems to have worked well.

The packing doesn't follow any logical order for the films, but my review will list them chronologically. Since there is no description of any kind regarding extra features, I will list those as well.

Hondo (1953)

Based on the 1952 short story "The Gift of the Cochise" by famed western author Louis L'Amour, and originally filmed in 3-D, Hondo is the story of a cavalry dispatcher for the US Army (Wayne) who comes upon a widow and her son after losing his horse in a battle with Indians several days earlier.

The shot of Wayne approaching the farm off the windswept prairie with nothing but his rifle and dog is a memorable one; it is, in fact, the shot included on the front of the packaging for this DVD set.

The plot moves quickly enough with some fairly unexpected turns, ending with a requisite shoot-out on a large scale.
Hondo often (unfairly) draws comparisons to 'Shane', also released in 1953. Superficially they both feature the story of a gunman who develops feelings for a mother and her son, but that's where the similarities end. 'Shane' is a character study in the guise of a western, and it is one of the greatest films ever made. Hondo is a true western, very good for its genre and time, but in no way can it or should it be compared to 'Shane.'

Special Features:
* Introduction by Leonard Maltin
* Commentary by Leonard Maltin, western historian Frank Thompson, and actor Lee Aaker (who plays the role of the boy Johnny Lowe in the film)
* The making of Hondo
* From the Batjac Vaults: a 1994 Entertainment Tonight interview about Hondo with Michael Wayne and conducted by Leonard Maltin
* The Apache: a historical overview of the Apache tribes
* Photo gallery
* Batjac teaser (trailers for other Batjac films, including Wayne's "Island in the Sky.")

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

One of the all-time greats of any genre, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance needs no introduction by me. Those who question John Wayne's on-screen abilities would do well to give this film a try. Wayne's (relatively) subtle performance as Tom Doniphon upstages Stewart's more emotional portrayal of Ransom Stoddard, leaving little doubt in the end as to who the better man really was. (From a character stand-point, of course. The actors themselves are both wonderful.)

The only special feature on this disc is a theatrical trailer.

McLintock! (1963)

A light-hearted romp featuring Wayne with his favorite leading lady, Maureen O'Hara. I enjoyed this one more than I ever thought I would, despite a subplot concerning the unfair treatment of Native Americans that gets lost in the film and never really goes anywhere.

Special Features:
* Introduction by Leonard Maltin
* Commentary by Leonard Maltin, western historian Frank Thompson, Maureen O' Hara, the lovely Stefanie Powers, Michael Wayne, and more.
* The making of McLintock!
* The Corset: Don't leave home without one
* 2-minute fight school
* Original theatrical trailer
* Batjac teaser (the same one found on the Hondo disc)

The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

John Wayne and Dean Martin (who also appeared together in 'Rio Bravo') star in this revenge story of four sons who return home after the murder of their father and the death of their saintly mother.

The script is loose and meanders in places, but the interaction between the brothers is great and the sentimentality of the film is refreshing when compared to the cynicism dripping from the rafters in today's films.

The only special feature here is a theatrical trailer.

El Dorado (1966)

Howard Hawks was, apparently, so pleased with his masterpiece 'Rio Bravo' in 1959, that he decided to remake it. Twice! `El Dorado' is the second of the three, this time starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Some great scenes, but it was difficult for me to really appreciate the film overall the way others do, when I'd already seen it done, and done better, in Rio Bravo.

A theatrical trailer is the only special feature on this disc.

True Grit (1969)

John Wayne earned his second Academy Award nomination, and only win, with his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in `True Grit.' The film is a perennial favorite for many western buffs, and I enjoyed it was well. Not my favorite John Wayne film for sure, but it was one of the first films to address the aging star's mortality.

A theatrical trailer is the only special feature here.

Rio Lobo (1970)

Howard Hawks's second remake of 'Rio Bravo'. A fine film, but again, I can't really add anything here that I didn't already say for `El Dorado'.

There are no special features on this dis.

Big Jake (1971)
Along with 'Liberty Valance' and 'The Shootist', this is the real prize of the collection. Like `The Shootist', Big Jake seemed to me to be a very personal movie for John Wayne. It's the story of a mostly absentee father who, in the twilight of his life and career, must come to terms with the choices he's made.

On the Hollywood side of it, Wayne must also rescue a grandson he's never seen who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. I won't give away all the plot details, but surprises are in store for everyone involved, and Wayne is at his very best here.

There are no special features on this disc.

The Shootist (1976)

Mr. Wayne's final screen performance, and also one of his best. `The Shootist' is the story of an aging gunfighter dying of cancer, and living in a world that has moved on from the wild frontier days that birthed him.

The symbolism is heavy here, as Wayne himself was quite ill at this stage of his career with cancer. (He would die 2 years after this film was released.)

John Wayne was a giant in every sense of the word, and `The Shootist', I think, sums his character up better than almost any other film that he was in. A can't-miss final performance makes `The Shootist' a film you absolutely MUST SEE.
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on 10 September 2014
I originally bought this box set for my Grandfather knowing him to be a big Western fan and in particular of the many John Wayne movies.

I was never a big fan of John Wayne myself, having always preferred the darker more serious films of Eastwood and Van Cleef, but took to watching Hondo, and then Rio Lobo with him a few weeks ago.

And wow, I really enjoyed these films! Taken with a view to the style and context with which they were made and produced, they are in reflection are truly excellent films.

Anyway, having now gunned down McClintock and True Grit, this has now become the main event of Sunday afternoon with the family!
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on 4 November 2012
The movies were great fun to see again, I always liked John Wayne in his Western movies, so it was just great to review his movies, great landscapes and lots off fights, more or less without bloodsheding, not like movies today.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2011
This is an excellent set of films. I admit I am a big JW fan but these are good films. The quality of the movie - picture, sound - is good on all of them. Not sure why there are different styles of labels on the films but waht difference does that make? The packaging is a pack with cardboard slots to put the DVD in. not great but does the job.

If you like classic John Wayne films then get this selection - gives you many hours of great movies.
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on 5 April 2013
Brilliant. The Duke at his best. I would recommend to all John Wayne fans. You must try it, you won't be sorry.
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on 22 April 2011
Great films - shame about the packaging.

Looking at Amazon's illustration above, my copy arrived with the bottom right hand corner of the packaging fairly crushed. DVDs were not damaged, but packaging only consists of a multi-foldout with the bare discs slipped into half-moon slots in cardboard! - like the multi-disc classical collection everyone's seen advertised on TV - Most unsatisfactory and not good for the longevity of the disc surface!
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on 24 December 2012
What can you say about this great actor and COWBOY - It always does it for me. Great films. You try and tell me that the latest re-make of True Grit is better than the 'Wayne' original -it's rubbish compared to good old John. This set of DVD's is a must. Get out there now and buy.
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on 3 January 2016
Good quality DVDs, but the boxed set was squashed into slightly too small a box for delivery, so arrived squashed and bent, hence only 4 stars. Bit disappointing as it was for a present and would obviously be stored in its boxed sleeve which is all damaged and out of shape.
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on 9 January 2016
Was a Xmas present for my grandad he's a massive john Wayne fan. Only problem was that 3 of the DVDs play so far then stop. We thought it was the DVD player so got a new one. But all the other films work fine. Apart from Hondo, Big Jake and the man who shot Liberty valance
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