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on 9 April 2015
Howard Hawks' masterful 1948 cattle drive epic 'Red River' stampedes its way onto a UK Blu ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment as part of their much lauded Masters of Cinema collection. For whatever reason Eureka have only made the longer 133 minute pre release edit available on this disc despite Howard Hawks himself proclaiming to prefer the shorter 127 minute cut. Including both versions would have been preferable.

In a quest to fullfill his dreams of being a cattle rancher Tom Dunson (John Wayne) ignores his wagon master who's train they had joined en route to California and heads off to Texas with his right hand man Groot Nadine (Walter Brennan) with one bull and two cows leaving his sweetheart Fen (Coleen Gray) in the protection of the wagon train on the promise that once the ranch is set up he will send for her. Only a night into their journey a distant plume of smoke indicates that the wagon train has been attcked by indians. When the same Indian scouts catch up with Dunsan and Goot the pair fight them off only to prove Dunsan's worst fears.......his girl has been killed indicated by one of the slain indians wearing her bracelet, the same bracelet Dunsan had given her which had been left to him by his late mother. The two continue their journey and eventually reach the Red River, the border between Texas and Oklahoma where they meet up with a delirious and fiesty young boy Matt Garth who has survived an indian attack that killed his family and whose sole possessions are a cow and a small pistol. Admiring his pluck and courage Dunsan takes the boy under his wing promising that if he works hard he will make him a partner in his planned ranch and add his initial to the cattle brand.
Fast forward fourteen years and Dunsan has achieved his ambition and has now the largest cattle herd in the area. But thanks to the Civil War, the high price of beef and the lack of cattle markets in Texas he is basically bankrupt despite his huge animal stock. So with his still loyal friend Nadine and his unofficially adopted son Matt(Montgomery Clift) who has grown into a strapping cow hand with a draw as quick as his father's, Dunsan plans a cattle drive of 9000 strong to Missouri where he is guaranteed a fair price for his beef stock. Taking with them a group of experienced cowboys each being offered $200 for the monumentous drive the journey starts out promising but problems begin after a raging stampede that leaves one cowhand trampled, hundreds of cattle killed and their foodstocks destroyed. Tempers soon begin to rise as all the men including Matt begin to doubt the now agressive and tyrannical Dunsan who appears to be selfishly obsessed with driving the cattle his way despite suggestions of a safer, easier and shorter passage to an alternative destination of Abilene Kansas where there is rumoured to be a railroad. When two deserters from the group are caught and returned Dunsan threatens to hang them prompting Matt to take charge of the group with all men siding with him to overthrow his father. Assuring he will lead them to Abilene where they can collect their well earnt paychecks, Matt decides to leave his proud and now vengeful father behind provoking Dunsan to threaten his adopted son with death when he finally meets up with him again.
Clocking in at well over two hours, Red River could be thought of as the original epic western, spanning decades and with themes that go far deeper than your average oater of the period. Often decribed as the western equivalent to Mutiny on the Bounty, this claim is immediately true with Dunsan being the Captain Bligh to Matt's Fletcher Christian and the cowboys the crew of The Bounty. Add to that elements of a classic Greek tragedy, a career changing performance from John Wayne, fast paced set pieces, a tight script and majestically epic cinematography whether it location or set bound and you have all the hallmarks that have made Red River an indisputable classic of American cinema.

Its rough, its dark and its grainy but that doesent stop Eureka's HD transfer of Red River looking absolutely wonderful. Presented with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer framed at the correct aspect ratio of 1.34:1 this is a spectacularly solid interpretation of a 67 year old picture. The moody black & white photography benefits immensely with strong texturing and revealing levels of detail. The bright daytime scenes look fantastic from intricate close ups of trail worn faces and clothing through to dusty roads and livestock and depth is readily apparent. The same too can he said about the famous wide open vistas which appear clear and well defined and like "Shane" another western classic shot in the Academy Ratio give an enormous feeling of space despite the restrictions of the tight framing. Contrast can be slightly dark but is pleasing with a natural grey scale and deep inky blacks showcasing good shadow detail, perfect for the atmospheric studio shot night passages as well as the fast paced twilight stampede. The immensely thick grain field has been left intact and untampered with and although this often threatens to take over the image and on occasions looks extremely noisy especially on the huge Amerocan West skies I am sure this is all natural and organic making me kind of glad Eureka didn't try and soften it which would have resulted in less of those glorious filmic textures. As to be expected for a film of Red Rivers vintage there are some age related anomalies in the form of scratches, dirt specks and virtical lines not to mention some rather odd fading that affects dark objects set against a bright foreground. Fortunately none of these indiscrepancies really derail the image or the impact of this spectacular movie and if anything are inkeeping with the age of the production. Could it look better? Most probably but with a consistently high bitrate and no visable compression issues I am more than happy with Red Rivers transition to the world of high definition.

Eureka have utilised Red Rivers original monaural soundtrack and have presented it in a single channel LPCM 1.0 mix. Obviously stemming from a dated source this sounds surprisingly robust and clear. The music gets a decent sonic upheaval in lossless sounding potent and boisterous with dynamic range befitting the age of the production. Dialogue is clear and precise with no apparent distortion or clipping and the foley effects carry some weight from the stampeding cattle through to gunshots. The very nature of this mix means it is straight down the middle front and centre and the recording level does seem slightly lower than other Blu ray soundtracks but with no pops or cracks and only a slight amount of background hiss this is more than acceptable.

For a movie as influential as Red River this Masters of Cinema release does indeed feel a little light in the extras department. The most interesting supplement is a scholarly but fairly informal chat between filmmaker Dan Sallit and film critic Jaime N Christley. Shot exclusively for Eureka, this runs for around 45 minutes with the two men discussing Howard Hawks and what made Red River such a unique classic. The piece is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in full HD 1080p.
Next up is an audio only segment featuring the Lux Radio adaption of Red River broadcast in 1949 which runs for 59 minutes and features the voices of John Wayne, Walter Brennan and Joanne Dru. The broadcast plays back over the static menu screen and is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.
Also included is the option to watch the film with an isolated music and sound effects track again presented in LPCM 1.0 the same as the main feature and as with most Masters of Cinema releases a well produced glossy booklet can also be found in the case.

Beautifully made and exquisitely shot Howard Hawks' Red River is a true undeniable classic that has stood the test of time to become a highly influential genre favourite that any true lover of film should find the time to watch at least once even if they have no interest in any of the stars or westerns in general. Eureka's UK Blu ray release presents this black & white masterpiece in a superb high definition transfer which expertly showcases the timeless photography and wonderful performances on offer. The extras on this disc are pretty slim pickings and the packaging is a tad bland but the glossy booklet features plenty of information and photographs and as I picked this up for £6.99 I really cannot fault this release although it would have been advantageous to see the shorter, 127 minute director approved cut. Incidentally for the true fan of Red River the US based boutique label Criterion have released their own delux double disc Blu ray featuring both cuts of the movie, a slightly better and more thoroughly restored picture transfer and an exhaustive selection of special features. Very tempting for sure but as this luxurious import Blu ray release is region A locked and retails the wrong side of £25 I think it will have to remain a luxury that is tantalisingly out of reach.
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Tom Dunson is a self made cattle baron, he will do what ever it takes to protect the life he has made for himself. The constant fall in the value of livestock means that Tom, and his adopted son Matthew, must drive the gathered herd thru the perilous Chisholm Trail, and then hope to get good value for the beef. With their assembled group of hands they head off North, but many problems will come their way, not least, a fallout due to Dunson's tyrannical ways, meaning there could well be mutiny on the range.

Without a shadow of doubt, Red River is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, boasting incredible performances from the cast, directed with sumptuous skill by Howard Hawks and photographed as good as any film in the genre. Based on the novel, The Chisholm Trail written by Borden Chase (also co writing duties for the film), Red River is a sweeping spectacle that doesn't have a frame that's wasted. Hawks (this his first Western) frames his wonderfully vivid characters in lush expansive landscapes, fleshing them out amongst the constant stream of drama and action. Tho Chase would be annoyed at the changes Hawks made to the story, he surely would have marvelled at the finished product, with Harlan's photography in and around Arizona's locales capturing a cowboys terrain expertly and Dimitri Tiomkin's score stirring the blood and pumping the viewer with Cowboy adrenaline.

If anyone doubts John Wayne as an actor of note then they need look no further than his performance here as Dunson. Tough and durable in essence the character is, but Wayne manages to fuse those traits with a believable earthy determination that layers the character perfectly. With Wayne all the way, matching him stride for stride, is Montgomery Clift as Matthew Garth, sensitive without being overly so, it's the perfect foil to Wayne's machismo showing. Walter Brennan and John Ireland also shine bright in support, while a special mention has to go to a wonderful turn from Joanne Dru as Tess Millay; Howard Hawks' CV shows a ream of strong female characters, and here Dru firmly puts herself in amongst the best of them; check out her first appearance alongside Clift, it's precious.

Red River made a fortune upon its release, it was revered by the critics back then, and it's still being revered today. Rightly so, because it is quite simply magic cinema, a case where everything comes together perfectly, it's in short, a film that even none Western fans should be able to marvel at as entertainment, or at the very least give credit to the Tech accomplishments on offer. 10/10
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on 6 November 2013
'Red River' is a Western film, released in 1948, and like all great films it appeals to people who wouldn't normally like films of that genre. In fact, next to John Ford's legendary 'The Searchers', this may well be one of the best examples of a Western film around.

In the brief prologue, we see Tom Dunson (John Wayne, in one of his most iconic roles) bid an emotional farewell to the woman he loves, and head to Texas with his companion Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan) where he aims to build the cattle ranch he'd been dreaming of whilst he was fighting in the Civil War. As they approach the river, they come across Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift), a young, bright man who has managed to survive an attack by the Indians.

We next meet Dunson fourteen years later, by which time he owns more cattle than anyone else in the West, but he's starting to run out of money. He decides to take 9000 cattle with him to Missouri, where cattle fetch a very high price. With a group of cowboys hired to help protect him and the cattle he heads off, but before long the men start asking questions of his leadership...

The film is directed by Howard Hawks, and was the first Western he had made, after building his reputation on films such as 'Scarface' (1932) and 'His Girl Friday' (1940). Because he hadn't become as synonymous with Westerns as John Ford, he was never really considered as serious a filmmaker as Ford, and for a long time 'Red River' was undeservedly overlooked. In reality, the film looks absolutely amazing, with sweeping landscapes - easily rivaling the very best of Ford's films. The stampede, one of the film's pivotal moments, is superbly shot and must have been an influence on 'The Lion King', almost 50 years later.

'Red River' is also notable as one of John Wayne's best films. Some of the subtle acting going on, especially in the scenes when he can see that he's losing the trust of his men, is fantastic. Even John Ford himself was impressed, famously stating after watching the film that "I didn't know the big sonofabitch could act!". It also features Montgomery Clift's first performance, before he went on to earn numerous Academy Award nominations.

The film is released by Eureka's Masters of Cinema label (surprisingly the first Western they've released), a label well renowned for the high standards of their DVD and Blu-ray packages. One of the big problems with the old 2000 DVD release was that the picture quality was very poor. That's been fully addressed with this release, with lots of detail revealed for the first time, and a healthy amount of grain on display. It really shows off Hawks' fantastic shots. The soundtrack is the original mono sound, and it's always clear and easy to understand the dialogue.

As for extras, there's a relaxed 45-minute conversation between Dan Sallitt and Jaime Christley. It's informative, and they show shots from the film as they discuss them. There's also a 59-minute Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of 'Red River' from 1949, featuring Wayne and Brennan reprising their roles. Last but not least is one of Masters of Cinema's trademark booklets, with 56 pages of contemporary writing about Hawks and the film's original release.

When originally released, there were two different versions of 'Red River' in cinemas. The longer, 133-minute version is here. The only slight regret with this release is that it doesn't include the shorter 127-minute version as well. But this is only a minor criticism. This is likely to be the definitive version of 'Red River' for many years to come, and I really hope that its popularity gets Masters of Cinema thinking about releasing some more classic Westerns.
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on 6 December 2013
I agree with other opinions about this great film however I need to add a comment about the "video conversation".
"The Masters Of Cinema Series" made an extra which consisted of 2 men {Don Sallit & Jaime N. Christley}
seated in front of an unlit fireplace with a camera focused on them both,
I found this to be soooooo boring and adds very little to the film.
To add commentary to a film, I found this is usually done with the film in motion, not the way these 2 men perform
with a seemingly endless talkfest which goes on and on and on in no particular direction, and with no way for the viewer
to escape until it ends, perhaps it was their way of getting 5 hours of fame {it seemed like that long anyway}.
However the other extra from the 'Lux Radio Theatre' from March 7 1949, with John Wayne... Walter Brennan...Joanne Dru
reprising their roles was a welcome addition.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 March 2015
It has been said that this is a Western for people who don't like Westerns - as well as being one of the greatest for those that do - and it would indeed be hard not to be swept along by this epic road movie before roads were part of the US landscape. Into the story of how 9000 cattle were driven from Texas to Abilene, Kansas, there to be sold to a beef merchant, Howard Hawks has woven a tale of a group of men, of two women left behind who continue to affect the action in the most fundamental ways, of a surrogate father-son relationship. It all gels fantastically, bringing in episodes including a stampede, attack by Indians, desertion, shootings, mutiny, falling in love - it's all in there. John Wayne is very well cast as Tom Dunson, a man who spent 14 years building his cattle stock only to discover no one will buy beef in Texas following the American Civil War. His adopted son Matt, whom he took under his wing as a teenager, has come back from fighting for the Southern cause, and with Groot, his commonsensical right-hand man, they hire a number of other local men, including Cherry Valance, the best shot this side of San Diego, it seems. The banter between the two younger men is fairly electric and hints at certain ambiguities, starting with the famous scene where they compare guns. Given that both actors are very good-looking (Montgomery Clift and John Ireland), this is very effective. When Joanne Dru appears, and immediately gets an arrow through her shoulder (which she takes in her stride), who is also quite a looker, you feel all the archetypes are somehow in place, and we could be in some kind of myth.

The heart of the film, though, is the rapport between Wayne and Clift. It has touches of Abraham and Isaac, I felt, with the proud, unbending father sure of his rightness and lacking all sense of proportion. But it can very plausibly be given a Freudian reading also, suggesting that it can be read at different levels. At all events, it makes it a rollicking yarn where the depths are stirred. All along the cattle go forward like the Red River itself, the swirls of dust being like so much psychological fallout from these incredibly charged and vivid interactions. In addition it has some fantastic scenery, even shot in 4:3, and the music is very effective, both energised and plaintive as needed, and very American in feel.
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Red River (made in 1946 but released in 1948) is the first and for me the best of Howard Hawks' five magnificent Westerns, the others being The Big Sky (1952), Rio Bravo (1959), El Dorado (1966), and Rio Lobo (1970). John Ford was the director who really wrote the textbook for how Westerns should be made and virtually on his own turned John Wayne into a star. It was with Red River however that Wayne's extraordinary acting ability really announced itself. Ford famously saw the film and declared, "I didn't know the big son of a bitch could act!" He immediately exploited this realization, handing him iconic roles in the Cavalry Trilogy (Fort Apache [1948], She Wore a Yellow Ribbon [1949], Rio Grande [1950]) and then later in The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). These are the works most people see as cementing Wayne's legendary status, but it was Hawks arguably who really utilized Wayne's qualities to the best in Rio Bravo and especially here in Red River. In the film Wayne is simply sensational as the bone-headed, stubborn and tyrannical cattle baron Tom Dunson who is forced by economic necessity to drive his herd 1,000 miles from Texas to Kansas in search of a market for his beef so blazing the legendary "Chisholm Trail" in the process.

An adaptation by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee of Chase's own Saturday Evening Post serial "Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail", the film's greatness rests on four factors. First, it's a magnificent statement of one element of America's creation mythology, the cattle drive acting as a link between the covered wagon trail and the gleaming new railroad carrying people in pursuit of their "Manifest Destiny" to make the USA what it is today. Second, there's a precise matching of this statement with the central rules and themes of the universe according to Howard Hawks. Every frame of every scene reeks of an honest deeply felt celebration of positive civilized "American" values with absolutely no room for saccharine - re `Fordian' - sentimentality or nationalist jingoism. Third, both of these factors are worked by way of Siegmund Freud into a deep and highly sophisticated Oedipal `rites of passage' story charting the birth of both a man and a nation, one symbolizing the other. And fourth, the film is brought off with absolutely stunning technical virtuosity - a deeply articulate serious script shot through with rich humor, extraordinary drop dead gorgeous b/w cinematography (Russell Harlan deserving more recognition than he actually received for this), the unforgettable heroic `nation-making' music of Dmitri Tiomkin, effortlessly natural performances (Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan and Joanne Dru leading a fine deeply dedicated supporting cast who succeed in equaling Wayne's stunning central turn), and above everything else the muscular genius of Hawks' direction welding everything together to make not only a consummate piece of commercial entertainment, but also an extraordinary work of art. To let you know where I stand, the film places second behind The Searchers and ahead of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) on my top 10 list of Westerns.

In his book on the director Robin Wood set out the template for the way Howard Hawks' films have come to be considered today. Distinguishing between the man's screwball comedies (Twentieth Century [1934], Bringing Up Baby [1938], His Girl Friday [1940], Monkey Business [1952]) and his action films (Only Angels Have Wings [1939], Hatari! [1961], his Westerns) he said, "In the adventure films, centred on the male group, chaos is out there...the master motif (literal or metaphoric) is the small circle of light amid the surrounding darkness. In the comedies, set inside established society, chaos erupts from the adventure films it is a threat held at bay by the values of the group (self-respect, loyalty, spontaneous affection and sharing); in the comedies what is threatened (the established social order) is not valued, and the eruption of chaos becomes liberating and positive." Further to "self-respect, loyalty, spontaneous affection and sharing" in the adventure films come issues of male camaraderie, bonding, the inclusion of women in the group as `token' men if they earn the right to the privilege, the earning of the right of men and women to remain in the group which underlines further issues of leadership, sacrificing individual ego to the group cause, and the acquirement and appreciation of professional skill and the respect that comes with it. The sacrifice of everything to teamwork so as to get a job done, to see a task through is the mantra that appears repeatedly throughout Hawks' work, and none more so than in Red River. The fact that these very qualities amount to exactly what was needed for a new nation to be created, for civilization to be hewn out of the savage wilderness gives the film a sheer force that is difficult to resist, Hawks' worldview blending seamlessly with the creation mythology that this film is centrally about.

Red River depicts the archetypal cattle drive element of the classic (again re-`Fordian') textbook of the Western as statement of creation mythology, of European settlers from the east pushing westward on wagon trains to fulfill their "Manifest Destiny", to establish farms, communities and towns out of the wilderness. The film starts with Dunson and his sidekick Groot (Brennen) leaving one such train to claim a giant tract of land north of the Rio Grande in Texas. Two important things happen at the outset. First Dunson has to sever contact with his woman, the proverbial `hearth of civilization' and potential mother figure of a new nation on the frontier named Fen (Coleen Gray). He thinks his journey too challenging for a woman to make and after giving her his mother's bracelet as a keepsake he leaves her with the train. The potential nation founder separated from the proverbial maternal hearth of civilization (as symbolized by the bracelet), this is the wrong decision. He pays the price when he observes the wagon train burning in the distance following an Indian attack. Fen's death is confirmed when he kills an Indian who returns to him the bracelet. The second important thing emanates out of the void left by the absent mother. Out of the chaos wanders a traumatized young boy orphaned by the Indian attack. The boy's name is Matt and he comes bearing a gun (which he can already use very well) and a cow. He is the symbol of a new nation waiting to be established, inchoate, opaque, not yet fully formed. Nation builder Dunson decides to adopt him and brands the boy's cow with his own name. The boy protests that he should be joint owner, but Dunson insists, "Only when you've earned it." In other words the boy has to negotiate his rites of passage to full adulthood (to full nationhood) before he can claim full ownership (before a nation can make claim to independent existence). In Freudian terms we have two primal scenes here. The first has Dunson initiating the trauma that comes from his self-willed separation from Fen which results eventually in full blown psychosis which he needs to confront before the film can resolve itself. The second has Matt needing to resolve his loss by working through the usual path of psychosexual development on the way to adulthood. This includes a confrontation and a usurpation of the father (Dunson) and a gratification of his sexual desire for the mother (Tess Millay) who he will meet much later. In the meantime without a mother the as yet imperfectly formed nation descends into chaos as represented by the Civil War which Matt fights in. Hawks shows nothing of the war, electing simply to show the effect the war has on the South. The continued absence of a mother figure means civilization can't as yet function and as a statement of this despite having built up a large herd of cattle over 15 years, Dunson is broke. Matt returns from the chaos of war not only as surrogate son and inheritor of a nation, but also bearer of the maternal fold - he wears the bracelet (given by Dunson) as a symbol of this. It is his implicit role to control and `domesticate' the reckless paternal impulse embodied by Dunson which has in turn been aggravated by his own internal psychosis.

Civilization (re nationhood) is duly achieved through the film's long depiction of the drive. To travel 1,000 miles Dunson has to hire several more surrogate sons and as a motherless family they all head north together. Interestingly, Matt's assumption of femininity (the bracelet) means he functions not only as the son of Dunson (the nation resulting from the actions of a founding father) and brother of all the other wranglers on the drive, but he is also the bearer of motherhood of the nation and object of sexual desire for his `children' (the wranglers) who are also working through their own Oedipal rites of passage. Issues of gender and sexuality leap to the fore particularly in the relationship struck between Matt and the professional gunman Cherry Valance (John Ireland). When introduced, Groot notices the immediate competitive friction between them as they compare their `guns' and abilities at `shooting'. Groot comments that "something's going to happen." Conventionally of course this refers to professional rivalry (a key Hawks theme), but it also encourages a possible gay subtext as well. In the course of the film the two become close friends and in the original script Cherry (note the sexual name) even kills Dunson at the end thus saving Matt's life. This would have been of course another Oedipal statement of a son overcoming his father, but it is also the action of a concerned lover. In reality though, Hawks replaced that ending with an altogether more obvious statement of the mother (Tess) stopping the climactic fistfight and asserting domesticity over raw masculine rivalry as shown by the two being pushed into a cart carrying household goods! The union of mother and father to create a new nation is the film's main theme after all.

In the meantime the drive itself demonstrates what happens to a motherless nation void of domesticity. Dunson is a worried man and pushes his men (his children) hard to drive to Missouri as quickly as possible. His rules are masculine ones - the men have made a professional agreement to see a job through and if there are any quitters they will be shot. The whole film pivots on the glorious stampede that takes place about halfway point. We should note a couple of things here. First one of the wranglers is rebelling against negotiating his rites of passage to adulthood and still has a sweet tooth and keeps stealing sugar from Groot's chuck wagon. Second, another wrangler named Dan Latimer (Harry Carey Jr) tells Dunson and Matt quietly about his family waiting for him, how he wants to buy some red shoes for his wife and how he's going to make his nest of domesticity happy. It is exactly what Dunson lacks in his own life and what a fledgling nation craves. The stampede is caused by the wrangler upsetting pots and pans to get at his sugar (infantile immaturity). This destroys half of their food and kills Latimer and the domesticity he represents. The result is Dunson's psychosis lurching to the fore and he is transformed into being the `bad father'. His tyrannical dictatorial methods become overbearing and need controlling. It is Matt as surrogate mother (the bearer of the bracelet) as well as son whose job it is to keep the father in check and over-ride if necessary. He stops Dunson from bullwhipping the wrangler for causing the stampede and then later stops Dunson from hanging two wranglers who attempt to escape. Matt plays Fletcher Christian to Dunson's Captain Bligh as he smoothly mounts a mutiny. In doing so he throws off his father's yoke and makes a bid for negotiating his rites of passage (redirecting the drive towards the railroad at Abilene Kansas rather than Missouri) towards adulthood as his `father' swears vengeance.

Up until this point the film documents Dunson's `bad' leadership. He drives the men too hard, he denies them rest or water when it is needed, he insists on Missouri instead of changing to Abilene even though that is the logical choice, he punishes like a tyrant, he orders everyone around so denying the right of anyone to free speech. He becomes a virtual Macbeth figure ("Heavy lies the crown") as he retreats into suspicious sleeplessness, alcoholism and spiritual torpor with Walter Brennen's Groot constantly goading him and ticking him off for being wrong. Such is the state of mankind without womankind in the universe according to both Hawks and classic American creation mythology. Without the softening domesticity of the maternal hearth of civilization man is liable to retreat into stale soul-less decrepitude. Civilization remains impossible in a Wild West destined to remain untamed unless the maternal can assert itself in some way. Matt's mutiny is an assertion of this maternal instinct and the second half of the drive depicts Matt's `good' leadership. The drive now has a goal which is an obviously attainable promise of a bright future (the railroad as opposed to the Missouri border raiders) with a leader who everyone respects for overthrowing Dunson (even Groot), who shows respect back to the men by allowing them to rest when wanted, and who praises when he sees a job well done. Matt also demonstrates his leadership prowess by generously stopping off and helping a wagon train fight off an Indian raid (something that Dunson would have simply ridden around) and allowing the men to relax for a spell in the arms of a civilization in the process of creation. It is here that he meets and woos Tess Millay in perhaps the film's only miscalculation. It certainly fits Hawks' schema for Tess to get involved with Matt as the missing mother returning to the fold to enable a nation to come into being, for the Hawksian group to regain some sense of order and humanity and for the Oedipal part of the equation to work out properly, but the romance happens too quickly to be plausible. As soon as she sees him Tess is all over Matt and it doesn't take much for him to give her the symbolic bracelet. This reeks of over-schematicism in the face of believability. But like I say, it does work in the general structure of the film and is not such a serious blot.

Interestingly, Tess's presence in the film as a symbol within the schema of creation mythology and domestic resolution of a nation's teething problems is further emphasized when Dunson runs across her and her wagon train en-route to catching up with Matt to kill him and reclaim his herd. He actually offers to marry her so as to square everything off. This flies in the face of any real feelings he has towards her and states his cold logical hard-headedness in getting what he wants. Again, the bracelet functions both to make him aware that Tess is the maternal heart missing from his group (from the nation he is founding) and to make him aware of the feelings Tess and Matt must have for each other. They in fact repeat what happened to Dunson at the film's outset. On a Freudian level you could say the early farewell scene to Fen was a primal scene which Dunson has to be taken back to in a kind of psychotherapy to confront the trauma of the mistake he made in the past (by refusing to take Fen with him and allowing the mother of a nation to be separated from the father) in order to solve the psychosis of the present. Without knowing it because he is still blinded with psychotic paternal rage at what his disobedient son has done to him, by agreeing to take Tess with him to confront Matt he is achieving just that. He is correcting a mistake made in the past, exorcising his own psychosis, uniting mother and father together to create a new nation, uniting the Hawksian group in harmony and staking his claim as the father of a new nation symbolized by his children Matt and Tess, all destined to be rich and prosperous. In a wonderful little touch, Hawks casts Harry Carey as Mr. Melville, the man who buys all the cattle at Abilene and clears the way for Matt, Tess and Dunson to establish a glorious nation founded around a maternal domestic hearth and run by the good old American values that Hawks loves so much. These are the values stated earlier by Dan Latimer before being killed in the stampede. Latimer is played by none other than Harry Carey's son, Harry Carey Jr of course.

I have attempted to tackle the three main strands of this film together and my account may seem confused, or even worse, make the film seem confusing. On the contrary, this film is simplicity itself, the muscular thematics that pulsate through the narrative gelling with each other to perfection to make for a seamless final result. John Ford would cover much of the same ground in his Wagon Master (1950) even down to casting Joanne Dru and Harry Carey Jr, but what is notable most about Red River is that Hawks celebrates the founding of a great country and eulogizes the central Hawksian values that lie behind it without ever lapsing into sentimentality or right wing patriotism. Sure in 1946 there was a need for movies to push a strong positive image of America a country which thousands had just died for in an all-consuming World War, but there is nothing simple-minded or jingoistic about this film with the characters all given space to breathe in a narrative that resonates strongly with positive and highly civilized humanity. Even those who usually avoid Westerns for their macho posturing and obsessions with violence should find much to ponder in this magnificent film.

This is a review of the MGM DVD and it is excellent on all counts, picture (aspect ratio 4:3) sharp and contrasty and sound beautifully clear for the period. Buyers should note that this is the 133 minute version that was originally released and has since passed into general acceptance. However, Hawks himself preferred a 127 minute version which tightened the action somewhat and removed the book-style transitions that he felt slowed things down. I haven't seen this, but those interested can see it in the Criterion region 1 release version.
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Howard Hawks` 1948 masterpiece Red River is not just a great western, it`s one of the greatest of American movies.
Hawks, in his lifetime, was seldom accorded the respect and admiration he deserved, at least in his native land (never once nominated for an Oscar, despite excelling in several genres) and it took the French and a few discerning UK critics (such as David Thomson, who waxes lyrical about him whenever he has the chance) to trumpet the man`s worth. He was one of the best directors ever to draw breath.
His sense of composition alone marks him out. He could take your breath away with simply a shot of two men on horses against the sky, or Walter Brennan doling out bad food under a makeshift shelter in the rain.
This is a lengthy saga, in glorious black-and-white, of the many years it takes for Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift, of all people, in his debut film) to attain his rite of passage into true manhood, and for his mentor Tom Dunson (John Wayne, at 40, and at his intense best) to recognise, forgive, and finally give Matt his own cattle brand.
Or it`s the story of a long, long cattle drive from Texas to Missouri, taking in Indian attacks, mutiny, Dunson`s growing tyranny, and a young lady played with candid sensuality by Joanne Dru (in her best role).
There again, it`s a film of treasurable moments. That pre-dawn calm before the cattle drive begins; Clift and John Ireland comparing gun sizes (oh, sure!) like kids; an arrow piercing Joanne Dru`s shoulder blade, her angry conversation with Matt barely interrupted; the shots of cattle hurling themselves at the camera; the chillingly matter-of-fact way Wayne tells two men "...gonna hang ya".
I could talk about this magnificent film for pages and hours, but you really have to see it (if you haven`t yet) then you`ll want to watch it on a fairly regular basis for the rest of your life.
Wayne was never so frightening (watch out for him as you bed down for the night, never mind the coyotes and snakes!), Clift looks liberated, Dru is just the ticket, Ireland is terrific, and Brennan knows exactly how far to take the mumbling old codger-friend bit. Listen to the ways he tells Dunson "You`re wrong..." and the way he knows how and when to keep quiet - things in the script of course, but things unscripted too.
I love this film more than I can say.

Take `em to Missouri, Matt!
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on 20 January 2015
Well Guys,
I recently bought Red River blu-ray,it,s the French release,La Riviere Rouge blu-ray,from amazon marketplace uk,at a very reasonable price may I say.
In this review of the blu-ray transfer I,m taking it as if the French release is no diffirent to this UK release.
So,I agree with a few of the previous reviewers,this blu-ray is better picture quality than the dvd,that,s all,BETTER!!!!not a huge jump in picture quality,although,in saying that,the night scenes are much better than the dvd.
I bought the French release to get the two versions of this Classic western/movie,I dont think both versions are on the UK release?
Anyway,the two versions are theatrical cut and long version,to be honest I didn,t see any diffirence between the versions,other than Walter Brennan,s narrative not being on the long version,I can only imagine that the long version is extended scenes all through the film,scenery/cattle drive etc;
For all lovers of this Classic,and lets not forget,it is a CLASSIC,this blu-ray is a must-buy,it is better picture quality,not a lot better but still BETTER,and the sound quality is MUCH BETTER!!!!!
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on 1 May 2008
The importance and quality of this movie is beyond doubt. But the transfer of this dvd is rather poor. There are mistakes as in an old film-copy, and the resolution especially with bright landscapes ist rather low. The sound is so faint I had to turn the tv on maximum volume.
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on 5 February 2003
Just a scene access and various subtitles as bonus features of the RED RIVER MGM DVD presentation. Meager. Furthermore, the copy chosen is not of the quality one could have expected from an eminent Hollywood studio. Shameful. Howard Hawks's RED RIVER is on my list of the ten best westerns ever made.
Against the legendary John Wayne, Montgomery Clift plays the character of the Duke's adopted son. His low-keyed performance is, in my opinion, unique at that pre-Marlon Brando time. From his first appearance as a young boy on, Howard Hawks characterizes him as -a man with a gun- and gives to this manly attribute a symbolic role throughout the entire movie. Hence, the relation Montgomery Clift-John Ireland can be read at a level invisible for the blind monks of the Hays Code.
A recurrent theme appearing in the Hawksian filmography is the theme of the Strong Woman. So let's admire the character of Joanne Dru who is not disturbed at all by the arrow stuck in her shoulder and who, later in the movie, is the only character who's got the guts to face John Wayne, the granite Father.
RED RIVER is a movie that must absolutely have a place in your library. It's a movie that has influenced a lot Steven Spielberg and company , it's a milestone in Movie History. It's a masterpiece.
A DVD zone reference.
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