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Based upon a story by Louis L'Amour, HONDO ($15) is a quintessential John Wayne western, one that has achieved almost mythic status because it has never been released on video and has been difficult to see over the last several decades. HONDO stars Wayne as the part Indian title character, a former gunfighter now employed as a Calvary scout in Apache country. After losing his horse in a skirmish, Hondo comes upon a farm being run by Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page), who has been abandoned by her husband. In the brief time that Hondo spend with Angie and her young son Johnny (Lee Aaker), he becomes quite taken with them both. Then, after returning to his Calvary unit, Hondo learns of an Apache uprising lead by a chief named Vittorio (Michael Pate). With the Lowe farm in the midst of Apache country, Hondo designates himself the protector of Angie and her son and sets out to rescue them from the impending Apache raids. The cast of HONDO also features Ward Bond, James Arness, Rodolfo Acosta, Leo Gordon, Tom Irish, Lee Aaker, Paul Fix and Rayford Barnes.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made HONDO available on DVD in a good-looking transfer that frames the film in the 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. While HONDO was originally produced in 3D, this presentation offers the flat version of the film. Sharpness and detail are somewhat variable, with most sequences appearing crisp and nicely defined, while some brief passages are a bit soft and dupey. There are some mild fluctuations in the colors, which is probably attributable to the film being originally produced in WarnerColor, which has a reputation as being problematic. For the most part, there is good saturation and respectable flesh tones. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites, plus the picture sports good contrast. The film elements do show signs of age in places, but it is never excessive. Film grain is also noticeable, but is generally mild. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.

For this release, HONDO has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The new mix nicely opens up the sound throughout the outlying channels, but is not excessively directional. As expected, the forward soundstage is dominant, but there is some nice reinforcement from the rears. Most signs of background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a fairly solid sonic quality. Fidelity has some limitations dictated by age, but for the most part, the music sounds fine, without much by way of harshness. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. An English Dolby monaural soundtrack has also encoded onto the DVD, as have English subtitles.

Full motion video and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a two-minute Introduction By Leonard Maltin. Next up is a running audio commentary featuring Leonard Maltin, western historian Frank Thompson and actor Lee Aaker. The Making Of Hondo is a nineteen-minute program that looks back on the production of the movie. Profile: James Edward Grant clocks in at twelve minutes at looks at the career of Wayne’s favorite screenwriter. The John Wayne Stock Company: Ward Bond is a nine-minute profile of the character actor who appeared in so many John Wayne and John Ford classics. From The Batjac Vaults is a vintage interview with Michael Wayne from the 1990s. The Apache offers a fifteen-minute history of the Apache, which is also put into the context of the movie. A Theatrical Trailer, Batjac Teaser and Photo Gallery close out the supplements.

HONDO is another wonderful John Wayne classic making its long overdue debut on DVD. Paramount has done a very good job with the presentation of the film and the supplemental features- plus the DVD is very reasonably priced. Recommended.



Hondo (Special Collector's Edition) (1953)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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