By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 6, 2014)
Red River– Criterion Collection Blu-ray (box set)
John Wayne and Montgomery Clift couldn’t have been more disparate in their respective approaches to acting, but it is precisely this “oil and water” dynamic that makes the relationship between their characters so compelling in Howard Hawks’ classic western.
Wayne is perfect as a hard ass cattle rancher at loggerheads with his adopted son (Clift), who he feels is too “soft” and high-minded to be worthy of his legacy. It all comes to a head during a grueling, “make it or break it” cattle drive from Texas to Missouri, which turns into a sort of epic, land-locked version of Mutiny on the Bounty.
Outstanding direction, a smart script (by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee) and fabulous supporting performances from Walter Brennan, Coleen Gray and John Ireland (Ireland and Clift share a scene fraught with a surprising degree of homo-eroticism, especially considering that this was 1948).
Criterion’s Blu-ray edition features the rarely seen original theatrical release (Hawks’ preferred cut). Oddly enough, it turns out that the version we’ve seen on home video and cable all these years was the preview version (also included), which runs several minutes longer due to sporadic inter-titles, which are replaced by Walter Brennan’s narration in the theatrical cut. Image quality is superb.