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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: El Dorado - Centennial Collection - Recommended

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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted May 29 2009 - 05:37 PM


Studios: Paramount
Original Release: 1966 (Japan), 1967 (U.S.)
Length: 2 hours 6 mins
Genre: Western
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Color/B&W: Color

  • English Dolby Digital Mono
  • French Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish Dolby Digital Mono

    Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    Rating: Unrated (Violence, Innuendo)

  • Release Date: May 19, 2009

    Rating: ½

    Starring: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, Michele Carey, Christopher George and Ed Asner

    Based on the novel “The Stars in Their Courses” by Harry Brown (and the film Rio Bravo)
    Screenplay by Leigh Brackett
    Directed and Produced by: Howard Hawks

    El Dorado is a solid western by Howard Hawks that just happens to include most of the story elements of his earlier classic Rio Bravo along the way. The story takes some time to line up the pieces in that order and includes a surprising amount of plot tangents for an ostensibly simple tale. At its most basic, the film follows the fight by town sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) and honourable gunslinger Cole Thornton (John Wayne) against evil rancher Bart Jason (Ed Asner). Harrah and Thornton are aided by young Mississippi (James Caan) and opposed by Nelse McLeod (Christopher George), the gunslinger working for Jason but still honourable enough to respect our heroes. And of course, there’s also the factor of the ranching family they’re protecting against Jason, which complicates everything in that Thornton has shot one of them and been shot by one of them before the real meat of the story begins. This sounds like a lot, but it breezes by on the strength of Leigh Brackett’s rapid-fire dialogue and on the easy chemistry between Mitchum and Wayne, ably backed up by the supporting cast. Once the pieces are in place, it does start to really feel like Rio Bravo, but the formula still works and the presence of the new cast brings a different energy to the proceedings. This film is equally as effective in its own way as the earlier one, and fans of John Wayne and Howard Hawks will have a great time here.

    El Dorado is now in at least its second DVD release. The first release, in 2000, included the film and a trailer. This new version, #8 in Paramount’s Centennial Collection, offers a new transfer, a pair of commentaries and a new documentary about the making of the film. Fans of Howard Hawks, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne will certainly want to add this to their collections without my prodding. More casual fans should absolutely take this opportunity to see the film if they haven’t already – and for that reason I recommend this title for purchase.

    VIDEO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½

    El Dorado is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that brings the wide color palette of the film to vibrant life. There is an extensive range of lighting, setting and wardrobe textures on display here, from the paintings of the opening credits to the location photography (including a great sunset/sunrise shot with Wayne).


    El Dorado is presented in a Dolby Digital mono mix in English, French and Spanish. The dialogue is clear, and there are some great sounds in the mix, from the bullets hitting a church bell in one sequence to the out of tune piano playing in a key saloon sequence.


    The special features included here are spread over 2 discs. The first disc includes the film itself and two commentary tracks. The second disc includes a documentary on the making of the film, a brief vintage featurette, a discussion with A.C. Lyles about Wayne’s films with Paramount, as well as the film’s trailer and some stills galleries.

    On Disc 1, we find:

  • Feature Commentary with Peter Bogdanovich - This is a scene-specific commentary, with Bogdanovich critiquing and discussing the elements of most scenes. As he did with the commentary for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Bogdanovich talks through the film, at times exhaustively restating what we’re already seeing on the screen. His skills as a film critic are still quite sharp, however, and it’s an education just listening to him talk through the elements.

  • Feature Commentary with Richard Schickel, with contributions by Ed Asner and author Todd McCarthy – Richard Schickel provides a scene-specific commentary to compliment Bogdanovich’s discussion. This one also includes recorded comments by Asner and McCarthy that appear to be culled from their statements in the documentary on the second disc.

    On Disc 2, we find:

  • Ride, Boldly Ride: The Journey to El Dorado (41:53, Anamorphic) – SOME SPOILERS IN THIS FEATURE – WATCH THIS ONLY AFTER SEEING THE FILM! - This is a 7-part featurette that covers several aspects of the making of the film, from the dismissal of the original script (which actually was based on the Harry Brown book, as credited) in favour of a remake of Rio Bravo to the relationship between Howard Hawks and John Ford. There’s a lot of great stuff here, including some colorful recollections by and about James Caan.

  • Trailer (3:06, Anamorphic) – The original theatrical trailer for the film is included here. It shows its age, to be sure, but it’s interesting to see.

  • The Artist and the American West (5:28, Full Frame) – Here is a brief promotional film from 1967 that focuses on the work of Olaf Wieghorst, who painted the artwork seen under the opening credits and who has a small cameo in the film. A short staged discussion is included between Wieghorst, John Wayne and Howard Hawks in a ranch setting.

  • Behind the Gates: A.C. Lyles Remembers John Wayne (5:32, Anamorphic) – This is a short interview with A.C. Lyles, who discusses John Wayne’s career and his films with Paramount Pictures. Clips from those films, including Wayne’s Academy Award winning performance from True Grit are included here.

  • Galleries (Anamorphic) – Four galleries of stills are included here, three for production stills and one for Lobby Cards. Many of these are the photos seen in the documentary, but they’re also fun to see on their own.

    Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the documentary. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. The packaging also includes a short pamphlet about the film with some anecdotes and photos.

    IN THE END...

    El Dorado is another fine addition to Paramount’s Centennial Collection. Fans of Howard Hawks, John Wayne and Robert Mitchum will no doubt wish to add this to their own collections. More casual film and western fans should absolutely give this a viewing, and I recommend it for purchase.

    Kevin Koster
    May 29, 2009.

    #2 of 10 OFFLINE   BillyFeldman


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    Posted May 29 2009 - 06:05 PM

    It would, of course, be nice to know if the transfer is better than the previous DVD.

    #3 of 10 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted May 29 2009 - 06:18 PM

    I hear you, Billy. I was unable to rent the prior DVD before writing my review, and I did not wish to wait any longer to post this.

    What I can tell you is that this is a solid transfer and that I didn't see any problems to speak of. And if you pick up this release over the old one, you get the two commentaries and the documentary. I think it's a solid purchase, particularly if you're a fan of Hawks and Wayne.

    If there's anyone who has the earlier releases of El Dorado, I'd also be curious to hear if there's any issue between the two transfers. As I understand it, the earlier release in 2000 was also anamorphic.

    #4 of 10 OFFLINE   Robin9



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    Posted May 29 2009 - 07:23 PM

    Absolutely. I could not agree more.

    #5 of 10 OFFLINE   Bill Parisho

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    Posted May 30 2009 - 10:38 AM

    If this selection from Paramount's Centennial Collection is anything like the many previous releases, nobody has to worry. In my opinion, the quality of the earlier films was superb. I see no reason for this one to be any different. Keep up the good work, Paramount!

    #6 of 10 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted May 30 2009 - 02:26 PM

    I haven't seen any reason for anyone to worry about the transfer of this title. The only change I believe was made here is that it was remastered in high definition for the new edition. I have not found any complaints yet about the transfer - only that it's thought to be a good one, and that the new edition provides some nice added value with the commentaries and the documentary.

    #7 of 10 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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    Posted May 30 2009 - 04:22 PM

    Which is why I'm trying to hold off from buying this title and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" because I'm afraid they will be coming out on BRD in the coming year. Crawdaddy

    #8 of 10 OFFLINE   BillyFeldman


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    Posted May 30 2009 - 08:01 PM

    I'm with Robert Crawford on this - I'm trying to hold off - I just don't know if I'll succeed. I had them both in my hands yesterday, but put them back at the last minute - I have both of the original DVDs.

    #9 of 10 OFFLINE   Robin9



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    Posted May 30 2009 - 08:51 PM

    So have I. In the absence of any confirmation that the new DVD is better than the original, I'll wait for a Blu-ray disc as well.

    #10 of 10 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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    Posted May 31 2009 - 03:18 AM

    The new one's much better, IMO:

    El Dorado: The Centennial Collection (1967)
    Colin Jacobson

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