Hondo - Special Collector's Edition Studio: Paramount Year: 1953 Rated: NR Length: 83 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Audio: Mono, Dolby Digital 5.1 Closed Captioned and subtitled in English Special Features: Multi-participant commentary, Special Intro by Leonard Maltin, 5 featurettes, photo gallery, trailer Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 USD Release Date: October 11, 2005 Hondo is based on an early short story by then relatively unknown Louis L’Amour. The Gift of Cochise was published in the July 1952 issue of Collier’s magazine. John Wayne hired his frequent collaborator, James Edward Grant, to write a movie script based on the short story. This became the film, Hondo. L’Amour also expanded on his short story and released a novel on the same day as the film’s premiere. Hondo Lane (John Wayne) is a half Apache, former cavalry rider who gets caught in the middle of an Apache uprising. He becomes the protector of a remote ranch headed by the widowed Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page, in her film debut), and father figure of Lowe’s son Johhny (Lee Aaker). Lane is quickly enamored of Hondo, as Hondo feels a responsibility to protect Lane and her son, and a responsibility born of respect of the Apache chief Vittorio (Michael Pate) to try and stay removed from the coming war. This film is a rarity among the Westerns of the era, in that it put a human face on the Indians. Though they were the foe, the script treated them with respect, gave them intelligence, honor, and put names to the faces. This treatment was virtually unheard of in the Westerns of the Forties and early Fifties. The film was made in 3D, in the waning years of the process. The technique was an annoyance to both director John Farrow and to Wayne, who, though enamored of the effect, often expressed a dislike for the cumbersome process. By the time the film was released at the end of 1953, it was becoming obvious that the format was in decline. Hondo was released in 3D in only a few cities, and played in the format for only a week before reverting to the 2D version, seen by the rest of the world. Please see posts #5, #10 and #12 in this thread for further information on the original 3D release. You’ll notice the intermission card midway through the film, necessary due to the need for two simultaneous projectors needed for the 3D process of the day. Paramount’s release of this Batjac film also retains the original Warner Bros. logos. The film also stars Ward Bond, as well as James Arness and Rodolfo Acosta. Hondo marks John Wayne’s last appearance in a film in the academy ratio, not to mention his only appearance in a 3D film. The Transfer Hondo is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Filmed in Eastman Color and 3D, the DVD presents the flat version, as seen by the majority of theatergoers. The transfer is obviously taken from multiple sources, You’ll see some sequences that are somewhat “dupey,” showing softness and grain, as well as noticeable print damage. But most of the film is sharper and more detailed, with less grain and less print damage. Color is a bit variable in hue, but is well saturated. Contrast is good, with solid black levels and decent shadow detail. The transfer isn’t as flawless or as sharp, overall, as I’d like to see it - but it is as good as the source allows. The sound is presented in a choice of a 5.1 remix, or the original Mono. Purists will appreciate the inclusion of the mono track, and should be pleased by its presentation. Frequency response is typical of the recording period. Dialog is always clear and intelligible. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track opens up the music nicely, and serves up some good directional effects on occasion - without going overboard. I prefer the dialog on the mono track. While the 5.1 track seems to have cleaned up some of the noise in the aged recording, it also has muddied the dialog to a small degree. It’s subtle, but noticeable. There is some noticeable flutter in both the mono and 5.1 tracks, but it is not too distracting - and it is acceptable given the age of the source. Special Features Introduction by Leonard Maltin This short introduction is an excellent appetizer, setting the stage for the film by giving it historical perspective and revealing interesting trivia. Commentary by Leonard Maltin, Frank Thompson and Lee Aaker Maltin and Thompson recorded the commentary together, and their interactive dialog reveals a great amount of historical perspective and trivia on the film. While there are a few moments of silence, it covers a lot of territory - casting, scripting, the color process, the 3D process, directing style, etc. Lee Aaker’s comments are edited in, where appropriate. Nicely done. The Making of Hondo (19:49) Leonard Maltin, Frank Thompson, Michael Pate, Lee Aaker, 3D Film Historian Ray Zone and others recall the making of the film. This is a wonderful featurette, with great firsthand perspective from Pate, and historical perspective from Thompson. There are some good bits about the difficult experiences with the 3D process, as well as the contribution to the film by the legendary John Ford (my hometown hero). Profile: James Edward Grant (12:34) Leonard Maltin narrates this piece about Grant, which includes comments by his son, Colin Grant. Beginning as a newspaper reporter, Grant went on to write more than 70 films. An excellent profile of a great, prolific writer. The John Wayne Stock Company: Ward Bond (9:35) Maltin again narrates this tribute, which covers the territory from uncredited appearances in 1929, to Wagon Train. Bond made 26 films with John Ford, and 23 with John Wayne. This is his life... From the Batjac Vaults (2:28) Leonard Maltin interviews Michael Wayne inside the Batjac Vault, on “Entertainment Tonight”. 10/26/94 The Apache (14:50) The true story of the Apache, and how it relates to the film. A fascinating history. Unfortunately, the interviewee, presumably from The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, is never identified. Photo Gallery Over 50 images - cast photos, production stills, poster art, drawings - in color and black and white. Original Theatrical Trailer (2:47) Batjac Teaser (5:59) Promotional material for recently released and upcoming Batjac titles. Previews The John wayne Collection Final Thoughts A good John Wayne film, with a good transfer - available for the first time on DVD in this collector’s edition. Included are an excellent “making of” featurette, and outstanding profiles of writer James Edward Grant and actor Ward Bond. An excellent short history of the Apache is also included. These are quality featurettes. Nicely done, at a bargain price. Recommended.