DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Hondo - Special Collector's Edition (Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Oct 10, 2005.

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  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    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.
     
  2. Ravi K

    Ravi K Supporting Actor

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    Al Bundy would be proud.
     
  3. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the detailed review Scott. You are the first on-line reviewer of this disc to even make note of the original intermission card.

    While it's a shame Paramount didn't offer an optional 3-D version along with the 2D version, it sounds as though it's a decent transfer packed with interesting extras.
     
  4. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    Apparently making this movie was nothing but trouble. It required major script revisions by Grant, and there was some bad weather to deal with. Of course shooting in 3-d was no easy task. Not to mention American Communist assassins still worshiping Stalin that were looking to wack John Wayne. His wife had private dicks trying to get the goods on him. John Ford showed up to push Wayne around and look over his shoulder (something Ford would do on The Alamo as well).

    And to top it off, his lead actress apparently had some serious B.O. because she was straight off the New York stage and was trying to be authentic. Although why she assumed frontierswomen smelled bad is beyond me. The kicker was Page's nomination that Wayne just didn't understand. He was not complementary of her acting. I would have to agree.

    And yet it still turned out to be a good movie. Ah the wonder of Hollywood magic. I'm looking forward to see the making of documentary to see how much they talk about all the things that went on during filming and whether it gets a sugar coating or not.
     
  5. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Here we go again with more inaccurate 3-D release information. Call it the "Kiss Me Kate"-played-most-of-its-engagements-flat syndrome. Here are the facts:

    HONDO was Warner Bros. big release for Christmas, 1953. Not only did it play all of the initial major city engagements in 3-D, it was one of the last 3-D features to play most of its second and third run engagements (middle and small towns) in depth as well. It had an extremely wide 3-D release.

    In other words, most people that saw HONDO in its original release, saw it in third-dimension.

    Who the heck does the research for these things???
     
  6. Dave Vaughn

    Dave Vaughn Stunt Coordinator

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    Bob,
    On the DVD itself it said that it was a limited 3-D release that only lasted 1 week or so. This was in one of the special features.

    Dave
     
  7. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Thanks Dave, but somebody really dropped the ball on that one. They probably want people to feel that they're not missing anything by seeing the film flat.

    Michael Wayne told me that his father was interested in stereo photography, and there were lots of 3-D photos taken on the set. Both the Duke and Jack Warner were quite proud of the stereoscopic cinematography on this film, and made a point to really sell the photography in trade ads to exhibitors.
     
  8. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    I've seen photos of Wayne and his sons taken on the set, and sure enough, one of them was holding a Stereo Realist camera.

    I'm thinking the film also played at least a few engagements in other countries in the intended 3-D form, as I've got a couple of foreign posters which refer to the process. Bob would know for sure!

    I've never seen the film in the original polarized (clear glasses) form, but I'd love to. The anaglyph (red/blue) conversion that was done for TV doesn't cut it. I'll settle for the flat DVD until the real thing comes along.
     
  9. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Leonard Maltin and Frank Thompson discuss the 3D release at length in the commentary, and it is covered in one of the featurettes. I reported on what they said. Perhaps both of them are mistaken.

    It was mentioned that Jack Warner and John Wayne were both proud of the 3D photography of the film, but that the process was too intrusive to revisit, for Wayne and Farrow. There is also mention of Wayne's personal interest in stereo photography.

    -Scott
     
  10. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Scott, forgive me if my post pointed any fingers. No harm was intended. It just frustrates me when wrong information gets repeated over and over until it becomes fact. It's fairly easy to research film distribution patterns. In fact, Warner Bros. kept very detailed records in their files.

    Yes, both Mr. Maltin and Mr. Thompson are mistaken. While it's true that HONDO came out towards the end of the 3-D boom of 1953, most people saw the stereoscopic version upon its original release.

    This flat DVD does not represent the way this film was originally seen theatrically.
     
  11. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Bob,
    No offense taken.

    While it may be easy to research film distribution patterns, I unfortunately don't have the time to do more than a simple internet search and/or take the historians presenting the DVD at their word. As a volunteer doing 8 - 10 reviews each month, without any research assistants, it's the best I can do.

    I've added a line to my review pointing to your posts in this thread. I appreciate your input.

    -Scott
     
  12. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    That's fine Scott, and I appreciate your interest in setting the record straight.

    HONDO was part of the big push in late 1953 to win back the audiences that were staying away from 3-D movies. The process had been a boom throughout the summer months, but the introduction of CinemaScope in the fall ("The miracle you see without the use of special glasses") had put a large nail in the stereoscopic coffin. Beginning in October, studios began to allow exhibitors their choice of either flat or 3-D prints with their initial bookings, something which was unheard of with the earlier 3-D titles. The Polaroid corporation (which had a huge interest in the ongoing success of 3-D movies) worked with the studios to improve 3-D's reputation, and developed new, comfortable plastic frame and clip-on glasses. They also packaged inexpensive synchronization devices to insure that theaters would exhibit the films properly: both in sync and in phase. (Poor exhibition had plagued many playdates, and was a large reason that audiences began to stay away.)

    Columbia pushed MISS SADIE THOMPSON; Paramount had CEASE FIRE; MGM had KISS ME KATE and Warner Bros. promoted HONDO as the new, big 3-D releases for the important December/Christmas season. All of these films had extensive 3-D bookings, with ads that emphasized the new, improved glasses and photography/projection techniques.

    HONDO was restored in 3-D about ten years ago by Michael Wayne and Cinetech film labs. They have a brand new, dual-strip 35mm print. Unfortunately, the executors of the Wayne Estate will not allow the restored print to be shown, not even at the prestigious World 3-D Film Expo which took place in Hollywood in 2003. At this point, until they change their point of view, HONDO may never be seen in its original 3-D version ever again.

    What a shame. (Reviews at the time of the films release praised the quality of the 3-D cinematography.) Somehow, I don't think Duke would be too happy with their decision.
     
  13. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    Good to hear from you again Mr. Furmanek. It's always nice to get the inside scoop. Are you still doing DVD work? BTW, does Michael Wayne still call his father JW? I've always found that fact hilarious. Somebody calling Duke Wayne "JW". [​IMG]

    I'm kind of glad 3D never took off. Even though widescreen was sort of a gimmick, it never threatened to hamstring a director in what he could shoot. In fact it gave him more options. I tend to think that 3D would have done the opposite. Just looking at Hondo you could tell that many of the shots were staged for no other reasons than to show off 3D. I don't think that would have been a good thing in the long run. It might have taking away from the artistic and even compositional integrity of movies. Just an opinion.

    And I certainly agree that John Wayne wouldn't be too happy about Hondo not being seen again in 3D.

    If you consider what some of his films were involved in from a technical standpoint, and what he was involved in from an artistic standpoint, one is forced to conclude that he sure had an interesting career. Pretty good for a cowboy that allegedly couldn't act.
     
  14. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks for your great insight Bob and for helping put things in historical context. Have the current executors explained their rationale for this? It seems silly to go to the expense of creating a print and then just letting sit in the vaults. I suppose they're concerned a poor projectionist could ruin it, but that doesn't explain the 2003 snub.

    Thanks,

    Steve
     
  15. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    Well, as Duke once said himself, pardon me all to hell. [​IMG] I forgot that he passed. DID he still call him JW?
     
  16. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Thanks for asking Steve, but I'm no longer involved with special edition DVD's. I have this bad habit - I like to eat, so I've got a nice comfortable job with CBS.

    The only reason the Estate gave on their refusal to show the restored dual-strip print of HONDO was that the World 3-D Expo was not a big enough event. I don't know what they're hoping for. The Expo would have been the perfect venue to showcase the restoration. Film fans and scholars came from all over the country for those ten days!

    I think they would like to do some kind of major 3-D re-release, such as putting it in Imax theaters around the world. Somehow, as optimistic as I'd like to be, I don't see that happening.

    I spent some time with the late Michael Wayne when they were restoring HONDO, but I don't ever recall him referring to his Dad as JW.

    Bob
     
  17. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    Well, maybe Imax will release it in 3-D "if" they can make some money out of it.

    We have an 3-D Imax DMR theatre here in Connecticut. It's not true Imax in that the screen size is only 48 by 24 feet. The screen fills the full front wall top to bottom and side to side.

    The Polar Express will be re-released this November in IMAX 3-D. It made over 42 million in 72 Imax 3-D theatres and 234 million in 5,500 other theatres.

    Disney will be releasing "Chicken Little" in digital 3-D in November.

    Warner Brothers and Imax will be releasing "The Ant Bully" in 3-D August, 2006.
     
  18. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    Don't forget MONSTER HOUSE and HAPPY FEET. Lots of new 3-D stuff on the horizon for 2006 and beyond it seems.

    Maybe digital projection will make it possible for HONDO to get a limited 3-D release at some point. Who knows? It makes more sense than IMAX, and would be a whole lot cheaper to do.
     
  19. mark brown

    mark brown Stunt Coordinator

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    Wasn't the 3D version shown on network televsion some years back?
     
  20. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    A very inferior red/blue anaglyph downconversion was shown in syndication in 1991, but it in NO WAY was representative of the original 3-D version. There is no comparison.

    HONDO, like 99% of all 3-D movies, was screened theatrically in polarized, clear glasses format.
     

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