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 John Wayne Double Feature: "Rio Lobo" and "Big Jake" 

 Review by Suzanne Lanoue 8/1/17

I receive a lot of DVD's in the mail to review. Usually I ask for them. I don't remember who sent me this one, and I couldn't find any information in my email about it. No press release or anything like that. Amazon seems to only be selling the blu-ray version, which is not what I have.

Anyway, if you like John Wayne, it's a good set to have. I'm not his biggest fan, but I like him OK. I grew up watching many westerns on TV, including some of his.  He's a bit older here, and these are not the BEST of his movies, but they're fine.

In the first one, Rio Lobo, he plays a Union Colonel named McNally who foils a plot to steal a shipment of gold.  The Union army is tranporting it, and some Confederates manage to steal it, but McNally and his men chase after them.  He gets captured but then manages to turn the tables on his captors and gets them arrested instead.  The war ends, and he seeks out the two guys who captured him, to find out which Union soldier was the rat that told them all about the gold. They all end up going to Rio Lobo and getting involved in a local dispute. It's a better story than it sounds, and there's also a lot of humor involved. It's interesting that even though they are on opposite sides, the soldiers admire each other and become friends.  Of course, since the movie is from 1970, there is no mention of slavery and there are no black people to be seen. It's defiitely dated in that sense. It does have some interesting female characters, though, and they do shoot, stab and kill just like the men. A very winning and sexy Mexican guy named Jorge Rivero plays Pierre Cordoba, one of the Confederate thieves. The other one is played by Chris Mitchum, son of the famous Robert Mitchum. Jennifer O'Neill plays Shasta, a woman they rescue (sort of). Susana Dosamantes plays another woman they help, and future Paramount president Sherry Lansing plays the young woman Amelita.  It's only one of two films she appeared in before going into non-acting jobs. Jack Elam plays his usual great character role.

In the second movie, Wayne plays an old guy named Jacob McCandles, who is estranged from his family. When one of his sons (played by singer singer Bobby Vinton) is shot and his grandson is kidnapped for ransom, Jake is called in to help by his ex-wife (Maureen O'Hara in a small role).  Wayne's real-life son Patrick plays his son James, and his real-life son Ethan plays the young boy, his namesake Jake. Chris Mitchum again appears, this time as Wayne's other son Michael. McCandles and his two able-bodied sons, along with his great dog and his Indian friend, set out to pay the ransom. On the journey, fathers and son bond, but there is a lot of action, of course, and some humor as well.

You would need to be somewhat of a John Wayne fan to appreciate both of these movies because he settles his problems in films with his fists or with a gun.  Somehow, though, it works.

There are no features or extras on the DVD, unfortunately.  At least it does have closed-captioning.


Big Jake
When his grandson (played by real-life son Ethan Wayne) is kidnapped by scurrilous baddie Richard Boone, Big Jake (John Wayne) sets out to deliver the $1 million ransom. On the off-chance that there'll be gunplay, Jake brings along his sons Patrick Wayne and Chris Mitchum. Maureen O'Hara plays Jake's estranged wife and Bruce Cabot provides comedy relief as a scraggly Indian Scout. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rio Lobo
John Wayne, in the last of his Civil War characterizations, portrays Cord McNally, a Union Army colonel who loses a gold shipment in a Confederate raid, during which a devoted young officer is also killed. After the end of the war, McNally bears no ill-will toward the leaders of the raid, Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Tuscarora Phillips (Christopher Mitchum), who were acting as soldiers, but he still wants the two unknown men on the Union side who they say sold them the information about the gold shipments. A year later, McNally crosses paths with one of the men, now a deputy from Rio Lobo, who is about to take Shasta Delaney (Jennifer O'Neill), a seemingly innocent young woman, out of a neighboring town at gunpoint. A shootout ensues, in which McNally's man and three other Rio Lobo deputies are killed, with help from Cordona -- this makes McNally very interested in what's going on in Rio Lobo, and he decides to go there with Cordona and Shasta. They find a whole community under siege from their own sheriff, a sadistic ex-outlaw named Hendricks (Mike Henry). What follows is a series of confrontations and revelations that are alternately suspenseful, sadistic -- with maimings worthy of a spaghetti western and characters even getting blown to bits -- and even occasionally comical. But the pieces all tie together very neatly, despite a convoluted plot that's sort of Rio Bravo (made 11 years earlier, also starring Wayne and directed by Hawks, and scripted by Leigh Brackett) turned sideways and readjusted to a more cynical era. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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Page updated 8/22/17

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