Rio Bravo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film came with a pretty average transfer.
While “average” doesn’t mean “bad”, I must admit that the image looked worse than I’d expected based on current standards. Source flaws were one moderate concern. Grain could be a bit heavy, and I noticed a mix of specks and marks through the flick. Though these weren’t prominent, I thought they seemed more noticeable than expected.
Sharpness also demonstrated some issues. Definition usually seemed fine, but the shots could turn somewhat soft at times. I didn’t think these tendencies became terribly distracting, but they left us with a less than concise image at times, mainly during some interiors. Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t an issue, and I didn’t see any edge haloes.
Colors were mostly fine. The movie came with a rather brown tone much of the time, and this could make the result somewhat drab. Still, the hues usually seemed fine within the cinematic constraints of the setting, and they could look fairly peppy when allowed to do so. Blacks were appropriately dark and dense, while shadows showed nice delineation. At all times, the transfer appeared perfectly watchable, but it lacked the spark I anticipated.
As for the DTS-HD MA monaural audio of Rio Bravo, it appeared fine for a more than 50-year-old flick. Speech could be a little thin, but the lines showed reasonable warmth and never suffered from any form of defects.
Music lacked great dimensionality as well, but the score showed acceptable clarity and definition. Effects came along the same lines, as they were clean and without distortion but they failed to present much range. Some light background noise cropped up at times. This was a competent track for its age.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2007? The audio remained restricted due to the limitations of the source, but I thought the lossless DTS-HD MA mix had a little more range.
Visuals seemed better defined and clearer. The Blu-ray’s image showed some of the DVD’s concerns and I’d not be surprised to find out it came from the same transfer, but the capabilities of the Blu-ray format made it the superior presentation.
The Blu-ray replicates some of the DVD’s extras, and we open with an audio commentary from filmmaker John Carpenter and critic/film historian Richard Schickel. Both provide separate running, screen-specific tracks edited into one piece. They discuss cast and crew, story, characters and themes, sets and locations, music, and Hawks’ style as a director.
When we hear from Carpenter or Schickel, they offer some fine information. Schickel provides the majority of the material and he even presents some criticism of Bravo, a welcome choice given the preponderance of praise usually found in commentaries. We find nice insights into Hawks’ preferences in terms of visuals and story, his self-plagiarism, and the impact of his dislike of High Noon on Bravo.
Too bad we encounter so much dead air during this commentary. This doesn’t turn into a problem during the movie’s first third or so, but after that, we find lots and lots of gaps. Given the presence of two participants, this becomes a real drag. I think the track’s informative enough to overcome the flaws, but the problems make it less impressive than it could have been.
Commemoration: Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo runs 33 minutes, 23 seconds as it blends movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Carpenter, filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich and Walter Hill, UCLA Department of Film and Television’s Jonathan Kuntz and Steven Mamber, Howard Hawks Papers’ curator James D’Arc, and actor Angie Dickinson. We also find some old taped comments from Howard Hawks.
“Commemoration” looks at how Bravo acted as a personal reflection on Hawks and where it fit into his career at the time. The program lets us know of TV’s influence, the period popularity of westerns, and how these affected Bravo. In addition, we learn about casting and performances, the script, shooting the flick and related subjects, Hawks’ tendencies and their role in Bravo, some censorship issues, and the movie’s reception.
Only one modest problem occurs during “Commemoration”: repeated information from the commentary. Of course, if you skipped that track, this isn’t an issue, and it’s not a major concern either way. Despite some repetition, “Commemoration” offers a rich, incisive piece. It covers the nuts and bolts of the film well and also digs into various forms of subtext. I find a lot to like in this tight program.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find the eight-minute, 34-second Old Tucson: Where the Legends Walked. It features Kuntz, Old Tucson Studios tour guide Dan Schneider, Old Tucson Studios former owner Rob Shelton, and Old Tucson Studios entertainment manager Mark Kadow. We get info about Old Tucson Studios with an emphasis on its use in Bravo. The short piece gives us a nice examination of the locations.
Note that although Rio Bravo already appeared on Blu-ray in 2007, this disc does not simply reissue that one. I didn’t see the original BD so I can’t directly compare them, but I know the 2006 disc lacked the 2015 version’s DTS-HD MA track. On the negative side, the old Blu-ray included a documentary that goes missing here.
Despite its length and casual pacing, Rio Bravo deserves its status as a classic flick. The movie involves us with its simple but powerful story, lively dialogue and interesting characters. The Blu-ray offers decent picture and audio along with few useful supplements. While I can’t call this a great release, it serves a strong movie reasonably well.
Note that Rio Bravo can be purchased on its own or as part of a five-film “John Wayne Westerns Collection”. This also includes Fort Apache, The Searchers, The Train Robbers and Cahill: United States Marshal. It retails for $54.95, so it’s a good deal if you want all five of the movies.
To rate this film visit the original review of RIO BRAVO