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Blu-ray Review: John Wayne Double Feature

August 29, 2017

By John Corrado

I’ve always had a soft spot for classic westerns, and John Wayne is one of the stalwarts of the genre, with his iconic persona allowing him to inhabit many characters and headline countless films throughout his long career.  Now two of his later works, Rio Lobo and Big Jake, are available together on Blu-ray in the John Wayne Double Feature.

Released in 1970, and the final film directed by Howard Hawks, Rio Lobo follows Col. Cord McNally (John Wayne), a union officer who is determined to track down the traitor who sold information to the South during the Civil War, leading to the defeat of his unit.  Some of the supporting performances here do feel a little stagey and help date the film, but Rio Lobo still has its share of fun moments along the way, and John Wayne helps hold it all together.

Released in 1971, and the final film from director George Sherman, Big Jake follows Jacob McCandles (John Wayne), a grizzled old gunfighter who wanders the land with his dog.  But he’s called back into action by his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara) when their young grandson (Ethan Wayne) is kidnapped and held for ransom by a ruthless outlaw (Richard Boone), forcing him to work with his two adult sons (Patrick Wayne and Christopher Mitchum).  With a solid turn from the man himself, and a supporting cast that includes his real life sons Patrick and Ethan Wayne, Big Jake delivers plenty of well staged action scenes, and the somewhat surprisingly violent for their time gunfights still hold up quite well.

Although John Wayne was nearing the end of his career by the 1970s, having just come off his Oscar-winning role in True Grit, both Rio Lobo and Big Jake are entertaining films that deliver exactly what we expect when “The Duke” is leading the show.  They follow the classic western formula to a tee, but do it well, with pleasing Technicolor cinematography to boot.  While Big Jake is easily the stronger of the two, Rio Lobo also offers enough small pleasures for anyone who enjoys a good ole cowboy picture to make it a worthy companion piece.  There is a comforting familiarity to watching them, and the John Wayne Double Feature is a worthwhile set for fans of the iconic actor.

The two discs include no additional bonus features.

John Wayne Double Feature is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release.  Rio Lobo is 114 minutes and Big Jake is 109 minutes, both are rated PG.

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