El Dorado (1967) 2:06
dir Howard Hawks
w Leigh Brackett
John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Arthur Hunnicut, Ed Asner, Michele Carey, Christopher George, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix
I’ve got a few gripes with this movie (the color palatte and choice of soundtrack mostly), but I do still like it an awful lot. Maybe my fondness for Rio Bravo is carrying over here, and I do think El Dorado is the inferior of the two. There’s something very unavoidably 1960s about this movie, a funkiness unpleasant in a western, that Rio Bravo did not have.
And the music drove me up a wall. Weirdly campy, like a Scooby Doo episode, or the Adam West ‘Batman’, or even the original Star Trek. When Wayne and Caan and Mitchum are ‘stealthily’ creeping down the street after three murderous gunmen, and Mitchum is lousy with the DT’s and with sobriety in general, then there’s this faux-jazz brass thing blasting out: ba-dum-DAA! Ba-da, ba-da. Ba-da-ba-da. This is the second time I’ve seen El Dorado and I still wish there was a way to excise the sound track. [after a while it stopped bothering me so much. –ed.]
Mitchum is utterly great in the Dean Martin drunk role. Wayne is great, although perhaps not as great as he is in Rio Bravo [I wonder about that sometimes these days… -ed.] But I miss Walter Brennan tremendously. Arthur Hunnicut in the old coot role doesn’t do much of anything for the part, which is one mostly of comic relief (not entirely; it’s a good role for a crusty old guy), and Hunnicut has neither the humor to pull off being that relief nor has he the level strength to play someone old getting older and feeling really useless when fighting the good fight, and to not be horribly maudlin about it, which is a huge trap Brennan avoids well.
James Caan…ahhh…I can take him or leave him. Probably because I like Ricky Nelson so much as the weird man/boy gunman in Rio Bravo Caan is just fine though. He soldiers on admirably enough. But there are things about him in this part that I do like, I admit, particularly his ‘oops!’ uselessness with a gun (he accidentally shoots Wayne in in the leg in the end). Although it weirdly sounds like all of his dialogue has been re-dubbed by some random guy on the street doing his best James Caan impression. It’s both annoying and distressing.
I don’t mean to complain so much…it sounds like I didn’t like the movie, when I actually loved it. There are some tremendous scenes. The shoot-out in the end, in particular. Wayne, largely paralyzed on one side of his body; Mitchum, a drunk, with crutches for a bum leg; Caan, a young’n, inexperienced, a crappy shot with a gun; and Hunnicut, a character no viewer will particularly care about, against the hired guns of…Ed Asner!
My favorite moment: when Wayne takes out his #1 rival for quickest gun in the west by basically cheating and hitting him with the rifle equivalent of a sucker punch. Dying, the rival says, ‘You never even gave me a chance.’ And Wayne says (probably the best line of the movie), ‘You’re too good to give a chance to.’
How awesome is that?