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Hondo Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby TrueHD Mono, Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 5, 2012
  • List Price: $34.99

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)


The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

By 1953, the year of this movie’s release, John Wayne was already an established Hollywood veteran, having appeared in dozens of films. Hondo, one of Hollywood’s early 3D efforts,  had a very short theatrical run in that format.  Consequently, most of the original audience saw this movie as presented here in the standard 2D format.  Wayne’s way around the Western set shows his obvious comfort with this film genre.  His onscreen persona of the tough, deadpan loner had been perfected by the time he assumed the role of the “half-breed,” Hondo Lane.  This film is populated with some of the top character actors of the day, Ward Bond (Buffalo Baker), Michael Pate (Chief Vittorio), James Arness (of Gunsmoke fame as a scout), and Leo Gordon (Ed Lowe). Making her film debut was Geraldine Page (Angie Lowe) whose son Johnny is portrayed by Lee Aaker (TV’s Rusty in The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin). John Farrow (Mia’s father) was an accomplished film director by the time that he took on this project.  Big screen cinematography (Robert Burks, Louis Stoumen, Archie Stout) and a robust Western score (Hugo Friedlander, Emil Newman) do justice to the retelling of the Louis L’Amour story.

Hondo, a dispatch rider for the US Cavalry, encounters a lonely woman, Angie Lowe, whose husband had left her a long time ago. The Lowe ranch is in the crosshairs of an Apache tribe led by Chief Vittorio and a relationship develops between Angie, her son, and the Apaches. Hondo saves Ed Lowe’s life during an Indian attack but later kills him in self-defense. After being captured and tortured by Chief Vittorio’s Apaches, Hondo is wounded in a knife fight. He is mistaken for Lowe and released to the care of Angie.  When he recovers, Hondo tells Chief Vittorio that he will give the cavalry troops false information about the location of the Apaches.  When Hondo confesses to Angie that he killed her husband,  she admits that Lowe was a thoroughly bad man and will not be missed.  Like many of the Westerns of this period, Hondo culminates in a major battle between the cavalry, settlers and Apaches.

Video Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

For a film that is six decades old, there is only so much that restoration efforts can accomplish. We are not given the provenance of this print, although, even with remastering of original 3D and 2D elements (scanned in 4K), there are obvious signs of deterioration. This was originally a 1.33:1 aspect ratio film that has been manipulated to a 16:9 screen-filling version. A few scenes are clear and sharp, particularly those involving close ups. However, most of the remaining scenes reveal substantial grain and loss of detail. Action shots are also beleaguered with a good bit of motion artifact, an issue with many films of this era. The cinematography does convey the natural beauty of the vast Utah and Mexican landscapes.

Audio Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

The actual soundtrack was recorded in glorious mono. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 version does bring out a bit more depth than the Dolby  TrueHD Mono, but the final result yields boxy sound with compressed dynamics. Dialogue is clear, almost embarrassingly so at times, given the predictable and trite script. Example: when informed that a  US military detachment will be arriving to dispatch the remaining Apaches, Hondo comments: “End of a way of life. Too bad.  It was a good way.”

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Viewers are treated to a nice assortment of featurettes:

  • Commentaries by critic, Leonard Maltin, actor Lee Aaker, and Western historian Frank Thompson.
  • The Making of Hondo
  • Profile: James Edward Grant (screenwriter)
  • The John Wayne Stock Company: Ward Bond
  • From the Batjac Vaults
  • The Apache
  • Theatrical Trailers

These supplements give a substantial insight, not only into the creation of this picture, but into those involved with it. The portrait of Ward Bond is particularly interesting since his career was so prodigious.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

Hondo has all of the ingredients that make John Wayne movies such good box office: a straight-talking loner with a past, a background love story, memorable supporting characters, strong enemy, and bang up fight scene at the finale. This film is, perhaps, not actor Wayne or director Farrow at their best, but even their less than best is way better than most of the so-called epics of today. The main disappointments in this BD reissue have to do with the technical qualities of this release: the boxy soundtrack and the grainy picture.  These reservations aside, viewers will still get an enjoyable one and half hour watch where the “good guys” win, sort of, given the sad outcomes for native Americans.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Hondo on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Download Hondo on iTunes

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

[amazon-product]B006YZOXDK[/amazon-product]

Purchase Hondo on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Download Hondo on iTunes

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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