rio_bravoLook, there’s no two ways about it: Leslie Halliwell, the English film critic, once described Rio Bravo as “cheerfully overlong”, and he was right. You want a tight, economical, brutal Western, one that doesn’t waste time and kicks you from your seat 80 minutes after the opening credits? That was Ride Lonesome, a few weeks back. Thursday night at the Heights, as part of our wonderful Howard Hawks series, we’re screening Rio Bravo, all 141 glorious minutes. Like a lot of Hawks’ movies, this one is about character. It’s about people talking. Sure, it’s got its gunplay and its chases and fisticuffs and Angie Dickinson dressed all sexy, but this thing meanders like the Mississippi River. And that’s what’s so damn great about it.

The plot is nothing new: bad guys are coming to the town of Rio Bravo, and John Wayne’s sheriff John T. Chance has to stop them. He is aided, pretty much against his better interests (and despite his complaints), by a drunk, Dude (or Borrachón, which is ‘drunk’ in Spanish)played by Dean Martin; by a Colorado Ryan, who is also a crooner, and played by TV heartthrob Ricky Nelson, of ABC’s  Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet; and by an old dude named Stumpy, played with near toothless glee by Walter Brennan, who was lucky to live in a time when there were roles a-plenty for guys like him. Angie Dickinson’s Feathers is on hand to show off her acting chops (she’s fantastic, and has brilliant comic timing), and to show the world that John Wayne has no romantic chemistry at all. I mean, none.

Rio Bravo shouldn’t work. There’s so much talking, so much lovely, lovely talking. Ricky Nelson and Dean Martin both sing. That makes no sense, but it works. In fact, every God damn thing in this movie works. The sets, the  bad guy (who has a lot in common with the heroes as it turns out), the final dynamite showdown, the songs. This is where John Wayne learned to be funny, which served him really, really well. Imagine the camaraderie that supposedly makes those Ocean’s 11 movies work (so they say), and marvel here at how smoothly this can go, how sheer personality–but in service to well-written characters in a nice plot–can carry a film.

This movie also works in spite of its more nefarious motives. Hawks, a noted right-winger (along with John Wayne, natch), loathed the critically acclaimed High Noon, which was seen as a parable for the McCarthy witch-hunts. Wayne, in fact, gloated that he was proud to have run Noon’s screenwriter, Carl Foreman, out of town. Supposedly, Hawks scoffed that it was cowardly for the sheriff in High Noon to go around begging for help. “I didn’t think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head off asking for help, and finally his Quaker wife had to save him. That isn’t my idea of a good western sheriff,” he was noted as saying. Thus, he wanted to make a good movie about a “good western sheriff”, and Rio Bravo was it.

This strikes me as weird for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that in Rio Bravo, Wayne’s sheriff does get help, from an old man and a drunk, for cryin’ out loud. Secondly, Hawks typically didn’t rely on heroes who worked solo–usually his movies are ensemble numbers, or feature stars who work within a group, a team of heroes (usually men), struggling together. Third, High Noon stars Gary Cooper, a noted right-winger himself, and a friend of Howard Hawks, who worked in two of the director’s movies, and won an Oscar in one of them (Sergeant York.)

None of this matters because Rio Bravo is wonderful (and a hell of a lot more appealing to me than the dry High Noon) and worth seeing, especially in this restored digital edition. One show only, at 7:30 Thursday night, and tickets are available here.

 

wrath_of_daimajin_poster_01Monster movie fans! Godzilla, Mothra, Daimajin have finally arrived! Our GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK series is tearing through this city, crushing the model skyscrapers that are this year’s crappy summer movie fare!

Sorry to be so hyperbolic, but we really… oh screw this, you know, and I know, and we all know, that this is just about the coolest motherfucker we’ve programmed in our history. No, no, you don’t have to say a thing. You’re welcome.

This cavalcade of monsters begins tonight and tomorrow with Daimajin, which, in the words of Kathie Smith, who wrote our blurb: “Part samurai action and part supernatural daikaiju, this story of a vengeful god strikes a more serious tone than most monster movies. This spirit in the form of a giant stone warlord comes to life just in time to save the innocent villagers and destroy the evil doers!”

What are going to do, watch Pacific Rim again? Get in here, for Christ’s sake!

Daimajin shows tonight and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday) at 7:00 and 8:45, tickets available here.

 

 

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Imagine if one of your favorite film comedians–Jacques Tati, Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis–had somehow, inexplicably, vanished from cinema history. All of a sudden, no Jour de Fête, no Steamboat Bill, no Disorderly Orderly (maybe that last one’s not such a bad idea.) They’d been popular films, hilarious, brought joy and surprise into your life, and then–wait a minute!–you realize you haven’t heard a single thing about the performer. What has it been, ten years?

That’s just about the story of Pierre Etaix (say it ay-TEX!) A gag writer for Tati, he set out on his own, and like the screwball comet Preston Sturges, blasted out four incredible movies from 1962-1969 that are little masterpieces–The Suitor, Yoyo (which is quite an epic), As Long As You’ve Got Your Health, and Le Grand Amour, plus a strange and lovely documentary called Land of Milk and Honey from 1971. Like Tati, his characters are graceful romantics, bumbling about in a world that baffles them as much as they perplex the world at large. Not only hilarious, the world of Pierre Etaix is also damned beautiful.

The Trylon is screening these five great movies this month, and we really hope you’ll check out these lost classics, especially since each is on 35mm film that has been beautifully restored by our friends at Janus.

The Suitor plays this weekend, 7:00 & 9:00 Friday and Saturday, and 5:00 & 7:00 on Sunday. Purchase tickets here.

 

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I actually don’t think there’s an answer to the above question, though I do love The Big Sleep. In my mind, Sleep is a remarkable movie thanks to the fact that Hawks and screenwriters William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett made it their own. None of this “we have to put the words up there on the big screen”, no, this is a fun, sexy, slightly violent comedy (probably a disappointment to the bloodthirsty patrons lured in by the poster at the top) that is vastly different from Raymond Chandler’s sad, dark, fatalistic hardboiled detective story.

One thing: this movie sure is bookish. Faulkner wrote the script, it takes place in a library and two bookstores (yeah, one sells porn, but at least they’re reading.) And dig this trailer! See what reading’ll get you? A life of intrigue and a sexy book dealer who happens to have a hidden bottle…

THE BIG SLEEP plays tonight at 7:30 at the Heights Theatre. Tickets available at the box office, and Take-Up Productions punch cards are good there as well.

Don’t forget to check out all the movies in our Howard Hawks Series, each Thursday night at 7:30!