Tuesday, 26 February 2008

HONDO (1953)

It is sad that such an interesting director as John Farrow should be remembered today primarily as the father of actress Mia farrow. Yet Australian born Farrow made some really good movies during his career. Among the best are WAKE ISLAND, THE HITLER GANG, THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, THE BIG CLOCK, WHERE DANGER LIVES, HIS KIND OF WOMAN and HONDO. On the strength of these I’d be pretty confident that there are a few other gems in his list of titles. HONDO is a cracking Western which, perhaps, while not up to John Wayne’s work with Ford or Hawks stands out as one of the stars best films away from his two mentors. Based on a short story (later expanded into a novel) by Louis L'Amour the film (shot in 3-D) tells the story of Hondo Lane, an Army scout in Apache territory, who discovers a woman and her son in a deserted ranch. Later he is forced to kill the woman’s husband and then return to rescue her from marauding Apaches. The growing attraction between Hondo and the woman (beautifully played by Geraldine Page) is sensitively handled and both characters are, refreshingly, given back stories to round them out. Another point in the film’s favour is the way the Apaches are presented. The famous Apache leader Vittorio is allowed to develop as a person and his growing relationship with the woman’s young son makes for an interesting sub-plot which allow the Indians to become more than faceless bodies biting the dust. Besides Wayne and Page the most notable performance comes from Farrow’s fellow Australian Michal Pate. Pate, born in Sydney, Australia in 1920 was a notable movie villain during the 50’s and 60’s was by varying degrees an actor, writer, producers and television executive. He did many memorable roles (such as the vampire gunslinger in CURSE OF THE UNDEAD) but his Red Indian roles really stand out. After playing Vittorio in HONDO he later made a memorable cameo as Apache leader Sierra Charriba in Peckinpah’s MAJOR DUNDEE. Before returning to Australia in the late 60’s Pate repeated his role a Vittorio in the television series based on HONDO(from which the above image is taken).. Also notable in the cast are John Wayne’s old drinking buddy Ward Bond and everybody’s favourite Western movie thug, Leo Gordon. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

I'm also a fan of John Farrow if, for no other reason than he was the director of THE BIG CLOCK (which I recently rewatched during my Big Blockade Movie Marathon Weekend a little while back). Unfortunately I've never seen Hondo. For most of my life, I never gave John Wayne a second thought. I never watched any of his movies and dismissed him out of hand. However, in the last 5 years or so I've changed my mind and now quite like his films -- it doesn't hurt when they're directed by the likes of John Ford or Howard Hawks -- or yes, even John Farrow for that matter. After all, Katharine Hepburn was quite fond of him -- and I worship Katharine Hepburn -- so that's enough of an endorsement for me! And Geraldine Page is great as well (I can't think of her without picturing her frantically looking for her shoes when she won an Oscar). HONDO sounds interesting enough to seek out. Thanks for the heads up, Weaverman!