By Doug Nye
Knight Ridder Newspapers
After years locked away in the vaults of the John Wayne estate, the Duke’s 1953 Western “Hondo” suddenly re-surfaced in 1991.
John Wayne in “Hondo.”
A few years later, another Wayne film, 1963’s “McLintock!,” also came out of hiding.
Now you can get both in a boxed collectors edition from MPI Home Video priced at $29.98.
Accompanying the films, available in VHS only, are a variety of extras including a photo gallery, original theatrical trailers and lengthy sessions with Wayne’s son Michael and director Andrew McLaglen reminiscing about the making of the movies.
During its absence from the public, “Hondo” achieved almost legendary status as one of the finest Westerns ever made. Much of the critical praise was based on memory rather than recent screenings. Absence, it seems, really does make the heart grow fonder.
“Hondo” is a good, not great, Western. The movie, based on a Louis L’Amour story, runs barely 83 minutes.
A very trim Wayne plays Hondo Lane, who befriends a woman (Geraldine Page) and her son caught in the dangerous Apache territory of 1874.
The whites have just broken another treaty with the Apache nation and the Indians are preparing for war.
Hondo has mixed feelings about the situation.
Having lived with the Apaches for five years, he is saddened to see their way of life vanishing from the plains. “It was a good one,” Hondo says, a trace of nostalgia in his voice.
“Hondo” originally was shot in three dimensions and is among the handful of good 3-D films made during Hollywood’s short-lived craze for the process. When it was revived in 1991, “Hondo” was shown on television in the 3-D during a syndicated run throughout the country with mixed reaction. The process did not work well on television.
The MPI release is in a “flat” version.
“McLintock!” is best described as a Western slapstick comedy. It’s filled with fun-loving brawls and humorous encounters between Wayne’s character and his feisty estranged wife, played by Maureen O’Hara. It delivers what it promises, a couple of entertaining hours that don’t tax the brain.
One of the Wayne films most often asked about is “The High and the Mighty,” which was released in 1954. It and “Island in the Sky” (1953) are the two Wayne films that have never been on video and haven’t aired on television in many years. William Wellman directed both.
The Wayne estate is still in the process of trying to restore “The High and the Mighty.” Several years ago, the negatives suffered water damage during a flood. Two reels of the movie were lost and prints of varying quality had to be used, such as copies found in Europe and elsewhere.
The original magnetic soundtrack also was lost, but has been reconstructed by using four different sources.
“The High and the Mighty” starred Wayne as the pilot of a commercial plane bound for the mainland from Hawaii. It was the forerunner of all those star-studded “Airport” movies. The film’s theme song also became a hit on the pop charts.
“Island in the Sky” is the story of the survivors of a transport plane that crashes in Greenland during World War II. Joining Wayne in the cast are Lloyd Nolan, James Arness and Andy Devine.
When both are finally restored and ready for video release, you can bet they will be accompanied by a huge publicity blitz.
To order or for more information, call MPI Home Video at (800) 323-0442.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 1, 1999.