The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner (Paramount) - 1953
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 83 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby TrueHD Mono, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: John Wayne , Geraldine Page , Ward Bond , Michael Pate , James Arness, Lee Aaker
Directed by: John Farrow
Written by: James Edward Grant
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 5, 2012
"A classic western gets the Blu treatment"
Hondo stars John Wayne as a half-Indian Cavalry scout who, with his feral dog companion, finds a young woman and her son living on a isolated ranch in unfriendly Apache country. A poetic and exciting script, outstanding performances, and breathtaking scenery make this an indisputable classic.
Hondo is a classic Wayne western that features him in the title role as a cavalry rider who becomes the designated protector of the strong-willed and isolated rancher Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page), as well as a father figure to her son, Johnny (Lee Aaker). Angie, determinedly awaiting the return of her brutish husband, refuses to leave their homestead despite the growing danger of war between the nearby Apache nation and Union soldiers. As Hondo spends more time at the ranch Angie finds herself growing closer to this stranger, a man unlike any she has know, hardened by experience but still capable of sympathy, kindness and love. Torn between her commitment to an absentee husband and her new found fondness for Hondo, Angie also struggles to contend with the growing danger surrounding her home and caring for her impressionable son.
If asked, I would readily admit to being a John Wayne fan. In reality it would be more accurate to say that I enjoy his films because a true fan would probably have seen most if not all of them which is a claim that I unfortunately cannot make. Hondo seems like one of Wayne's films that have not seen a lot of airplay. I am thankful for the opportunity to review it as I probably would not have otherwise seen it. I thoroughly enjoyed Hondo. John Wayne was the epitome of the man's man and James Edward Grant's pitch perfect dialogue aptly conveys that via Wayne's charismatic demeanor and flawless delivery. The depiction of the Apache (through Vittorio) as something other than revenge seeking and blood lusty savages was a nice change. I found the development of the romance between Hondo and Angie to be endearing and enjoyed the chemistry between Wayne and Geraldine Page whose spirited performance earned her an Academy Award nomination. The action has a visceral edge and the characters, even the secondary ones, are carefully drawn and integral to the narrative's context. The ensemble cast lends credibility to the proceedings in support of John Wayne/Geraldine Page (who made her motion picture debut here). At 83 minutes Hondo is far from an epic but it has a little something for everyone and proves to be a timeless western that has earned a place among my John Wayne favorites.
This film isn't rated and contains thematic western violence.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Hondo comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 37 Mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 1.8 Mbps.
Hondo, originally shot using Warnercolor 3D via the then newly developed "All Media Camera," (which used twin lenses placed slightly apart to produce the stereoscopic effect) underwent an extensive 4K digital restoration/re-mastering. Here is info taken directly from Paramount's press release:
For this release, which represents the film on home video in widescreen for the first time, Paramount worked closely with Batjac, the independent production company founded by John Wayne in the 1950s, which has preserved the original 3D 35mm negative for decades. The previously restored original 3D elements, was well as secondary elements, were scanned in 4K to remaster the film and produce the highest possible image quality for this 2D release. Then, restoration tools were used to deflicker and stabilize the image, as well as address the halo effect created by original optical special effects. Finally, grain structure and color fade were balanced to manage the particularities of the stereoscope technology used to make the film, which required two sets of film elements to create dimensional depth.
I am pleased with the overall quality of this high definition presentation. Images are fairly resolute with appreciable dimension during brightly lit scenes. Fine detail is apparent during close ups and some of the long range camera shots of the beautiful shooting locales showed off the rustic textures of the landscapes and structures. Resolution isn't absolute and there are instances where the video takes on a flatter perspective which limits depth. Colors are rendered cleanly and appear satisfying with no signs of bleeding or over saturation. Predominantly warm skin tones leave some complexions appearing pinkish but not unnatural. Blacks are a bit muddy and shadow detail is just average. The effects of the restoration can be seen via a bit of uneven grain rendering and minimally deleterious softening visible in a hand full of sequences. In my opinion neither rises to objectionable levels. Seeing how this film was originally shot in 3D it would have been cool if the 3D version was included as well. This being my first experience with this film (on home video or otherwise) I must say that in general its looks marvelous in high definition and should please discerning fans.
Paramount has included lossless audio options in both mono and multi-channel flavors. I opted to use the multi-channel Dolby TrueHD track which had no trouble handling the film's recorded elements. The front three channels carry the majority of the film's audio. The mix is spread across the front three channels with primary focus on the center channel with ambience bled to the right/left speakers. The orchestrated music score is spread to the rear channels which mildly broadens the sound field. Clarity and detail are excellent which pays dividends during the film's active and quieter moments. Bass frequencies are held to the upper registers which doesn't leave much work for the subwoofer but I never missed them. The dated components in the recording are apparent but I thought it sounded fine.
- Introduction by Leonard Maltin
- Audio commentary by Leonard Maltin, Western historian Frank Thompson and actor Lee Aaker
- The making of Hondo (4 features):
- The making of Hondo - 19 minutes
- Profile: James Edward Grant - 12 minutes
- The John Wayne Stock Company: Ward Bond - 9 minutes
- Wrap up with Leonard Maltin
- From the Batjac Vaults - 2 minute featurette
- The Apache - 14 minute documentary
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical trailer
Hondo is an earthy frontier fable that successfully blends action with evocative themes that give it a timeless appeal. This is my first experience with it and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to see it via this excellent Blu-ray presentation from Paramount Home Entertainment that features restored/re-mastered high definition video and crystal clear lossless sound that positively reflect upon it. The supplemental material is both complimentary and interesting especially if you're a fan of the film. Those who have been awaiting its arrival on Blu-ray Disc are in for a treat. Enjoy!
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