Directed by Mia Farrow’s father John,Hondowas the first time audiences saw John Wayne in stereoscopic 3D. Fortunately for later viewers, the film’s qualities go far beyond its original distribution gimmick, the Daily Telegraph enthusing that ‘ Hondo is a Western fit to rank with Shane .’
Like Shane , Hondo’s plot introduces a stoic gallant into the lives of a plainswoman and her son. Wayne is the eponymous hero, a dispatch rider for the US Cavalry in the 1870s who comes across an isolated ranch now run by Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page) and her young boy Johnny (Lee Aaker) after good-for-nothing husband Ed (Leo Gordon) ran out on them. Hondo has just had a run-in with an Indian posse and needs a horse to get news back to the frontier post. Angie, who’s all a flutter over the stranger’s forthright masculinity, is only too happy to oblige. Hondo is eager to accompany her and Johnny to safety from the marauding Indians but Angie is determined to stay to protect her homestead, so the brave rider heads forth alone.
Soon after his departure, the inevitable happens. The Lowe ranch is targeted by an Apache raiding party led by Vittoro (Michael Pate) and his second-in-command Silva (Rudolfo Acosta). Things are looking grim until Silva confronts Johnny and the young boy pulls a gun, earning the respect of the Indians, who adopt him as a blood brother.
When Hondo reaches the frontier post he learns from his buddy Buffalo (Ward Bond) that the Apaches have upped their rebellion. Fearing for Angie and Johnny he heads back to the ranch and is accosted en route by the dishonourable Ed, who he kills in self-defence. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s then captured and tortured by Vittoro’s posse. But once again, the Indian chief is swayed by the courage shown by the unyielding cavalryman. He releases him but agrees to let bloodthirsty Silva challenge him to a knife fight. Hondo overcomes Silva and sets off to save Angie and Johnny.
What elevates Farrow’s film from much of that rocky outcrop of 50s westerns is its script, adapted by James Edward Grant from Louis L’Amour’s magazine story, and it rightly occupies a place in the pantheon of great westerns.
USA / 83 minutes / 1953
Writers:James Edward Grant, from a story by Louis L’Amour,
John Wayne as Hondo Lane
Geraldine Page as Angie Lowe
Ward Bond as Bufallo Baker
Michael Pate as Vittorio
Rodolfo Acosta as Silva
James Arness as Lennie
Tom Irish as Lt. McKay
Lee Aaker as Johnny Lowe
Paul Fix as Major Sherry
Frank McGrath as Lowes Partner
Morry Ogden as Pferdehändler
Chuck Roberson as Otawanga
Rayford Barnes as Pete
Leo Gordon as Ed Lowe
Bobby Somers as Stunts
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