Rio Conchos/Take A Hard Ri
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RIO CONCHOS: In avenging himself against the Apache Indians who have massacred his family, ex-Confederate Army officer Lassiter (Richard Boone) recovers a stolen U.S. Army repeating rifle and finds himself arrested by the U.S. Army in connection with the stolen firearm. Lassiter is offered his freedom if he leads a small group into Mexico, consisting of an Army captain (Stuart Whitman), a Buffalo Soldier sergeant (Jim Brown, in his film debut), a knife-wielding Mexican prisoner (Tony Franciosa) and an Apache woman warrior. After blasting their way through bandits and Apaches, they discover a megalomaniacal Confederate soldier (Edmond O’Brien) selling guns to the Apaches.
TAKE A HARD RIDE: Take a tough-as-nails trail boss (Jim Brown, The Dirty Dozen), a smooth gambler (Fred Williamson, Black Caesar), a ruthless bounty hunter (Lee Van Cleef, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly), a mute martial arts master (Jim Kelly, Enter The Dragon), a desperate prostitute (Catherine Spaak, Cat O' Nine Tails) and hundreds of greed-crazed gunmen. Turn them all loose in a chase to the Mexican border for a fortune in gold, and you have the action-packed epic Take A Hard Ride. Hollywood legends Dana Andrews (Laura), Barry Sullivan (The Bad And The Beautiful) and Harry Carey Jr. (The Searchers) costar.
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In minor roles, Tony Francisco, a knife-wielding mexican bandit assists major Lassitor in order to obtain a get out of jail free card and Wende Weldon (who can neither act nor does she look Apache) plays an Apache woman who is attracted to the captain and reluctantly agrees to help find her people.
This bevy of talented actors bring to life a quest for the missing rifles and defeat the renegades who sell them to the Apache. A familiar enough tale of the old west, but well acted w/ great timing, cimemotography and enogh action, and plot twist to make this an "A" movie. 1964. Color. Widescreen 107 min. w/ trailer and commentary.
TAke a Hard Ride features Lee Van Cleef (He was the "bad" in the Good, Bad and the Ugly) and \Jim Brown in a blackspotation spegetti western. Hollywood legends: Dana Andrews, Barry Sullivan and Harry Carry Jr. costar. These and a bunch of greedy gunman chase to the Mexican border fora fortune in gold. lots of action. okay if you like spegetti westerns. Color. Widescreen. 103 min. 1975.
Anamorphic transfer. Clear picture and sound. No glitches.
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Anyway Rio Conchos teams an embittered indian-hating ex- confederate Major played by the always dependably great Richard Boone with a cavalry Captain played by Stuart Whitman and a sergeant played by Jim Brown (in his first motion-picture role.) Their job is to recover a shipment of rifles being sold to Boone's old (and crazed) Confederate Colonel, now based in Mexico, played in an insane performance by Edmond O' Brien. They are joined by an untrustworthy Mexican half-breed played in a showy performance by Tony Franciosa and an Apache woman in her movie debut by Wende Wagner (later Miss Case on The Green Hornet TV series.)
I've recently read that some believe that this is basically a remake of the wonderful John Wayne western: The Comancheros. I love both films, (although I like The Comancheros much better,) and interestingly I never realized the similarities between the two. Both films also co-star Stuart Whitman.
This film boasts fine performances from the entire cast, some good action and a great Jerry Goldsmith score.
The picture quality is okay although there were occassionally some red circles that would appear at the right top of the screen.
In conclusion, I'm glad this film was finally released, but just imagine how better it would have been with another quality western like Stagecoach? If they were going to release it with a mediocrity like Take A Hard Ride, perhaps thay just should have released it by itself.
The second feature on this disc is another Jim Brown Western, teaming Brown up with Spaghetti pro Lee Van Cleef under the direction of Antonio Margheriti. This one, from 1975, is somewhat offbeat as Westerns were looking for something a little different ( yet the same ) to keep the genre alive, and though it's enjoyable it just isn't in the same class as pre-1970 Westerns like RIO CONCHOS.
So strap on the ol' sixshooter, fill the canteen and ride the trail down to the RIO CONCHOS. When you get there you'll be humming the Jerry Goldsmith theme for days!
At times, Rio Conchos looks like it was intended as a John Wayne vehicle to recapture the success of The Comancheros, sharing both its co-star Stuart Whitman and writer Clair Huffaker as well as a similar broad plot outline - a mismatched pair tracking down stolen army rifles before they can find their way into the hands of the Apache - but with a much darker tone. The film's worldview can be summed up by a line in the unused title song: "What is life but an endless fight?" There's not much humour here and what there is is dark and bitter, and where the hero of the earlier film may have lost his family but never lost his inherent decency, the same doesn't apply here: when we meet Lassiter, he's cold-bloodedly murdering an Apache burial party with a brutality that even Ethan Edwards would have found shocking.
John Wayne's long-running feud with Darryl F. Zanuck and his determination to cultivate a more audience-friendly paternal screen image ruled him out of the running for the lead, leaving a very worn-down Richard Boone to take over anti-hero duties. Looking like a grizzled bear with a thorn in his side, Boone more than holds his own and betrays little of the likeability that the Duke might have brought the part. He's a bitter man consumed by hatred, but never quite a monstrous stereotype, even bringing a weary humanity to a beautifully underplayed scene where he goes through the motions of lying to a treacherous friend he's going to have to kill. Even though there's a feeling of a second rate cast on the credits, his co-stars - Whitman, Tony Fransciosa and Jim Brown, making the leap from pro-football to acting with this film - more than hold their own.
It's only when the faux arms dealers finally reach their destination that the film slackens its grip and starts to feel like a diluted version of its predecessor of only four years earlier. Like The Comancheros, our heroes arrive at the villain's lair to find a private army, a mansion where there shouldn't be a mansion and an underling being executed by firing squad for letting down Edmond O'Brien's Confederate Colonel who wants to restart the Civil War using the Apaches to do his dirty work. Yet he never seems as well rounded a figure as Nehemiah Persoff's proto-Bond villain in the earlier film, more a colourful plot device who never quite fills the expectations that have been built up and the section seems both rushed and underfunded. But luckily, thanks to director Gordon Douglas the film has more than enough splendidly staged action scenes en route for the disappointment not to be too great, with the alternately driving or stark jabbing violence of Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score keeping things cracking along. It's just a shame that the picture quality on Shout Factory's US 2.35:1 widescreen DVD isn't as good as it could be in the long shots, where the loss of detail from putting it on the same single disc as Take a Hard Ride really makes itself felt. (The English-friendly German DVD apparently has much better picture quality). The only extra is the original trailer.
Reuniting the stars of Three the Hard Way and probably the only blaxploitation kung fu buddy spaghetti western ever filmed in Lanzarote, Take a Hard Ride may not `ride with the great westerns' as the poster promised but is a decent enough 70s treasure hunt/manhunt action movie. Directed by Antonio Margheriti under his usual pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson, it stars Jim Brown as the steadfast hero who promises dying trail boss Dana Andrews to deliver $86,000 to Sonora only to find almost everybody and their brother-in-law and second cousin twice removed determined to relieve him of it. Along the way he teams up with Fred Williamson's fancy snake-throwing gambler - who makes no secret that all bets are off once they reach Mexico - Jim Kelly's mute kung fu fighting Indian and Catherine Spaak's violently widowed ex-lady of the night. Ranged against him is Lee Van Cleef's ruthless and unscrupulous bounty hunter who's rounding up his own ragtag gang that quickly becomes a small army, including Harry Carey Jr. (playing a lowlife introduced singing My Darling Clementine while emptying his bowels: Strother Martin must have been busy that week), Robert Donner and a religious zealot confederate marauder played by Leslie Howard's son Ronald.
The action scenes are more efficient than inspired, there are a couple of terrible special effects and there's a few loose ends and half-hearted plot strands that the film spends a lot of time setting up and then just seems to forget to resolve - including quite what to do with Van Cleef's character at the end. Jim Brown's a surprisingly weak lead here, never quite finding his groove, while Williamson isn't at his best either, leaving the film without much of a centre, but if you treat it as a supporting feature rather than the main attraction it ticks over well enough to pass an hour and a half - though I could have happily done without seeing Harry Carey Jr.'s buttocks. As compensation there's a fine Jerry Goldsmith score that's not always well served by the sound recording in some scenes (once again the DVD transfer is lacking in detail due to being double-billed with another feature on a single disc), and Shout's DVD comes with trailer and interviews with Williamson and Brown.