Classic Movie Reviews by Chuck Kuenneth MPHS Jan 66
"Red River" is in my top twenty films. Wait! Top twenty…does that mean the movie is good? It means it is in the top twenty films that I enjoy the most. The basic criteria for my top twenty are: (1) I must have seen this film at LEAST 3 times. (2) There must be at least 10 years between my first and last viewing of this film. (3) I must consider this to be one of the twenty most meaningful films I have ever seen. "Red River" is one of those films!
"Meaningful" I define as a movie that speaks in an enthusiastic voice to me. Additionally it must compel me to watch the whole film once I start viewing it.
"Red River" started on the TV screen for my dad and me. My father was a great western fan. He loved western movies and novels. In 1957 we acquired our first TV set. It was a 20" Raytheon. Besides baseball, dad would watch detective TV shows and westerns, like "Maverick", "Sugarfoot", "Wyatt Earp", "Bat Masterson", and "Gunsmoke". But whenever it was on, he loved viewing the movie "Red River". I used to watch it with him and can still hear him comment on its quality with awe in his voice. I suspect his praise was based on real cattle being used and the exquisitely staged cattle drive scenes.
I enjoyed the movie then and it has only grown on me in the half century or more I have been re-experiencing it. In the second or third Roger Ebert film class I took (1973), we viewed this film shot by shot. Even then I was still evolving in my appreciation of this film. After seeing more films by "Red River" director Howard Hawks, I understood more about his use of character and dialog in the movie. Plus somewhere along the line I started to fall in love with the music score. It was written by my favorite film composer Dimitri Tiomkin, who did memorable scores for other of my favorite westerns; "Duel in the Sun"(1946), "High Noon"(1952), and "The Unforgiven"(1960). The music passages played in the opening wagon train scene, the beginning of the cattle drive, and the cattle crossing the river send me to paradise!
Then there is the presence of so many wonderful character actors. Having seen hundreds of their films, I view them more like good friends. Here are some of my buddies; Walter Brennan, Harry Carey, Noah Beery Jr., Harry Carey Jr., Paul Fix, Hank Worden, Glenn Strange, and John Ireland. How are these for friends! This relationship allows me to, in a sense, actually become a member of the cattle drive.
How about viewing quality? I started watching "Red River" on an old black and white TV. Then via 16mm film. Next I had a VHS tape of this movie. In 1998 I bought a DVD. Then last year for my birthday Eileen got me a wonderful Criterion Blu-Ray set. The quality is incredible. Viewing it on a big screen TV gives me goose bumps.
As can be seen by the above, my feelings extend deeper than a mere appreciation of a movie. It, for me, becomes a personal experience, actually reliving this drama each time I view "Red River".
(attached photo is from original movie still from "Red River" showing Montgomery Clift and Noah Beery Jr.)