Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Ride, Vaquero! (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A trio of favorites star in the MGM Western RIDE, VAQUERO! (1953), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Howard Keel lead a cast which also includes Anthony Quinn, Kurt Kasznar, and Jack Elam. The film was a reunion for Taylor and Gardner, who previously costarred in the very enjoyable THE BRIBE (1949); the same year as RIDE, VAQUERO! they also made KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (1953). RIDE, VAQUERO! also reunited Keel and Gardner, who had starred in SHOW BOAT (1951).

The story concerns a frontier settler (Keel) and his wife (Gardner), whose attempts to gain a foothold and start a ranch in the post Civil War West are constantly thwarted by the bandit Esqueda (Quinn) and his men. When Esqueda's foster brother Rio (Taylor) comes to admire the settlers, he advocates for them to be able to stay, ultimately forcing a showdown between Esqueda and Rio.

This is a good-looking film, with much of it shot by Robert Surtees in Kanab, Utah, but it's nowhere near as entertaining as one would expect, given this cast and the presence of director John Farrow, who made the outstanding HONDO (1953) the very same year.

The script, by Farrow and Frank Fenton, is talky and lethargic, and the cast all seem to be sleepwalking. Everyone involved made far better movies, and it's puzzling why they couldn't quite pull it together for this one. None of the performances particularly stand out.

At least everyone looks good, although there's also a fair amount of unpleasantness depicted onscreen, including a close-up of a tooth extraction, a saloon girl pulled by her hair, and dead cattle.

All in all, it's a slow 90 minutes.

The DVD print looks quite good, especially given that AnscoColor does not always hold up well. Unfortunately the soundtrack of the Warner Archive DVD is somewhat muffled and variable, which is a particular challenge with Quinn's heavy Mexican accent. It makes it all the more difficult to get into the movie.

The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Not really one of my favourite westerns either, Laura! The cast have all done better work elsewhere (the director too, just as you say), and I say this as a big fan of Taylor.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura and Jerry, I probably like RIDE VAQUERO! a little more than you do. I agree this isn't Robert Taylor's best Western, but he is still interesting to watch. Here he portrays a dark conflicted bandit who has to decide where his loyalties are. Rio(Taylor) is torn between his loyalty to his raised as a brother Esqueda(Anthony Quinn), his respect for King Cameron(Howard Keel) and his love for Cordelia Cameron(Ava Gardner).

All in all, I think the movie is worth watching.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Very interested to hear each of your responses to this film, Jerry and Walter, as I know you each love Westerns as much as I do!

Love Taylor but this film was such a disappointment for me compared to something like SADDLE THE WIND or especially WESTWARD THE WOMEN. Even a little run-of-the-mill late-career film like CATTLE KING had much more in it for me. And I love Keel and Gardner too! Oh well. We've been talking about revisiting movies, maybe this is one I need to look at in five years and see if my first impression still holds!

Best wishes,

9:17 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I agree that it's not anyone's best, but repeat viewing is rewarding when you view it as not being all that typical for its time period--- at least in how the relationship between Quinn and Taylor is done. I also think it's easy to underestimate Anthony Quinn's performance. He isn't Zorba the Greek or Zorba the Arab or Zorba the pirate yet. He's certainly flamboyant, but I find him very believable. I also find Taylor's having a bit of the dark side gives him far more to do than some other films. I'm new to your site, thanks to Savant. I have lots to read.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Bill, and welcome! Always delighted to welcome a new reader and fellow film fan. How great you found me via Savant! I hope you'll enjoy checking out my older posts. I'm always notified of comments so if you want to chime in commenting on any older reviews please feel free to do so.

I enjoyed your thoughts on Quinn and Taylor in this film. Taylor's one of my favorites, and I agree it is interesting when he plays characters like this one with a darker streak.

Best wishes,

2:45 PM  

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