Screen Legend Collection: John Wayne (2007)

Universal

Cast: John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn.

Rating: G.

Run time: 109 mins average.

Genre: Action

Verdict: Beautiful (see rating system)

As you'd expect, there's lot's of two-fisted brawling and gunplay in this special edition of five movies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of `The Duke`.

As well as the exptected western shoot 'em ups, Wayne also does a good iob of playing Chance Buckman, a fictional oil well fighter loosely based on the famed Red Adair in Hellfighters (1968). The fire scenes have penty of realism and romantic sparks fly, too, when Buckman and his ex-wife Madelyn (Vera Miles) clash over the marrage of their daughter Tish (Katharine Ross) to his right-hand man Greg Parker (Jim Hutton). The dangers of firefighting caused Madelyn to divorce Buckman years before.

Reap The Wild Wind also finds the Duke without horse or saddle. Working with the legendary director of lavish epics, Cecil B. DeMille, Wayne is an upright sailor competing with the shady Ray Milland for the affections of Paulette Goddard. With pirates and shipwrecks set against the background of Key West in the 1840s, this is a heady mix.

Watch for the evil Raymond Massey and the finale's epic underwater confrontation as Milland and Wayne are cornered by a giant squid. An early colour film fromm 1942, this looks great.

1942 was also the year Wayne teamed with Marlene Dietrich - his real-life girlfriend for a while - and Randolph Scott in The Spoilers. This finds Wayne on more ground in a lusty story about gold fever in Alaska in the 1890s.

The other two films are from late in Wayne’s long career and notable for their rough humour. I particularly enjoyed The War Wagon (1967), co-starring Kirk Douglas as a hired gun who agrees to help Wayne, a drunken explosives expert, an Indian and a compulsive old thief pull off a daring robbery against the ruthless businessman (Bruce Cabot) who stole Wayner's ranch. They're up against a stagecoach armed with a gatling gun flanked by at least 20 guards.

In Rooster Cogburn (1975), Wayne less successfully reprised the role of the cantankerous marshal with which he won the "Best Actor" Oscar in True Grit in 1969. The acting isn't the problem, it's the lacklustre story of Cogburn teaming with a preacher's daughter Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn) to hunt down a gang who killed her father and ransacked a village. Wayne and Hepburn have some good scenes together but the film lacks action.

Good picture and sound tranfers throughout this set - a pity there are no extras.

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