by Douglas Messerli
Leigh Brackett and Burton Wohl (screenplay), based on a story by Burton Wohl, Howard Hawks (director) Rio Lobo / 1970
At times in director Howard Hawk's last film, Rio Lobo, it almost seems as if he is tempting the Hollywood idols. Except for the dozens of brilliantly comic one-liners of Brackett's script, the story is a shaggy dog tale without any "fur" to it. And it's hard to imagine a cast of less convincing actors than the Mexican heartthrob Jorge Rivero (who Wayne addresses as "Frenchy" throughout), Brazilian actress Jennifer O'Neill (Rio Lobo was clearly the best movie of her career), and future studio director, Sherry Lansing! Publisher George Plimpton plays the 4th Gunman. Even Jack Elam (standing in for Walter Brennan and Arthur Hunnicutt) and John Wayne, at his most laconic (in one of his first lines of the film Wayne reports to his soldier friend, "Ned, your neck's broken."), have seen better days. At one point, as the Rebels try to carry Wayne to his horse, they report what is obvious to all: "He's heavier than a baby whale!"