Western | In English | 127 minutes | 1948
In 1851, Thomas Dunson, his trail hand Groot, and his adopted son, Matt, start a cattle ranch in Texas with one cow and one bull. Dunson names his spread the Red River D. After 14 years of fending off Indian attacks and Mexicans who claim the land is theirs, the Red River D ranch numbers over ten thousand cattle. Due to the loss of the Civil War, there is widespread poverty in the southern United States and there is no market for cattle. Dunson decides to drive his huge herd north to the railhead at Sedalia, Missouri, where he feels the cattle will fetch a good price. After hiring more men, including Cherry Valance, a professional gunman, the long, perilous drive begins. With pressure on him, and short of money, Dunson become tyrannical, brutally punishing his men. When Dunson decides to lynch two men who attempt to desert, Matt takes charge and decides to drive the herd to Abilene, Kansas, which he heard is closer. He leaves Dunson behind with a horse and some supplies. Dunson threatens to kill Matt the next time they meet. When Matt reaches Abilene, he successfully sells the herd. Shortly thereafter, Dunson arrives with a few hard-nosed men he rounded up, seeking revenge. Matt and Dunson have a furious fist fight. It’s a fight that involves hate but also a deep-rooted love these two men have for each other.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 100% 100%
In 2008, RED RIVER was selected by the American Film Institute (AFI) as the 5th greatest Western of all time.
RED RIVER was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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Strap on your trusty six-shooters you lovers of good Western fiction. It’s round-up and brandin’ time! It’s the story of a great migration of a cattle herd. And it’s a story of a desperate contention between two strong-minded men. Director Howard Hawks has filled it with credible substance and detail, with action and understanding, humor and masculine ranginess. He has made it look raw and dusty, made it smell of beef and sweat—and he has got a stampede of cattle that makes you curl up with terror in your seat.
Director Howard Hawks is wonderful at setting moods. Notice the ominous atmosphere he brews on the night of the stampede—the silence, the restlessness of the cattle, the lowered voices. Notice Matt’s nervousness during the night of thick fog, when every shadow may be Dunson, come to kill him. And watch the subtle way Hawks modulates Dunson’s gradual collapse. John Wayne is tall and steady at the beginning of the picture, but by the end his hair is gray and lank and his eyes are haunted. Russell Harlan’s cinematography finds classical compositions in the drive, arrangements of men, sky and trees, and then in the famous stampede scene.
RED RIVER is a rattling good outdoor adventure movie. When Hawks concentrates on men working, or contesting leadership, or merely showing what they are made of, the picture practically blows up with vitality and conviction. The greatest satisfaction of this picture is continuous and unobtrusive. It is the constancy with which all outdoors, and all human endurance of it and efforts to conquer it, keeps bulging the screen full of beautiful vitality.
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