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Rio Lobo

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Initial DVD release
April 29, 2003




Adventure, Western, Romance

Music director
United States

Rio Lobo movie poster

Release date
December 17, 1970 (1970-12-17) (USA)

Burton Wohl (screenplay), Leigh Brackett (screenplay), Burton Wohl (story)

(Colonel Cord McNally), (Captain Pierre Cordona (Frenchy)),
Jennifer O'Neill
(Shasta Delaney), (Phillips), (Seargent Tuscarora Phillips), (Ketcham)

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Give 'Em Hell, John.

Rio Lobo is a 1970 American Western film starring John Wayne. The film was the last film directed by Howard Hawks, from a script by Leigh Brackett. The film was shot in Technicolor with a running time of 114 minutes. The musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith and the movie was filmed at Cuernavaca in the Mexican state of Morelos and at Tucson, Arizona.


Rio Lobo movie scenes

It was the third Howard Hawks film varying the idea of a sheriff defending his office against belligerent outlaw elements in the town, after Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966), both also starring John Wayne.

Rio Lobo movie scenes


Rio Lobo movie scenes

During the American Civil War, Col. Cord McNally (John Wayne) has left his close friend, Lt. Ned Forsythe (Peter Jason), in charge of the Union troops on a Union army payroll train. However, Confederates led by Capt. Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Sgt. Tuscarora Phillips (Christopher Mitchum) hijack the train. Their scheme uses a very elaborate plan which suggests that the Confederates must have gotten detailed inside informations about the transport.

Rio Lobo movie scenes

During the robbery, Lt. Forsythe is fatally injured, and McNally personally takes up the pursuit. As his squad is spread thinner and thinner until McNally is left on his own, Cordona and his men capture him, but McNally tricks them by leading them into a Union camp and raising the alarm. As the Confederates flee, McNally overpowers Cordona and Tuscarora. He questions the pair about the identity of the traitor who sold them the information about the train, but they give him no information and are imprisoned. Nevertheless, the three men gain a deep mutual respect for each other, and after the war ends, McNally visits Cordona and Tuscarora as they are being released and asks them once more. Unfortunately they don't know the traitors' names and can only provide physical descriptions. McNally then tells Cordona and Tuscarora that if they should ever come across these men again, to contact him through a friend of his, Pat Cronin (Bill Williams), who is the sheriff of Blackthorne in Texas. Tuscarora is on his way to Rio Lobo, Texas where he grew up.

Rio Lobo movie scenes

Some time later, McNally is contacted by Cronin on instructions from Cordona, who is staying at the local hotel. When he arrives in Blackthorne, however, a young woman named Shasta Delaney (Jennifer O'Neill), assistant to a medicine showman, arrives in town, wishing to report the murder of her employer that was committed by a deputy of Rio Lobo's sheriff, "Blue Tom" Hendricks (Mike Henry). Cronin explains that he cannot intervene because Rio Lobo is outside his jurisdiction. Shortly afterwards, a posse from Rio Lobo arrives and wants to take Delaney away. Delaney accuses their leader, "Whitey" Carter (Robert Donner), as the murderer about whom she has been talking. When one of the posse aims a gun at Cronin, Shasta shoots Whitey from under the table, and in the resulting shoot-out Cronin, McNally and Cordona finish off the posse.

Rio Lobo movie scenes

Cordona, who identifies Carter as one of the traitors McNally is looking for, tells McNally that Tuscarora had contacted him and told him that Tuscarora's father and other ranchers from Rio Lobo are being bullied by a man named Ketcham, who installed Hendricks as his sheriff after Hendricks killed the previous incumbent. McNally, Cordona, and Shasta go to Rio Lobo, where they find the people living in terror of Hendricks and his men. Hendricks has Tuscarora arrested on trumped-up charges, so for further help they go to Tuscarora's father, Old Man Philips (Jack Elam). McNally, Cordona and Philips sneak into Ketcham's ranch in order to take him as a hostage, and McNally discovers that Ketcham is really Union Sergeant Major Ike Gorman (Victor French), the second traitor he was searching for.

Rio Lobo movie scenes

McNally forces Ketcham to sign the title deeds of the ranches back to their rightful owners, then the men retreat to Rio Lobo, where they order Hendricks and his men to vacate the town jail. They take over the building for cover, freeing Tuscarora, while Cordona goes for the Cavalry. Meanwhile, Tuscarora's girlfriend Maria Carmen (Susana Dosamantes) and her friend Amelita (Sherry Lansing) lend assistance. For that, Hendricks slashes Amelita's face, and Amelita swears to McNally that she will kill Hendricks.

Rio Lobo movie scenes

However, Ketcham's men capture Cordona and offer to trade Cardona for Ketcham. In the meantime, word spreads of the trade and several ranchers turn up to help, knowing that, if McNally fails, the town will have gained nothing from the returned deeds. During the prisoner exchange, Cordona dives from the bridge into the river where Tuscarora is hiding. McNally yells out that Ketcham is now bankrupt, having signed the deeds back, so the furious sheriff guns Ketcham down, and in turn McNally shoots Hendricks in the leg. McNally then gets shot in his own leg by one of the deputies, and is dragged back into the cantina by Philips.

After a failed attempt to blow up the cantina McNally's force is in, the remaining bandits are outflanked by the rest of the townspeople, who have rallied to help. Hendricks's men realize that all is lost, and they flee. Hendricks shoots at them, but he has been using his rifle as a crutch and, with its muzzle clogged with dust, it explodes in his face as he fires it. As he stumbles to his horse, Amelita guns him down, thus keeping her promise and liberating the town from its final menace.


The film was meant to be shot in Durango, Mexico on a budget of $5 million. However shooting on the movie Lawman took up facilities there so Hawks and Cinema Center had to spend an extra $1 million to allow shooting at Old Tucson, and near Los Angeles.

Hawks was injured while filming the railway scene, requiring four stitches.

Hawks said he had to fight Cinema Center to cast Chris Mitchum in the movie.

The script was rewritten throughout production.


The music for Rio Lobo was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The soundtrack album was released in Belgium in 2001 on Prometheus Records.

All tracks written by Jerry Goldsmith.

Critical reaction

On its release, the film received mostly negative reviews. The only notable positive review came from Roger Greenspun of The New York Times who said that the film was "close enough to greatness to stand above everything else so far in the current season." His comments surprised other critics and resulted in numerous angry letters sent to the newspaper. The performances of Christopher Mitchum, Jorge Rivero and Jennifer O'Neill were also strongly criticized. However, in subsequent years, the film has grown in stature, and currently holds a 71% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film made $4.25 million (USD) in rentals, twentieth among the highest money-making pictures of the year. It was to be Hawks' last film and is considered to be a second, if much looser, remake of Hawks’s and Wayne's classic 1959 film, Rio Bravo. (The first remake was El Dorado, with Wayne and Robert Mitchum).


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