The third film in John Ford’s iconic “Cavalry Trilogy” — released as part of Republic’s archive-clearing four-disc “John Wayne Collection: Volume 2” — casts The Duke as a duty-bound Good Solider reunited with his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara) and son on a southwestern cavalry base, while holding down the fort against marauding injuns.
Ford uses the close, candlelit quarters of the military encampment’s tents to create a domestic sphere in shrewd contrast to his customary Ford Country vistas (here, Utah rather than the usual Monument Valley). As Wayne balances military and familial obligations, the respective wide-open and intimate spaces underscore the complex American itch to first subdue new land, and then make a home of it.
Leonard Maltin, O’Hara, and other supporting players are on hand for seemingly recycled featurettes.
The initial generations of movie directors to grow up with the movies — Welles, the Nouvelle Vague — venerated the ease with which Ford’s films articulated themselves visually; viewing Rio Grande, one hopes future filmmakers are still paying attention.