Jim Brown thundered off the football field and into Hollywood stardom. He was the superstar running back for the Cleveland Browns with dozens of NFL records. However his was an era of minor pay and major injuries. Brown understood he needed a fall back gig for when he wore out from touchdown runs. Luckily he played in the era of helmets with masks so his face remained handsome enough for the movies. Wild West Collection: Rio Conchos / Take a Hard Ride is a double header with Brown letting a horse do the heavy running. The two movies cover his introduction to film-making and his time as a major box office star.
Rio Conchos (1964 – 107 minutes) doesn’t star Jim Brown. His name comes after the title in the opening credits. The stars of this film are Richard Boone (Have Gun – Will Travel), Stuart Whitman (Comancheros) and Anthony Franciosa (Dario Argento’s Tenebrae). Brown’s role is military support for the leads. He’s a thespian blocking back. Boone is pissed off at the Apaches for torturing his wife and child. His Apache killing gets him trouble by the U.S. Calvary. His only hope of freedom is to help track down a gun dealing Confederate Colonel (Edmond O’Brien) in Mexico. He’s supplying the Apaches with weapons thus Boone has a reason to cooperate. Whitman is in charge of the mission with Brown being his right hand man. The action is well paced especially the torture scenes at O’Brien’s Mexican compound. Boone’s been a favorite of mine thanks to the Have Gun DVDs. Nice to finally see him in color. Brown does well with his limited lines. You almost get a sense that he’s studying Boone for his future leading roles. Brown would return to the gridiron, but not for long. Acting was his new passion.
Take a Hard Ride (1975 – 102 minutes) returns Brown to the Western genre after his numerous high profile flicks including Slaughter and The Dirty Dozen. He’s riding $86,000 to his old boss’s widow. Word of what’s in his saddle bags travels faster than his horse. He’s got plenty of obstacles cropping up in the wild frontier. The movie reunites Brown with his Three The Hard Way co-stars. Fred Williamson (Black Caesar) is a cocky gambler that wants to help Brown for a price. Besides being handy with a gun, Williamson tosses around snakes as a weapon. Jim Kelly (Black Belt Jones) is a mute half-Indian that tags along for the chase. Along with the numerous scumbags looking for Brown is Lee Van Cleef (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). He’s a bounty hunter that won’t be stopped. Antonio Margherti directs the action in the Canary Islands that qualifies this as a Spaghetti Western. The mix of the Spaghetti Western with Soul Cinema superstars makes a tasty treat. It’s Both Williamson and Brown had made Westerns so they’re know how to look good with their six shooters. Kelly’s non-speaking character is rather awkward on the range with his karate moves and Billy Jack hat. But you can’t split up the Hard Way trio. Van Cleef sticks to his wicked sneer instead of acting like a 19th century pimp.
Rio Conchos / Take a Hard Ride marks the start and height of Jim Brown’s movie stardom. He still has an active acting career, but he doesn’t have the same drawing power as when he rode the range. His screen time and lines improved between these films, but his magnetism was always powerful. Both films have great casts that keep the films from being solo achievements for Brown. It’s a fine double feature for those who like diversity in their Westerns.
The video for Rio Conchos is 2.35:1 anamorphic and Take a Hard Ride is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer of Rio Conchos brings out the brown tones in the desert. Take a Hard Ride looks fine for a mid-70s flick. The audio on both films are mono. The levels are good with the actors not being stampeded by the action.
Rio Conchos Trailer (3:04) sets up the film and introduces us to Jim Brown without his helmet.
Spaghetti Soul (16:22) interviews Fred Williamson. The Hammer explains how the gang from Three the Hard Way reunited in the Canary Islands.
Kashtok Speaks (10:10) interviews Jim Kelly. The star of Enter the Dragon discusses how he went from training with Bruce Lee to movie stardom.
Take A Hard Ride Trailer (2:29) pushes this as a pure Western and not merely a reunion of Three the Hard Way.
Wild West Collection: Rio Conchos / Take a Hard Ride give Jim Brown double duty with films from his rookie and MVP seasons. Rio Conchos is the better film thanks to Richard Boone’s work. Take A Hard Ride is more fun as it reunites the cast of Three the Hard Way.
Shout! Factory presents Wild West Collection: Rio Conchos / Take a Hard Ride. Directed by: Gordon Douglas & Antonio Margherti. Starring: Jim Brown, Richard Boone, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly. Boxset contents: 2 movies on 1 DVD. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: June 21, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Cleveland Browns, Enter the Dragon, Fred Williamson