Whilst not strictly a type of film per se, the Sunday Afternoon flick should be recognisable for its gentle tone, light action and humour with a dash of nostalgia thrown into the mix. More often than not it's a Western but it could equally be a historical epic or romantic comedy. It's like a televisual comfort blanket, a couple of hours of entertainment that doesn't require too much thinking, because - let's face it - at this point on a Sunday, everyone's usually so full of roast potatoes to even contemplate paying too much attention.
Thankfully, and in the best possible way, El Dorado doesn't require that much. Taking its name and some of its dialogue from the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name, El Dorado is a remake of the more successful Rio Bravo. It stars John Wayne as Cole Thornton, a gun-hand for hire who becomes involved in a local land dispute between the MacDonalds and unscrupulous businessman Bart Jason (Ed Asner) in the town of El Dorado. The whole town's a bit out of control due to the sheriff, J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) residing in the bottom of a whisky bottle while his deputy Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) tries to maintain some semblance of order.
With the help of Alan Bourdillion Traherne, or Mississippi for short (James Caan), Thornton, J.P. and Bull face a showdown as the dispute comes to a head outside the Sheriff's office.
Where the film really succeeds and endears itself is in the chemistry between its lead characters. Both Wayne and Mitchum are on fine grumpy-old-men form as ageing gunslingers at the top of their game, displaying perfect comic timing with classic lines like 'I'm looking at a tin star… with a drunk pinned on it'. While the plot isn't the best, the script offers the actors some great one-liners and witty interplay, particularly between Wayne, Mitchum and Caan. The trio are offered capable support from Hunnicut as the former Indian hunter Bull, who's still more than a little obsessed with his former glory days and tooting his bugle. But as the unfortunately-monikered Mississippi, Caan almost steals the film with a charming performance as a cowboy without convention; he can't shoot well, let alone quickly, and his hat isn't exactly what you'd call stylish.
I tried to think if I could pick a favourite scene to share with you all but the honest truth is that I have too many to choose from. The shoot-out at the Church is memorable for its combination of action, comedy and your traditional Western-style death (lots of posturing, a bit of yelling and an overly dramatic fall to the ground) and pretty much any scene in which Mississippi fires his gun is just hilarious. Think of his shotgun as a pre-cursor to the Grasshopper in Men in Black and you'll know where I'm coming from.
It's not without its flaws of course; the plot is slight and sometimes a little incoherent and there's also a lengthy prologue that is basically one long round of exposition. In fact, it doesn't really get going until the entrance of Mississippi and his unique approach to gunfighting which doesn't involve a gun. But trust me, it's worth the wait. Once Wayne, Mitchum and Caan unite, El Dorado finds its feet. The scenes involving the three of them, particularly any in which Mississippi mentions his name, are very funny and endlessly quotable.The film's various set-pieces manage to tick all the Western boxes. We get shoot-outs, a besieged Sheriff's office and a battle to see who can draw the fastest, again all imbued with a great sense of humour that helps you overlook some of the film's lesser qualities. For me, it's one of those films that, should I come across it while channel-hopping, I'll always stop and watch, despite having seen it countless times and owning it on DVD. The Sunday Afternoon film is always a personal choice and I'm sure many of you have your own, but, for me, El Dorado will always demand that I sit down and watch it… again.