“Hannie Caulder” (1972)
Sometimes a movie is crafted with an admirable skill that, while falling short of artistry, manages to work quiet wonders in the small details which through an amalgam of calculated design, instinct, blind luck and providence, fortuitously produces moments which transcend the familiar, bringing shades and textures unique to the film going experience; and yet, things can still go spectacularly wrong. Such a case of an extreme aesthetic tug of war is on view in Burt Kennedy’s “Hannie Caulder”, a western that presents a truly unique variation of the classic revenge theme based upon an unsound rationale which presupposes an empathetic charity in the audience, who is asked to sympathize with the devastated victim of brutal multiple rapes, while concurrently finding the continued reprehensible behavior of her assailants comically amusing.
Fugitives from a bungled bank robbery, the Clemens brothers, Emmett (Ernest Borgnine), Frank (Jack Elam) and Rufus (Strother Martin), assault a horse station, killing the proprietor and gang raping his wife Hannie (Raquel Welch, once again perfectly at ease in the saddle). Painfully following the trio’s path on foot, Hannie encounters bounty hunter Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp, in a magnificent performance), who slowly resigns himself to be her mentor in handling a gun, after his initial indifference to the traumatized woman’s requests thaw. (Significantly, it is never suggested that Price himself should track down the rampaging threesome.) It is during the middle third of the film, where the two travel to Mexico to the coastal retreat of an expatriate Confederate gunsmith Bailey (Christopher Lee, seeming to relish the change from formula horror films) that the film settles into a fascinating seminar in the art of gunfighting. The Mexico sequences exude a almost Hemingwayesque tone in their spare economy of expression, that is both dramatically satisfying and emotionally rich. There is a beautifully captured moment with Hannie and Price in silhouette on the shoreline: Hannie, walking behind, takes his hand and the sudden, slight shift in Price’s gait speaks wordless volumes about how this hard man is imbued with an increased sense of purposefulness through the merest show of tenderness.
To read the complete review, click the following link to: https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/nites-at-the-rockville-drive-in/
Great look at a somewhat neglected film, and I posted a celebration of Raquel Welch for her 77th birthday last fall – another under-appreciated Icon! – https://johnrieber.com/2017/09/05/happy-77th-birthday-raquel-welch-dinosaur-slayer-burt-reynolds-feud-seinfeld-catfight-a-million-reasons-to-love-this-iconic-sex-kitten/
I went to see this on release at the cinema, and agree that it may well have been Culp’s career-best performance. I was attracted by the casting, (male roles) rather than the ‘revenge plot’, which I knew would probably have only one outcome. It failed for me due to the inclusion of some borderline slapstick and buffoonery, disguised as comedy, which I felt was not only unnecessary, but distracting. And I agree about Boyd’s role as The Preacher. He was only put in as a device to save her, and to appear as some kind of physical presence of her own conscience. Diana Dors was presumably included to widen the appeal to a British audience. I can think of no other reason.
Also spoiling it for me was the casting of Raquel Welch, who I have never much cared for as an actress. I was only 21 at the time, but left the cinema thinking I could have watched a better film, had there been a more skilled actress in the lead, instead of one chosen for her looks.
As usual, you summed it up perfectly, Chandler.
Best wishes, Pete.
I have not seen this. We will have to keep an eye out for it on cable.
Please do, and let me know what you think of it. I’d be very interested in your opinion of this.