Well, folks, it's time to move from traditional. Now we go from the typical spaghetti westerns, the classics, and the epics. It's time to go underrated, underappreciated, and downright bleak and depressing. This is not your typical western. But it's a damn good one. Here we have a film that's close to my heart and one I hope to pay homage to for the WQ3 promo video. It's also one of those kick-butt films released in 1971, one of many (this includes Dirty Harry, The Godfather, Straw Dogs, Bruce Lee's The Big Boss/Fists of Fury, and Godzilla vs. Hedorah).
Cowpokes, I bring thee:THE HUNTING PARTYTrailer
(Poor Quality)The Stats:Director:
Oliver Reed, Candice Bergin, and Gene HackmanType:
Spaghetti/Peckinpah inspired U.S. WesternSupercool Trivia:
Filmed in Spain! (seems to use some of the locations from Long Days Of Vengeance)Availability:
Rare - Amazon US
- Doesn't seem to be any other release than Region 1. Sorry, Euroes!! The Content:Checklist:Band Of Outlaws - CHECK!
Posse Badguys - CHECK!
Silly Music - CHECK!
Spanish Filming Locations - CHECK!
Peckinpah-style Slo-Mo - CHECK!
Supercool SHARPS RIFLES - VERY MUCH CHECK!
Bleak Walk In The Sandy Desert - CHECK!
Gorgeous Nature Flourishes/Expanses - CHECK!
`70s Exploitation Movie Rape - CHECK!
Bad Guy Torturing Innocents - CHECK! (prostitute + cigar)
Huge Peckinpah-style Bloodsquibs - CHECK!
Dissolve to "B&W Photo" - CHECK!
Animal Violence - CHECK! (cow killing, lots of shot horses)
Bummer 70s Ending - CHECK!The Review:
I thank my dad for a lot of things. Amongst them, playing a part in my creation! But, seriously, a big one I'm thankful for is his movie suggestions. Although I have a way of finding newer obscure stuff from Asia, my dad was an ?ber-geek of movies when he was young and saw a lot of films from America. (he grew up in Sri Lanka and Africa, btw) And if he didn't see it, he heard of it and wanted to see it. One such film in one of those categories, I can't recall which, was The Hunting Party. A bleak and dark western featuring the always-intense Oliver Reed (what I wouldn't give to see him and Patrick McGoohan face off, hah
) and a very bastardy Gene Hackman squaring off over a woman. The one thing he mentioned that got me hooked immediately (as I'm sure he knew would) - Sharps Rifle usage to a high degree.
The film starts out in an emotionally violent way, giving vicious harmony to a stark beginning with a cow being killed by outlaw Frank Calder (Reed) crosscut with the wife (Bergin) of land-owner Brandt Ruger (Hackman) getting some harsh "honey, that's too rough" sex from her husband. Setting a tone about the characters and the overall vibe of the film (of men who violently abuse God's creatures, be it animal or human), the film goes into "deliberately paced 60s/70s film" mode, giving us some set up. We have the Brandt going on a hunting trip with his buddies, on his own personal train, all set up to have some fun with fine eatings and some hookers; leaving their wives and families behind for now. Now alone, Brandt's wife, Melissa, goes to her task in the area as a School Teacher. Things don't go as normal for very long, though, as Frank's gang roll through town and kidnap Melissa. The only reason given is that Frank, being an illiterate outlaw, wants to learn how to read.
Of course, word spreads to Brandt and his folks, and the Hunting Party decides that maybe some outlaws would be good game to take down with their shiny new Sharps Rifles, with a range of up to 800 yards.
There's a lot of typical directions the film takes and I won't really talk too much about it. Obviously, Frank and Melissa grow close, as we've come to realize that Brandt is a complete and utter trashbomb of a human being. And as the film progresses, you see the claustrophobic squeeze of the Hunting Party and the diminishing numbers of the Outlaws create a further grim and hopeless atmosphere. Things aren't going to end well.
But to be honest, that's what makes this film kind of special. Although films like most of Corbucci's westerns and many other westerns at the time were experimenting with the new "bummer ending" that the late-60s/early-70s was playing with; there's an air of true hopelessness to the events that take place after the first gunshot that stays and grows with the rest of the movie. It's a hell of a dark descent to go on.
But hey, while you're at it, check out the amazing scenery!
Featuring what is easily some of the best location scouting of an American western, there's some great Spain dry riverbeds, open fields, and even forests that're used for the film that are some of the most memorable locations I've seen in a western. It was one thing that really took me by surprise, how amazingly vivid the locations appared through their cinematography. I know I was going gaga over the areas from Long Riders, too, but this is a much different type of look and one that really defines the film in a great way. I mean, granted, after seeing Long Days of Vengeance (which used the same dry riverbed), some impact is loss to me now, I can't let it get to me that much. Just look at the pics below (well, when I post'em, it's late here) and you'll see what I mean.
The areas where the film is shot, though, are a great setting for the violence and grisly death that ensues once the Hunting Party catches up. This is definitely a post-Peckinpah western, since the squibs are big, they're nasty, and the shots are brutal. There's a few when they're at a watering hole that appear to be on bare skin that I will say are not only just
good-for-their-time gore splats, but hold up in technology even today (if only Robert Rodriguez had used this for Navajas, ya know?). But even when it's just through clothing as you're used to, the execution of these kills are astoundingly brutal and well-worth seeing for wannabe filmmakers like me.
It's very believable and at times a little heartbreaking when it gets later on in the film. But if you ever wanted to see some serious, harsh Sharps Rifle usage - this is where it's at!
There's more I could go into, like Hackman's awesome job as a total asshole (an archetype he did so well in this, Prime Cut, and French Connection), Oliver Reed's amazingly balanced take on Frank Calder, and the extremely fun-to-watch spunkiness and resilience of Candice as Melissa. I could go into the pretty damn good Riz Ortolani score. The "wow, that's a nice shot" camera work. And a few more things, too. But it's late, I'm tired, and this is a film that's best seen, THEN talked about. It's not maybe as fantastically perfect as the other films so-far suggested, but it's a damn fine piece of work that's worthy of being brought to the forefront. It's not your typical 70s exploitation movie and it's not your typical U.S. western.
Thumbs, scopes, and jars of peaches up! The Pics: