Hannie Caulder (1971)
Director: Burt Kennedy
“Your bottom’s wet” says a sheriff to Raquel Welch, in Hannie Caulder, “so is your chin…” she replies. This exchange follows a series of shots that zoom in on said bottom while Welch was shrinking a pair of leather pants in a bathtub. Scenes like that are definitely long on sexism and short on subtlety, but I guess as long as it’s Raquel Welch, who’s complaining? The plot of this movie is basic enough, and one that was a favorite of movies in the 70s. Hannie Caulder is raped, her husband murdered, by a trio of criminals who had just robbed the local bank, played by the best combination of western character actors I’ve ever seen in Strother Martin, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Elam. After this unfortunate tragedy, Caulder sets out for revenge, befriending a gunfighter by the very British sounding name of Thomas Luther Price (this is a British western after all played by Robert Culp, to teach her how to shoot. Burt Kennedy directs with an eye towards beautiful vistas, and creative shots (loved the opening view through the barrel of a shotgun), which while lovely, seem oddly out of place in the world of a revenge western in the 70s, (they would be perfectly at home in a 50s western or a Kevin Costner western…).
The strengths of this movie are mostly in the actors and the simplicity of the plot. Raquel Welch does a respectable, if not exactly earth shattering job of acting, but she does mesmerizing job of being Raquel Welch, which is all that is asked of her in most scenes. Culp is good as the reserved gunslinger, although I would have liked to have seen Jason Robards in the role personally, then again when it comes to westerns I’d like Jason Robards to star in just about all of them. Martins, Borgnine, and Elam make for an amusing bumbling trio of villains. That their roles are played for laughs instead of outright brutality is problematic plotwise, but not majorly so here. The attention to detail here is minimal. Take one scene, right after Hannie has been raped and her man killed, she digs him a grave, dressed only in a parka, and at the end of said grave digging she has not a drop of sweat or dirt upon her, and her hair is perfectly done up. For all she has went through in the previous few moments, that is most impressive. The effects are standard for the error. The bright red paint that passed for blood splatters all over the place whenever someone is shot. This movie is equal parts Karate Kid (with the training montages) Django Unchained, with the revenge storyline, and Barbarella, with the abundant eye candy. A strange mash-up, but then again, this is also a British Spaghetti Western, which are three words which normally would never appear next to each other in any way, shape, or form.