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Jill St. John
The rich and ruthless rancher Brandt Ruger keeps his beautiful young wife Melissa like a part of his property, subdued to his will. But one day she's kidnapped by the famous outlaw Frank Calder - just to teach him reading, so he tells her. Calder doesn't know or care who's wife she is. He takes care of her well, and eventually Melissa falls in love with him. But Ruger feels humiliated. Full of hate, he sets out to kill him - and Melissa too, if necessary. Together with his friends and the newest technology in guns, which carry 800 yards, he initiates a battue on Calder and his gang. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
The first of three films that Candice Bergen made with Gene Hackman in the 70s, the others being the equally reviled The Domino Killings (1977) and the much more acclaimed Bite the Bullet (1975). Although they only share a handful of scenes in this film, Bergen is on record as saying she learned more about film acting from Hackman in their films together than from any other quarter. See more »
Gene Hackman's rifle (the caliber of which was unclear) is sufficiently powerful to kill from several hundred yards, yet he presses his eye against the scope eyepiece with no consequences. Any rifle that powerful has a significant kick, one that would have certainly damaged both his eye and the surrounding area. See more »
Heavily flawed western but grim, bloody and gritty enough to be a decent addition to the early 70's canon
A group of hired gunmen travelling north to participate in a range war (presumambly someplace like Kansas or Wyoming, as the story by all accounts seem to take place in the early 1880's) kidnap a hapless woman from a small town while her husband, a mean, sadistic sonofabitch cattle baron, is engaged in a hunting trip with his upper class buddies. Few people in any kind of audience, then or now, would have trouble spelling out this kind of plot in advance, how the woman will fall in love with her kidnapper while the husband realizes she's lost to him forever, but, seeing how this is a 44. Magnum, the most powerful handg- hey, waitaminute. Seeing how this is the pessimistic and violent movie world of the early 70's we're talking about, if it's going to be predictable, you can at least be sure it's going to be bloody and grim and nihilistic in the process.
You know it's a grim movie you're going to see when it opens with a shot of Gene Hackman roughing up his wife a little in that particularly mean-spirited way that made him such an endearing villain in the early 70's (and which he reprised for Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN winning his second Oscar) intercut with shots of a cow being slaughtered. At least director Don Medford is upfront about it. The movie remains pretty unflinching in the portrayal of violence. Almost every actor is propped with blood squibs at some point in the film while others not lucky to be shot out of horses in slow motion get knives in their necks and buckshot in their faces. The Hunting Party is dinstictly a product of its time, a loyal retracing of the steps back to THE WILD BUNCH instead of taking the genre to new areas, belonging to that particularly bloody and violent American western niche that followed in the wake of Peckinpah's film (along with others like Chato's Land, The Revengers, The Deadly Trackers etc). Subverting and taking off the rose-tinted glasses the far west mythos was seen with by people like John Wayne, who cared so much about perceived values and ideals he had to make RIO BRAVO in response to Gary Cooper throwing down his star in HIGH NOON, taking a closer, more realistic look, if not at authentic period detail, then at least at how people were shot and killed.
All blood and clamor aside however, The Hunting Party is just not a very good movie. Medford's average-to-poor direction and the fact it's 20 minutes too long make sure it won't be seeing top lists anytime soon. And then there's the script. That Brandt Ruger (Gene Hackman) curiously refrains from shooting Frank Calder, the man who kidnapped his wife and whom he specifically set out to kill, when he gets plenty of chances to do so, seems to occur for no other reason than to stretch a final showdown that could have taken place in the first half hour into almost two hours. The acting is in turns okay and wooden, generally of the 'good enough' or 'will have to do' variety. Oddly enough for a cast featuring a man who would go on to win the Oscar that same year for THE FRENCH CONNECTION and kickstart a brilliant career, the best thing about The Hunting Party is a man who made a career out playing Athos in The Three Musketeers. Oliver Reed looks just right for the part, in a role that would be played probably by Richard Boone 20 years earlier and Javier Bardem twenty years later. When he tries to emote and just do anything that doesn't involve looking mean and badass, he faulters, but he looks mean and badass for all but maybe 2 minutes in the film.
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