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This hard-hitting, often violent western in the Peckinpah/Leone
tradition is surprisingly directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, whose
previous westerns (particularly those that starred John Wayne) were
mainly in the John Ford mode. It is both surprisingly traditional (good
guys/bad guys) and incredible up-to-date as well.
Heston portrays a former captain of the Arizona territorial police who has been in retirement for a year, having turned over the law enforcement reins to a reform-minded sheriff (Michael Parks) and finding his ways of enforcing the law being taken over by autos, telegraphs, telephones, and the railroad in the first years of the 20th century. But soon he is confronted with a menace from his past--a half-breed outlaw (Coburn) that he put away more than a decade before for a train robbery that killed four guards. In a subsequent shootout, Coburn's wife was killed; and so Coburn is out for a most nasty sort of revenge. It involves the kidnapping and, eventually, the rape of Heston's daughter (Hershey) by him and his gang. The result is a taut and violent pursuit through the mountains and deserts of southern Arizona.
THE LAST HARD MEN, based on Brian Garfield's novel "Gun Down", is violent in many places, including the showdown between Heston and Coburn, and the rape scene involving Hershey and two members of Coburn's gang (Quade, Paull) is probably every bit as questionable as similar scenes in STRAW DOGS and DELIVERANCE. But that doesn't detract too terribly much from the film's psychological approach to the western genre. McLaglen is able to handle the bloody story with significant panache, and Heston's performance as an aging lawman was probably the best one he ever gave in any of his 1970s films. Coburn makes for an especially cold-blooded heavy, and both Parks and Chris Mitchum (as Hershey's intended husband) do good turns as well. The music here is cribbed from Jerry Goldsmith's scores to 100 RIFLES and the 1966 remake of STAGECOACH, but it still works here.
Wisely filmed totally on location in southeastern Arizona, and utilizing the Old Tucson set, THE LAST HARD MEN needs to be released by Fox on VHS and/or DVD soon. It is a western that deserves nothing less.
A nice departure from the mainstream, "good guys wear white hats",
product typical of the genre. First released in the 1970's, the movie
followed in the experimental trend of the day begun with the "Spaghetti
Westerns" starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, etc.
Both the protagonist and antagonist are throwbacks to an earlier time. Charlton Heston is somewhat dismayed and bewildered by the technological changes thrust upon him while James Coburn's character simply disregards them. The two men become locked in an ego battle that disregards all those around them except to the extent others are useful in pursuing their own personal goals. Both characters are incredible "hard men", physically, mentally, and emotionally and this aspect of their personalities plays out in single-minded, intense violence and cruelty.
The plot is nothing new, however. Coburn plays an escaped convict bent on avenging himself against Heston, the lawman who captured him. Coburn manipulates a gang of mostly dimwitted but dangerous criminals who kidnap Heston's daughter. Heston then chases them across hill and dale in an attempt to save her.
The Last Hard Men finds James Coburn an outlaw doing a long sentence
breaking free from a chain gang. Do he and his friends head for the
Mexican border from jail and safety. No they don't because Coburn has a
mission of revenge. To kill the peace officer who brought him in and in
the process killed his woman.
That peace officer is Charlton Heston who is now retired and he knows what Coburn is after. As he explains it to his daughter, Barbara Hershey, Coburn was holed up in a shack and was involved in a Waco like standoff. His Indian woman was killed in the hail of bullets fired. It's not something he's proud of, she was a collateral casualty in a manhunt.
Lest we feel sorry for Coburn he lets us know full well what an evil man he truly is. Heston is his usual stalwart hero, but the acting honors in The Last Hard Men go to James Coburn. He blows everyone else off the screen when he's on.
Coburn gets the bright idea of making sure Heston trails him by kidnapping Hershey and taking her to an Indian reservation where the white authorities can't touch him. He knows that Heston has to make it personal then.
Coburn's gang includes, Morgan Paull, Thalmus Rasulala, John Quade, Larry Wilcox, and Jorge Rivero. Heston has Chris Mitchum along who is his son-in-law to be.
The Last Hard Men is one nasty and brutal western. Andrew McLaglen directed it and I'm thinking it may have been a project originally intended for Sam Peckinpaugh. It sure shows a lot of his influence with the liberal use of slow motion to accentuate the violence. Of which there is a lot.
For a little Peckinpaugh lite, The Last Hard Men is your film.
I've seen this film on Sky Cinema not too long ago.. I must admit, it
was a really good Western which features 2 of the big names.. On one
side, there's Charlton Heston, playing the infamous and retired lawman
Samuel Burgade. On the other.. The late James Coburn playing the
villainous Zach Provo.. seeking revenge on Burgade no matter what the
The good thing about this film was there was some really good characters.. Most of the actors played it out really well.. Especially James Coburn, who I find that he was really mean in this film.. But that how it was..
Christopher Mitchum, who I've seen everywhere in other films.. Playing Hal Brickman.. I felt his character was left out in the cold, but he manage to get himself back in by teaming up with Burgade, to bring down Provo's posse's!
All in all, it was a great film.. Very good to watch.. Great score from the late Jerry Goldsmith..
Wonderful piece of Western persona..! 8 out of 10.
In the early 20th century, a bandit named Zach Provo, a half Indian,
(Provo well played by James Coburn , who was sent to prison during the
latter part of the 19th century) leads a band of outlaw convicts on a
jailbreak . Provo (Sean Connery and Robert Shaw were considered for the
role) along with with 6 others to exact vengeance on Sam Burgade (a
tough-guy splendidly performed by Charlton Heston) , an upright lawman
, whose daughter (a very young Barbara Hershey) is abducted and
threatening to gang-rape her . Provo seeks vendetta on Burgade because
he not only captured him but was also responsible for the death of
Provo's wife, at least in Provo's mind . At the beginning , the wild
bunch holds up a train and attempt a bank until a bloody vengeance .
The misfit group is formed by cutthroat guys (Jorge Rivero , Larry
Wilcox , Thalmus Rasulala , Morgan Paull , John Quade ,Robert Donner)
who kidnap the daughter and threat to rape but it goes wrong . This is
the story about some men making their last stand and carrying out a
merciless revenge .
This decent Western packs lots of action , shootouts, and explosive violence , including some tasteless images . Go riding , crossfire and fights provide some welcome distraction . Taut excitement throughout , beautifully photographed and spectacular bloodletting filmed in slow moving ; it was shot "in the style of Sam Peckinpah" . Rich in texture and including intelligent screenplay full of incredibly violent scenes . However , it has some appalling and disgusting rape frames entirely out of place . This motion picture is set in 1909 Arizona which is arguably right at the end of the old wild American western frontier era period if not it already having ended by the 1890s , as there is an occasional elegiac tone lamenting the passing of the West . This Western picture was based on the novel "Gun Down" by Brian Garfield ; and it was made and released about five years after its source book that had been first published in 1971 . Vibrant as well as brilliant all-star-cast displays exceptional performances . Charlton Heston is perfect as a veteran ex-sheriff with his own ethic codes . This is Charlton Heston's last name rhymes with Western , four years after this 1976 film, Heston would co-star in 1980's Mountain Men , another good western . James Coburn is terrific as a convict sets into motion plan of revenge on old Marshall . Furthermore , good secondaries such as and Jorge Rivero , Larry Wilcox , Thalmus Rasulala , Morgan Paull , John Quade , Robert Donner and Michael Parks as reform-minded Marshal. Enjoyable musical score , Jerry Goldsmith is credited with "Music" on the film's credits, the credit is misleading as he composed no original score for the film, instead it was tracked with cues from four other westerns he scored: 100 rifles (1969) ; Río Conchos (1964); Morituri (1965) and Stagecoach (1966) , which is why he did not receive a credit like "Original Music composed & Conducted by". Colorful and evocative cinematography in Panavisión by Duke Callaghan , Peckinpah's usual , and portions of this film were photographed at Old Tucson Studios, Tucson, Arizona .
This actioner motion picture was professionally directed by the veteran director of Westerns Andrew V. McLaglen , though Jack Smight and possibly Stuart Rosenberg were considered for the director . This was final cinema movie western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen who was a veteran of the genre . McLaglen though continued to direct a few more westerns for television. Andrew V. McLaglen, the veteran director of Westerns, is son of great actor Victor McLagen and known John Ford's disciple . Andrew holds the distinction of directing the most episodes of "Gunsmoke" . Furthermore , he holds the honor of filmmaking the most episodes of ¨Have gun , Will travel" (1957). And is one of the few directors to have directed both Clint Eastwood and John Wayne . He's a Western expert (McLintock, Shenandoah, Bandolero, Chisum, Cahill, Way west) and warlike specialist , such as proved in several films ( Return to Kwai, Wild Geese , Dirtdozen: the next mission, Sea wolves, Breakthrough ) . The Last Hard Men is a real must see for fans of the genre in Peckinpah style . Rating : Nice , acceptable and passable , 6 .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Seething with hatred and revenge half breed Zach Provo,
James Coburn, had spent the last 11 years on a chain gang planing his
escape. What Provo want's more then freedom is to even the score with
the man who captured him and in the process, during a wild shootout,
killed his Navajo wife: The former Pima County sheriff Sam Burgade,
Making his escape after killing two prison guards Provo makes his way towards Yuma knowing that that's not just where Burgade lives but where his his young daughter Susan, Barbara Hershey,resides as well. Using his fellow escaped convicts to lure Burgade into the vast Arizona Desert, by promising them $30,000.00 in gold coins that he buried there, Provo plans to exact his bloody vengeance on Burgade. But only after having him witness his daughter being brutally raped by his fellow convicts or are, in not being with a woman for years, as horny as a rabbit during mating season!
Brutal and very effective western that updates the John Wayne 1956 classic "The Searchers" in a father searching through dangerous Indian territory for his kidnapped daughter. Charlton Heston as the guilt-ridden Sam Burgade in his felling somehow responsible for killing Provo's wife and then having to face the fact that the same thing can very well happen to his daughter Susan is perfect in the role of the aging and retired sheriff. Charles Coburn as the vengeful half breed Zach Provo is also at his best as the obsessed with hatred and murder escaped convict.
The man who escaped with Provo are really not interest in his personal affairs but have no choice, in that he knows the territory like the back of his hand, but to go along with him. It's only the thought of them having their way with Susan, when Provo gives them the green light, as well as the buried $30,000.00 in gold coins that keeps them from breaking up and going their own way.
Also going along with Burgade is Susan's boyfriend Hal Brickman, Chris Mitchum, who proves in the end that he's as good as Burgade is, who felt that he just didn't have it in him, in both tracking down the escaped criminals as well as using common sense, which in this case Burgade lacks, in doing it.
***SPOILERS**** The unbelievably brutal and blood splattered showdown between Burgade and Provo is almost too much to sit through. Provo who's hatred of Burgade bordered on out right insanity wanted him to suffer a slow and excruciating death. it was that hatred that Bugrade took advantage of and, after taking some half dozen bullets, thus ended up putting the crazed and blood thirsty, as well as mindless, lunatic away for good!
This is a minor 70s Western, directed with rather too much stolidity by
Andrew V. McLaglen. Heston hasn't quite got the form in the genre to
pull off the ageing lawman role, although you can certainly see his
ornery old Republican role being practised before your eyes; Coburn is
good as the psychotic halfbreed outlaw looking for revenge, but he
needed a director who encouraged him to loosen up more and go loco.
The film does score points, though, in its nastiness. There is a genuinely sadistic universe on show here, as if in the last days of the Wild West the outlaw and the marshal both were reduced to being little more than collections of violent spasms, each twitch aimed at causing some torment to another human being, and each situation causing more twitchin'.
This one came out during the Western genre’s last gasp; unfortunately,
it emerges to be a very minor and altogether unsatisfactory effort –
even if made by and with veterans in the field! To begin with, the plot
offers nothing remotely new: James Coburn escapes from a chain gang,
intent on killing the man (now retired) who put him there – Charlton
Heston. While the latter lays a trap for him, Coburn outwits Heston by
kidnapping his daughter (Barbara Hershey). Naturally, the former lawman
– accompanied by Hershey’s greenhorn fiancé (Chris Mitchum) – sets out
in pursuit of Coburn and his followers, all of whom broke jail along
Rather than handling the proceedings in his customary sub-Fordian style, McLaglen goes for a Sam Peckinpah approach – with which he’s never fully at ease: repellent characters, plenty of violence, and the sexual tension generated by Hershey’s presence among Coburn’s lusty bunch. Incidentally, Heston and Coburn had previously appeared together in a Sam Peckinpah Western – the troubled MAJOR DUNDEE (1965; I really need to pick up the restored edition of this one on DVD, though I recently taped the theatrical version in pan-and-scan format off TCM UK). Anyway, the film is too generic to yield the elegiac mood it clearly strives for (suggested also by the title): then again, both stars had already paid a fitting valediction to this most American of genres – WILL PENNY (1968) for Heston and Coburn with PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (1973)!
At least, though, Heston maintains a modicum of dignity here – his ageing character attempting to stay ahead of half-breed Coburn by anticipating what his next move will be; the latter, however, tackles an uncommonly brutish role and only really comes into his own at the climax (relishing his moment of vengeance by sadistically forcing Heston to witness his associates’ gang-rape of Hershey). Apart from the latter, this lengthy sequence sees Heston try to fool Coburn with a trick borrowed from his own EL CID (1961), the villainous gang is then trapped inside a bushfire ignited by the practiced Heston and the violent death of the two ‘obsolete’ protagonists (as was his fashion, Heston’s demise takes the form of a gratuitous sacrifice!).
The supporting cast includes Michael Parks as the ineffectual town sheriff, Jorge Rivero as Coburn’s Mexican lieutenant, and Larry Wilcox – of the TV series CHiPs! – as the youngest member of Coburn’s gang who’s assigned the task of watching over Hershey (while doing his best to keep his drooling mates away!). Jerry Goldsmith contributes a flavorful but, at the same time, unremarkable score.
Commonplace Western has James Coburn as a half-breed outlaw escaping from a chain gang and setting out for torturous revenge on retired sheriff Charlton Heston, who also was responsible for the death of Coburn's wife. Heston is ready to confront him, so the criminal kidnaps Chuck's daughter (Barbara Hershey) to outsmart him. The two tough guy actors are pretty good, and there is an attempt to make the action live up to its "R" rating with some bloody shots and a rape sequence, but what used to be violent in 1976 is not as strong today and the overall results are pretty standard. Jerry Goldsmith's score is spirited. Also features young Michael Parks as the current new sheriff. **1/2 out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Charles Coburn and half a dozen other prisoners escape from jail.
They're pretty dangerous hombres. The call goes out for the retired
territorial law officer Charlton Heston to strap on his guns again,
though he's out of practice. The last time he rode a horse was years
ago. This is the early 1900s. Teddy Roosevelt is president. There are
railroads, telegraph, telephones, autoMObiles, and television sets.
Well, not that, but everything has been modernized in the West except
Heston and Coburn, sworn enemies of each other in the old-fashioned
Coburn is a smart bandido. Instead of immediately trying to rob the nearest gold, he kidnaps Heston's daughter, Barbara Hershey, and the gang ride off with her. Coburn realizes that Heston and the posse will be forced to follow them. He plots an ambush.
Does all of this sound familiar? It ought to. It's one of those "end-of-the-trail" Westerns that were popular during the 70s. Sam Pekinpah's "The Wild Bunch" was about the end of the old West. So was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Both were monumental hits, and a number of similar Westerns, "The Shootist", for instance, did well too.
Andrew V. McLaglen was an acolyte under John Ford, but Ford's humanity and sentiment were becoming antiquated. The Western -- hell, the world itself -- was becoming cynical and brutalized, as Pekinpah's work demonstrated. McLaglen's heart here is with Ford but the time called for a new and bloodier approach. As a director, McLaglen was never a genius, always a stalwart, but here he seems, like Buridan's ass, to have starved between two haystacks.
I didn't find it anything more than routine. Even the violence was routine by this time.
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