Zandy's Bride (1974) Poster

(1974)

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"There's No Turnin' Back, Short O' Death"
stryker-513 December 1999
California in the mid-nineteenth century was a ravishingly lovely, sparsely-populated wilderness. The people of the coastal strip eked a living from their wooded valleys as small-scale cattlemen and dirt farmers. Their contact with the outside world (or with one another, for that matter) was limited.

Zandy Allan is a poor farmer and a bachelor. His smallholding in the steep hills above Big Sur is squalid and joyless. He has decided to obtain a wife because he wants sons to help him manage the livestock, and so he has answered a newspaper advertisement. His wife-to-be is a slight, attractive Scandinavian woman and she is travelling westwards from Minneapolis to meet him ...

A modest and engaging little western, "Zandy's Bride" relies solely on its two stars, Gene Hackman and Liv Ullman, for its interest. There are no stampedes or shootouts, no indian wars or lynchings. It is a quiet domestic piece, an essay on human character - no more, and no less.

"You don't know nothin' 'bout marriage," Zandy is told by his mother (Eileen Heckart), "'cept from pa an' me." And what a baleful example of conjugality the older Allans are. Without charm, verbal skills or even basic courtesy, Zandy's father treats his wife as if she were one of his animals. If Zandy is brutal and inflexible (and he is), it is small wonder. More than half an hour of Zandy's on-screen relationship with his wife passes before we even learn her name.

The only external events in the movie are the barbecue (was that term really current among Californian sodbusters 150 years ago?) and Zandy's foray to San Francisco. The barbecue's main plot function is to enable Zandy to be tempted by Maria (Susan Tyrrell). The San Francisco sojourn is the watershed in the marriage of Zandy and Hannah. When he returns, both partners have grown emotionally. Zandy has learnt to accommodate a will other than his own, and Hannah has become stronger by being a mother.

The two central performances are outstanding. Hackman in particular is terrific. He presents Zandy as a coarse, selfish thug and manages to retain our sympathy. As he sits at the table after returning from the city, his stream of different facial expressions is brilliant, his eyes flickering with conflicting feelings of bravado, hurt and anxiety to please.

The direction of Jan Troell (this being an American/Scandinavian co-production) is quiet and unspectacular but wholly competent. For example, Zandy is jostled by passers-by on the sidewalks of San Francisco, an economic way of showing us that he is unfamiliar with the ways of society. The incidental music by Franks and Carlin is superb, with its salty 'American vernacular' flavour. George Cronenwerth's cinematography is beautifully clear and attractive, capturing the feel of primitive rural life with its rich browns and ochres.

How on earth did they shoot the scene where Zandy injures his horse by driving it too hard up the slope?
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8/10
quiet western
blamar21 April 2002
I had read the book, and was looking forward to the movie.

Happily, I wasn't disappointed.

Zandy's Bride is the story of an unsociable, uncivilised, isolated man who sends for a mail order bride.

He has little experience around women other than his mother and treats his new wife rather badly.

It is an interesting character study of two people thrown together, and how they adapt to their new life together.
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10/10
a great film
suzyhart26 May 2008
This is a profoundly realistic and perfectly-acted story that goes much beyond the previous commenter's assertion. It is a portrait of far west ranch life at its most primal and difficult. Love was not the issue in that world. The cinematography and direction were also great. Gene Hackman and Liv Ullman are subtle actors who deliver in this overlooked but wonderful film. Although I only saw it once, the dramatic intensity and truthfulness of the tale stayed with me. I've always remembered this film, as standing outside the norm. The visual memory is black and white, though I think the film is in color. The few but intense human connections were poignant, the imagery lasting.
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9/10
Another 70's Gem
boodabill21 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is another poetic gem from the 70's, like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, has a stubborn, sexist male protagonist guiding the plot. His sexism, anger, and controlling character represents the egotism and ignorance of men throughout the ages. They had to learn how to be kind and considerate, but it was hard since they had no reference point in their experience and generations of fathers who acted the same.

Gene Hackman's breakthrough happens through the love and strength of Liv Ullman, in one of her all-time great performances.

Gene Hackman does a very difficult and dangerous horse riding stunt that has to be seen to be believed.

It's a simple Western drama, shot in spectacular scenery which acts as a background character and metaphor that draws you in. If you're bored, watch The Matrix and have it all done for you. This is not slow and plodding as others have said, it follows all the right story beats, moves compellinginly and logically and has an emotionally satisfying ending.
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One of the great TV movies
lanatr29 May 2004
Zandy's Bride is a unique film, in that its sense of realism is remarkably good. The character Hackman and Ullman portrayed are believable: strong, simple, independent, honery at times, solemn, determined to survive. Their portrayal is how I would have imagined earlier settlers in a harsh, and unforgiving environment to act.

I enjoy researching and reading about the common struggles of people throughout American history. All the more reason to give this film high praise, and again not because its tainted with Matrixisque, and any other high tech movie spillover, with its intense action, and depletion of substantive characterization. This film dealt with human conflict and the mistakes we consistently seem to make, before we are forced to face someone with whom we can trust and care for. This is one of the best films to watch in our day of complexity and lack of inspiration.. How and when can I watch it again, is my comment and question.
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9/10
Take a look
peerlessinid12 January 2008
Overlooked and HIGHLY underrated.

Gene Hackman and Liv Ullman are both superb in this film. Gene Hackman's performance is especially noteworthy.

I saw ZANDY'S BRIDE years ago, shortly after it was first released. It stuck with me. It's even better than I remembered.

I had trouble hunting down a copy as it hasn't been released on DVD. Like another terrific film, THE GREY FOX, a DVD really should be produced. Locating a VHS copy was worth the effort.

I definitely recommend checking it out if you are a fan of either actor.
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Views Like A Romance Novel
tracee4 October 2001
I really enjoyed this movie. It reminds me of some of the romance novels that I've read, especially those by Maggie Osborne. She writes very nice western themed romances. Like hers, this movie starts off with an unlikely pair who fall in love eventually after the usual stuff...cheating, overcoming stubbornness, and so on. Just a nice, entertaining and endearing movie that should be thought of and viewed as just that.
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4/10
Miscast outdoor saga with feminist leanings and routine character development
moonspinner5518 August 2010
Rugged, impolite frontiersman in Old West Northern California is immediately displeased with his mail-order bride when he sees that she has lied about her age; she's overwhelmed with the remoteness of his shack ("a pigsty") and by her new husband's unwashed, ungainly manner. Swedish director Jan Troell attempts to build momentum in this tumultuous relationship, but he does so like a bricklayer. One can practically check off the scenes from a list: the marriage rape, the visit from the old girlfriend, the husband's injury, the wife brushing out her lustrous hair in front of the fire. Troell is not a formulaic filmmaker, yet this nearly plays like a parody of his earlier "The Emigrants" (with a cartoonish Appalachian-flavored score and by-the-numbers male-female relations). Liv Ullmann's English has greatly improved, though she's still not convincing as a woman "from American stock" and her performance is disappointing; Gene Hackman, cast yet again as a snarling sonuvabitch, is somewhat more suited to the surroundings, but his character has no positive attributes (and watching his 'growth' isn't enlightening or surprising). The cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth and Frank M. Holgate is very good, and there are dramatic scene compositions which are intricate and well-realized, but this script is pretty dusty. *1/2 from ****
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8/10
I can't even imagine how lonesome and hard life must have been back then
Ed-Shullivan7 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Multiple Academy award winner Gene Hackman plays a lonely farmer named Zandy Allan. Zandy agrees to a financial arrangement for a mail order bride which in the mid 1800's was not unheard of but not common to the area either so Zandy wanted to try and be discrete about the arrangement. Into town comes a relatively attractive young woman of child bearing years named Hannah Lund who was originally born in Scandanavia but was more recently residing in Minnesota. Their initial meeting out on a street corner in the middle of town is strange but considering what each of these two strangers wanted out of the arrangement I could understand what each expected.

It is not very long before the audience realizes that Zandy Allan's many years of living off of his land alone and without anyone to talk to when he crawled into his bed each night, he would have difficulty relating to another person sharing his modest home, let alone sharing his bed. Zandy believes he has not found himself a wife to share a home with, but contrary to the way most people (male or female) would think, Zandy believed he had purchased and in fact owned Hannah who was expected to do his bidding, cook his meals, clean his clothes, and most certainly bear his children. These children would eventually be expected to help him maintain his farm as he grew older and weaker in the fields, and his bride Hannah was more of a piece of property than a life partner, thus the movie title Zandy's Bride.

I really enjoyed the films scenic emphasis on the land and the broad countryside, and how Zandy Allan's way of thinking was turned around from his concept of initially owning Hannah his mail order bride, to eventually appreciating Hannah as the woman he would fall truly in love with. This change of heart was prominently shown when Zandy takes his horse and buggy into the town of San Francisco, he gets himself a haircut and a shave, and then he goes into the local general store and in attempt of unselfishness proceeds to purchase a brand new expensive state of the art wood burning cast iron stove with four (4) elements. He takes the stove un-assembled onto his wagon and trudges the tens of miles home with his thoughtful gift that he assumes will impress Hannah that he has changed and that he does want for her to have an easier life living with him and raising "their" children.

Life in the mid 1850's was by no means easy, and Zandy's bride tells two peoples' story living in a remote area of the California mountains. The new husband and wife coming from different upbringings and different expectations somehow forge together and they find a way to appreciate what the other brings to their mail order bride relationship. Gene Hackman and Liv Ullman were both fantastic and made this hard living historical film well worth watching.

I rate the film an 8 out 10 and I wouldn't be surprised if in the years to come the Criterion Collection pick it up as a new release added to their extensive but exclusive library of noteworthy pictures.
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3/10
Dreary western; even fine performances by Ullmann and Hackman can't breathe life into this one.
barnabyrudge28 January 2003
Zandy's Bride is quite interesting because it deals with a theme that has become relevant again in the 21st century. It's about a mail order bride, and of course with the introduction of the Internet into the majority of modern homes, the idea shopping for a wife has once again reared its ugly head. Beyond the topicality, however, the film is a failure on most other counts.

Gene Hackman plays a rough and rugged pioneer living on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. He is waiting around for a mail order bride from Scandinavia, and when she arrives he mistreats her. It's not that he's a nasty man, more that he has lived a simple and uncomplicated life and he finds it hard to relate properly to another human being (especially of the opposite sex) after so many years of labouring away in such lonely surroundings.

The bride is played well by Liv Ullmann. The backdrop to the film is beautifully captured. Beyond the performances and the scenery, there's not much else to hold the attention. It's a boring film, critically hindered by the fact that it has too little to say and no notable plot to follow through to a logical conclusion. The unsuited pair meet, fall out a lot, and that's just about it. As much as I admire Hackman (worth watching in all his films... a real consummate actor), this one just isn't worth the effort. Skip it.
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5/10
Beyond the Big Sur
Prismark1023 November 2015
Gene Hackman was so prolific that even though he has retired from acting for over a decade you can still find a new performance from him even if it is some old, obscure film.

This is a bleak, dark but vacant Scandi-drama decades before they came in vogue with added crime mysteries.

Gene Hackman is a rugged rancher in the Big Sur. This is an isolated and backward community. A wilderness. He has ordered a mail order bride from Scandinavia. The main reason is that he wants sons who would take over the ranch from him before he gets too old.

When the wife arrives he effectively treats her as a slave and even forces himself on her. This is a tell it how it was in the old days in the 19th century.

Liv Ullmann plays his wife and she does not take it lying down and is determined to turn the farm into a home and turn him into somewhat respectable. Susan Tyrell plays a floozy that Hackman seems to have has past dalliance with. Hackman is wary of her, this is a clannish community with hints of inbreeding. Hackman does not want bad blood hence why he has got a wife from the outside.

There is an outdoor barbecue scene where we learn a little about this isolated community and also Hackman's family life. If you think Hackman is bad, he is a progressive compared to his father. Hackman's mother is very much aware what Ullman is going through and knows how hard life and her own husband has been to her.

Hackman and Ullman resolve to make their marriage work and she rewards him with issue. In turns he softens a little, he gets her nice clothes and even a stove from San Francisco.

The film is a slow burn drama but not much action. For those of us, myself included whose only experience of The Big Sur is the coastal route to LA to San Francisco or vice-versa this is an insight to a real community that once lived beyond the roads.

The film is rewarded with wonderful photography but the film feels empty despite rich performances.
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4/10
Zandy's Deride
tracywinters-4433227 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Stupid cowboy marries a foreigner chick desperate to settle down.

Gene Hackman is as good as can be expected, but this story goes nowhere fast with episodic scenes that result to a jumbled collage through a seamless lack of continuity. Some supporting actors are good: Susan Tyrell and Eileen Heckart. Some stink: Joe Santos.

Dumb character development includes Hackman being too much of a half-wit to soften up to his new wife (Liv Ullman), and also when he goes on hiatus to San Francisco but decides to return to Ullman bearing gifts and a make-over -- Hackman buys all new clothes except for his hat. He likes that floppy old thing stinking on top of his head.

Unnecessary western with a predictable and unsatisfying ending.
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