6.8/10
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42 user 26 critic

Bite the Bullet (1975)

A group of ex-rough riders, an ex-prostitute and a gunfighter enter a horse race in the desert.

Director:

Richard Brooks

Writer:

Richard Brooks
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gene Hackman ... Sam Clayton
Candice Bergen ... Miss Jones
James Coburn ... Luke Matthews
Ben Johnson ... Mister
Ian Bannen ... Sir Harry Norfolk
Jan-Michael Vincent ... Carbo
Robert Donner ... Reporter
Jean Willes ... Rosie
Mario Arteaga Mario Arteaga ... Mexican
Dabney Coleman ... Jack Parker
John McLiam ... Gebhardt
Bob Hoy ... Lee Christie (as Robert Hoy)
Jerry Gatlin Jerry Gatlin ... The Wood Cutter
Sally Kirkland ... Honey
Walter Scott ... Steve (as Walter Scott Jr.)
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Storyline

At the beginning of the 20th century, a newspaper organizes an endurance horse race: 700 miles to run in a few days. 9 adventurers are competing, among them a woman, Miss Jones, a Mexican, an Englishman, a young cowboy, an old one and two friends, Sam Clayton and Luke Matthews. All those individualists will learn to respect each other. Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Western Classic in the tradition of 'Shane' and 'High Noon'. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

1 May 1975 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

700 Meilen westwärts See more »

Filming Locations:

Jacob Lake, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$11,000,000, 31 December 1975
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of three cinema movies where actor Gene Hackman played a character with the first name of "Sam". The feature films are Bite the Bullet (1975) - Sam Clayton ; Company Business (1991) - Sam Boyd ; and The Chamber (1996) - Sam Cayhall. See more »

Goofs

Gene Hackman's character describes the American charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba (July 1, 1898). He says the enemy guarded the church on top with French 75mm artillery guns. But these weren't officially adopted by the French military until that March, and were first seen in public in that year's Bastille Day celebration (July 14). French 75's were used during the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) in China and during World War I (1914-1918) in Europe--but never in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Gebhardt: I heard your newspaper is running an honest race.
Reporter: You heard right, Mr. Gebhardt.
Gebhardt: Who the hell handicapped this owlhead as the favorite?
J.B. Parker: The smart money!
Gebhardt: That's what we come to get.
See more »

Alternate Versions

UK version is cut (ca. 10 sec.) to remove sight of cruelty to horses (illegal horse falls) due to the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937. See more »

Connections

Featured in Behind the Action: Stuntmen in the Movies (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the best westerns of the '70s.
23 November 2005 | by barnabyrudgeSee all my reviews

By the 1970s, the western genre was virtually exhausted and many of the westerns made around that time were either cheaply-made, badly-dubbed European offerings, or depressingly violent revenge westerns (e.g The Hunting Party, The Revengers, The Deadly Trackers, The Last Hard Men, etc.) Bite The Bullet, however, is a happy exception. Not only does it resist the '70s urge to show gore and brutality, it also manages to come up with a plot that is actually quite novel. It also marks an example of the "third-time-lucky" adage for Gene Hackman.... for this was his third western of the '70s, and the first of real quality (his previous two - The Hunting Party and Zandy's Bride - being pretty terrible if truth be known).

At the turn-of-the-century, various riders gather in a Wild West town to compete in an endurance horse race of some 700 miles or so. Among those seeking the glory and the romance are English gentleman Norfolk (Ian Bannen); young show-offy hot-head Carbo (Jan-Michael Vincent); a rugged old man in search of a final moment of honour (Ben Johnson); a poor Mexican with serious dental problems (Mario Ateaga); feisty female entrant Jones (Candice Bergen); former Rough Rider Luke Matthews (James Coburn); and introspective horse-lover Sam Clayton (Gene Hackman). As they ride through forests, deserts and mountains toward the finishing line, the riders get involved in various adventures and tragedies. Some lose their horses along the trail; others are even less fortunate and lose their lives.

Bite The Bullet is a very good western, with convincing performances from its all-star cast and luscious cinematography from the great Harry Stradling Jr. The opening quarter of the film is fairly slow, with time given over to the character introductions and a little probing into the motivations of each rider. However, this proves worthwhile later as the fate of each rider gains significant power because the audience has come to understand - to know, if you like - the various characters. On the whole, the period detail and the dialogue seem impeccable. Alex North's score is good, and adds an extra dimension to the proceedings. The only flaw worth mentioning is that the film's structure - perhaps inevitably - is rather episodic.... every few minutes, the narrative jumps to another rider and follows their adventures for a scene or two before jumping again to another character. There was probably no way to avoid this, but it is occasionally tedious and frustrating for the viewer (because just as they are "getting into" the plight of one rider the action cuts away to the plight of another). Aside from this minor flaw, Bite The Bullet is a highly impressive film and easily earns a spot on the top-ten-westerns-of-the-'70s list.


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