A pair of grizzled frontiersmen fight Indians, guzzle liquor, and steal squaws in their search for a legendary valley 'so full of beaver that they jump right into your traps' in this fanciful adventure.
In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
In the early 20th century, some convicts while on a road gang escape and one of the convicts is Zach Provo, a half Indian, who was sent to prison during the latter part of the 19th century. He escapes with 6 others to exact vengeance on Sam Burgade the lawman who not only captured him but was also responsible for the death of Provo's wife, at least in Provo's mind. Part of his plan is to kidnap Burgade's daughter, which prompts him to strap on his guns and go after him on horseback. Can Burgade who has been retired for sometime still have what it takes to track Provo down? Written by
Peckinpah-style western from a man who studied under Ford
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.
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