Daily Archives: December 28, 2011

Hannie Caulder (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hannie gets her revenge.

Three outlaw brothers (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Strother Martin) on the run from a botched robbery come upon an isolated house in the dessert. There they kill the husband and then gang rape the wife whose name is Hannie Caulder (Raquel Welch). They set the house on fire and then ride away laughing.  She manages to escape the blaze and makes a personal pledge to get her revenge. She has never used a gun before in her life, but with the help of a kindly bounty hunter named Thomas Price (Robert Culp) she learns the art of being a gunfighter.

The film nicely symbolizes the emerging force of women in 70’s society while using it inside a western motif. When we first see her she is in the kitchen with an apron on and cooking.  She learns though how to survive in a man’s world, do everything they can, and earn their respect in the process. It follows the same formula used in later cult hits I Spit on Your Grave and Ms. 45 except those titles were far more explicit and violent.

Critic Leonard Maltin, in his review of the film, called it a ‘bizarre, mystical western’, but I saw little of that.  In a lot of ways it was very routine with the only difference coming in the fact that it was a women single-handily seeking revenge instead of a man. There were only a few offbeat qualities that stood out enough to be mentioned. One was detailing the making of a gun, which I found to be interesting as well as the Hannie’s training and the different, subtle techniques that a gunfighter uses. British horror actor Christopher Lee is cast as a Mexican gunsmith. There is also one shootout segment that is done in slow motion, which is very cool.  Otherwise the majority of it is standard fare that is adequate, but not real impressive.

The idea of having the bad guys play it up as comical goofballs was a mistake.  It hurts the tension because we should want to see Hannie get her justice on these guys.  It also seems to minimize the savage act that they do and make the brutal subject matter seem lighthearted and silly when it shouldn’t be. Now, with that said, I still found some of the lines Strother Martin was given to be amusing and he almost became a scene-stealer

Raquel is looking gorgeous and wears a few revealing outfits, but there is no actual nudity, which would have helped. I still feel her acting ability is a bit lacking and the range of characters that she can play is limited. I did like her attempt at portraying a gritty character and taking a role that wasn’t glamorous. For a leading lady she has very few lines of dialogue. It wasn’t until the end when she says a few snappy one-liners at the bad guys that her part begins to click.

Robert Culp is all wrong as the bounty hunter and love interest. He can be a good actor in certain roles.  I always liked him as Peter Falk’s main nemesis in the Columbo series, but here he just doesn’t seem rugged enough. He wears glasses and is middle-aged and looks like a tenured college professor instead of a gunfighter.  The budding romance between the two doesn’t work either. He was about 12 years older than Raquel and always behaved more like a father to her right from the start.  The scene showing them holding hands while walking along a beach seemed almost creepy.

To me the film doesn’t come together until the end when she tracks the outlaw brothers down one by one in unusual locales. One is at a whorehouse, the other in a ladies clothing store, and the third is in an abandoned prison. This is the best moment as the prison itself is very isolated and the sound of the blowing wind and the late afternoon sun gives the scene a lot of atmosphere.

This is not a bad movie, but it is not a particularly good one either.  It is quite compact, running only 85 minutes, and the pace is quick. Despite the subject matter it runs pretty much on the light side. Western and Welch enthusiasts may find this more interesting than others. Borgnine fans may also like it as he is effectively slimy here.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: November 8, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Burt Kennedy

Studio: Paramount

Available : VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video