By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Hunters out for revenge.
Rex (Cliff Robertson) is a man who really enjoys hunting and especially likes his guns, just watch the way he cleans and caresses it at the beginning, it’s almost obscene. He takes his buddies out on a hunting party in the woods. They come upon a group of other hunters and for some inexplicable reason they begin shooting at each other until one of the men in the other party dies. Rex and his group go back home sure that the police will be contacted and an investigation to pursue, but that doesn’t happen, so Rex thinks they are out for revenge instead. He becomes convinced that the other party plans to attack his group at the exact same spot the very next week. He gets his men ready for battle and dressed in army gear as they prepare for what they believe will be all out warfare.
Part of the problem with this film, which is based on the novel by Douglas Fairbairn, is that it doesn’t make any sense. Rex and his buddies meet the other party from across the river and then the two groups proceed to just stand there in silence like zombies before all the shooting breaks out. There is no reason for why any of it happens and I found it hard to believe this could ever occur in real-life. I am not a hunter myself, but I presume different hunting parties come into contact with each other all the time and it doesn’t end up with them trying to kill each other. I would also think that they may politely greet each other and share some sort of brief conversation in passing. Having all the men not say anything seemed odd and unfounded. The story would have made more sense had the groups spoken to one another and then somebody said something that was insulting and then it escalated. Doing it the way it is done here seems stupid and it is hard for any viewer to get into the plight of characters when there is no reasonable motivation.
The logic for the second half of the story works just as strangely. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the other hunters are planning any type of revenge at the same spot for the next week. The men don’t even know who any of them are. It would have worked better had the other group sent Rex’s group some sort of threatening message, or harassed them in some way to make the threat more real. Watching them prepare and discuss at length for a battle that may never occur is a waste not only of their time, but the viewers as well.
In between there is a long, boring middle part, which includes a scene where Rex visits the widow (Kate Reid) of the man that his group shot while under the pretense that he was an old friend of the deceased. Reid gives an interesting performance, but having her come on to Rex so shamelessly and even tells him that she wasn’t wearing any underwear seemed absurd and unnecessary. A similar scene happens in Rex’s office when the wife (Helen Shaver) of one of his friends aggressively flirts with him as well. Neither of the scenes helps propel the story, or characters and just another clue of a sloppy and unfocused script. There are a few too many shots exposing the boom microphone making me wonder if director Harvey Hart was only going through the motions on this one.
Robertson and Ernest Borgnine as Rex’s friend Lou are adequate, but the characters are painted in one-dimensional ways. The hunters are portrayed as violent prone loons with a penchant for shooting at anything and unable to display any type of sophistication, or rationale. The ultimate anti-gun, anti-violence message is heavy-handed and predictable. This was a trendy theme during the 70’s, but there had been so many better films on the subject that the producers shouldn’t have even bothered to make this one.
The on-location shooting in Ontario, Canada is poorly done. The buildings used for the interior scenes are dull and unimpressive with no visual style or sense. The outdoor scenes are flatly shot and done in the dead of winter, which gives the film a very brown, gray, and drab look. It would have been better had this been done in the summer as the green foliage would have been more scenic. There is also the issue of snow cover. On the first Saturday during their initial hunting trip there is no snow, then on the following Tuesday when Rex visits the grieving widow of the man that they shot there is a good six inches of the white stuff. Then on the following Saturday when they meet in town to get ready for their trip the snow is all gone only to again appear when they get to their hunting site.
I did like the solo trumpet soundtrack although it gets overplayed. The unexpected violent ending is indeed a surprise, but only helps in creating more loopholes. This was another attempt at cashing in on the success of Deliverance by coming up with a similar theme, but lacking the superior execution of the original. Another Deliverance-rip-off that came out in the 80’s Southern Comfort will be reviewed on Monday.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: May 28, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes
Director: Harvey Hart
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures