By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: He doesn’t like deserters.
Charlie (Rod Steiger) is a hard-bitten conservative man who lost his 23-year-old son in the Vietnam War. He likes to vacation with a couple of his middle-aged buddies Wilbur (Jerry Hardin) and George (Richard Herd) at a remote Canadian hunting lodge. However, this time when they arrive they find that the regular lodge owner is not there and instead it is being run by a young man named David (David Huffman) and his pretty girlfriend Linda (Robin Mattson). Charlie and David almost immediately are at odds as they both share a wide variance in age and political leanings. What is worse is the fact that David is a war deserter and once Charlie finds out about this he flies into a rage of psychotic proportions, which culminates in a violent night of terror for both David and his girlfriend.
The film was written and directed by the normally reliable Burt Kennedy who is better known for doing westerns. After watching this I think he should have stayed in that genre as this film is too formulaic and one-dimensional. There seems to be too much emphasis to conform to the horror movie/slasher style formula of that era with a plot set-up that is too brief and character development that is almost non-existent. The story shows its cards too quickly and then proceeds to just plod on and on until it climaxes with a predictable and boring finish.
Charlie and David’s arguments and confrontations fail to elicit any type of tension. Their shouting matches are rhetorical and redundant and their points-of-view are handled at a superficial level that allows for no new insight, or intellectual debate. Charlie is so limited in his stubbornness that he becomes annoying instead of threatening, or scary.
The final 25 minutes when the two sides wage a proverbial war between their two cabins is the only time that there is any action. However, by then I was completely bored with the proceedings and so emotionally detached from the third rate material that it was a strain just getting through it. The film’s ultimate message is heavy-handed and done so much better in other films on the same subject that it renders this excursion as pointless.
Steiger is wasted. The character he plays is poorly defined and doesn’t allow him to take full advantage of his acting abilities. He gets stuck with another one of his many wigs this one looking like the same type of gray haired rug that actor Ray Milland used to wear in his later years. The producers should have just allowed him to appear bald as it would have fit this type of part better and even made him look creepier and more menacing.
Huffman is the best thing about this movie and it is a shame that his life and career were cut short when he was murdered in 1985 while trying to chase down a suspected purse snatcher. His performance here is nicely understated, which helps carry the picture as he is the only character that is multi-faceted.
Although the story takes place in Canada and the landscape certainly looks Canadian I was surprised to learn that it was actually filmed near the city of Creel in Chihuahua, Mexico, which due to its high elevation has a climate that is more similar to the North’s.
There are actually two different versions of this film. There is this one and another one entitled The Honor Guard. In that one there are no flashback scenes like there are here and in the end Charlie ends up killing David and his girlfriend while in this version Linda shoots Charlie before falling over dead herself. I actually liked the flashbacks that are used as it gives the film what little suspense it has and also shows a bit of cinematic flair. However, the scene where Linda miraculously comes up with a gun and killing Charlie before keeling over looked cheesy and clichéd and I might actually have voted for the alternate ending.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: May 3, 1978
Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes
Director: Burt Kennedy
Studio: Melvin Simon Productions