Thursday, March 24, 2011
"You're a hard woman Hannie Caulder"
There's nothing sexier than Raquel Welch learning how to properly shoot a pistol, especially in the old west. HANNIE CAULDER is a revenge western with a offbeat comic twist in which three grimy bankrobbing brothers (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin) rob a Mexican bank, elude the Federales, and then stop at a farm where they make the mistake of a shooting Raquel's husband and then take turns raping her and setting her home on fire.
The widowed Hannie Caulder is left dazed, violated and half naked and a stranger sets foot on her property: a stern, focused bounty hunter named Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp) Hannie begs him to be taught how to shoot a gun so she can wreak revenge on the trio who took her husband's life. Reluctantly he agrees and puts her through a tough training process while they stay at the home of a custom pistol maker (Christopher Lee).
What makes HANNIE CAULDER more than the average female revenge picture is that the antagonists have an odd Three Stooges complex. Borgnine channels Moe while Elam is Larry to Martin's whiny goofball Curly. The fact that these murderous, merciless rapists are some sort of bizarre comic relief gives the film a very unusual angle.
The relationship between Caulder and Price is also unique in the way that they share some light affection without any sex. They are teacher and student respectively and respectfully. Welch always embodies great sexuality combined with a fierce resolve. She's never tiring to look at, especially in this picture, but aside from her presence there is no sexual activity. Her vendetta leaves no time for that.
The scenes in which Price instructs Hannie on how to focus and hit her target with intent are well written and acted. He knows very well how to kill someone but in one scene in which he tenderly plays with Lee's children, you get a sense that he doesn't enjoy bounty hunting very much.
The only loose thread in the film is the appearance of a mysterious man in black (Stephen Boyd) whose purpose in the film, aside from being an apparently tough gunfighter, is never explained.
They don't make women like Raquel anymore. Nor do they make westerns or revenge films like HANNIE CAULDER any longer. This is some sort of unsung gem that combines hard violence with gallows humour in a very entertaining blend.
*Footnote: Take a look at the poster. Why is Raquel's character being photographed sitting amongst the three men she wants to kill? They sure don't make posters like this anymore either!