I love to go into watching an older film for the first time with the highest of hopes. Often I'll wait for just the right mood to strike me before I watch something that I have a good feeling about. I had a good feeling about HANNIE CAULDER. It had a lot of things going for it. It's a western (a genre I love) with a great cast and from a director I like very much. I hate that feeling when a movie does something that, however authentic it might be, takes me out and let's me know it'll not be one of my favorites of all time. It's a sad moment that sometimes happens and it happens early in HANNIE CAULDER when a trio of hoodlums attack and rape Raquel Welch's character. It's a scene that I guess has to be in the movie as it turns out to be the motivating factor for her revenge mission, but it's quite unpleasant (if not too graphic). Unpleasant in its length (there's no quick fade out) and in that it features a couple actors that I really like doing the raping (Ernest Borgnine and Jack Elam). So the scene happens and I'm bummed cause it's just tough to sit through and I'm ready to shut the movie off. I've got a bunch of others I need to check out and just when I'm about to stop it, Robert Culp shows up in the film. He plays a seasoned bounty hunter who will obviously play the mentor/teacher role in getting Hannie Caulder (Welch) ready for her vengeance. I've seen this kind of thing before, but Culp just hooks me (like he always does). He's an amazing actor and he's got a face they feels not out of place in the old west (especially with a full beard). So Culp brings me back into the movie and I stick with it a while longer. Hannie and the bounty hunter have to go to Mexico to see a gunmaker to have him make a new firearm for her. The gunmaker is played by Christopher Lee and when he shows up in fully on board with the film. For as much period with as Lee did in his many films, he was not in enough westerns in my opinion, so I really enjoyed seeing him in this context. The rest of the movie goes kind of where I thought it might, but the ensemble and the way Burt Kennedy plays out the beats of the story made it a worthwhile viewing.
This is another nice Signature Collection edition from Olive Films. Right off the bat you have an excellent commentary from director Alex Cox. It's a great listen, as you'd expect, because Cox is a cinephile's cinephile and incredibly knowledgeable of the genre (he even wrote a book about Spaghetti Westerns). There much to be gleaned from this track, not the least of which is finding out that Jack Elam was an accountant before he was an actor.
Also included:-"Exploitation or Redemption?" - an examination of rape-revenge movies with film scholar Ben Sher
-"A Very British Horror Studio" - interview with Sir Christopher Frayling on the history of Tigon Studios
-Essay by film critic Miriam Bale
-Newly commissioned artwork
-Optional English SDH subtitles
Buy the HANNIE CAULDER SIGNATURE Edition on Blu-ray here:
PIMPERNEL SMITH (1941; Leslie Howard)This one had really good vibes coming out of Harry Knowles' latest Butt-numb-a-thon where he screened it as part of the proceedings and that caught my attention. Apparently it played great to the BNAT crowd and many of the hard core cinephiles there seemed to indicate it was one of the best movies of the whole event.
PIMPERNEL SMITH was directed by and stars Leslie Howard, but it reminded me a bit of a film by Powell and Pressburger. There's something about the anti-authoritarianism present in the story as well as a general thematic of friendship and helping one another against the great evil that brought THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP to mind for some reason. The effusively charismatic Leslie Howard plays an outwardly absent-minded archaeology professor who moonlights as a clandestine rescuer of higher profile Nazi prisoners. There's a delightful and knowing cat and mouse between the professor and the Nazi Herr Reich Minister wherein each tries to outsmart the other and the German cannot seem to be quite clever enough for the gentleman rescuer and his ingenious schemes. Leslie Howard has a great closing speech to the bad guys too. Really solid film - will likely be on my Film Discoveries list for 2017.