Another movie I‘d somehow avoided until Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews tempted me with a Christopher Lee Blogathon. Gosh…I didn’t want to say no but, aside from Lord of the Rings, Christopher Lee roles are unknown to me. Ok..maybe the few minutes, if that, in Sleepy Hollow. But, I thought I needed something more. So, off to IMDB I went. And found the perfect excuse to finally watch Hannie Caulder.
Now, this is one movie that ‘d avoided mostly because the DVD cover just didn’t quite do it for me. It looked a bit…I don’t know…how should I say…ahem…let’s settle for “dodgy” or, to clarify, a bit too “sultry”. And secondly, the story premise, well, I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for it. But then, on the other hand, how bad can a 1971 western with Ernest Borgnine and Raquel Welch really be? So, I set my preconceived judgments aside, entered the Blogathon, watched the movie and….was really pleasantly surprised.
Yes, the beginning, where Hannie Caulder (Raquel Welch) is raped wasn’t pleasant, and I’m never enjoy watching these type of scenes but, after that, it got better. Because, Hannie Caulder, in nothing but a poncho, what appears to be some tatty sole-less shoes and one huge amount of revenge on the mind, comes across bounty hunter Thomas Price (Robert Culp, who, I admit, I’d never heard of before now). She eventually convinces him to teach her how to shoot and starts the search for the three Clemens brother miscreants, so superbly played by Ernest Borgnine (who I always enjoy watching), Jack Elam and Strother Martin. As much as these brothers were absolutely vile characters, the actors taking on these roles…well, wow, they played them brilliantly.And that’s where Christopher Lee comes in. He’s a renown gunsmith Bailey, living in a relatively remote (or maybe just out-of-the way) spot in Mexico. Price, finally having learnt of Hannie’s experience, brings her to Bailey to commission the ideal weapon for her. As much as Christopher Lee has a small role here, he brings this only Western character he played to life with such compassion and insight. I thoroughly enjoyed his role where he, to me, sees more than just two people coming for a gun. He sees beyond what Hannie later claims, that she doesn’t care about Price, that’s she’s only using him. As much as Hannie needs to go on once she has her fast-draw and light(er) gun, there is almost this feeling that she, together with Price, could build up something together. Have a life together. That they realise this while at Bailey‘s. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. But, ultimately, I really enjoyed Lee as a father and gunsmith. He also brings some calmness to the movie which balances the chaotic Clemens brothers, who, believe it or not, amongst the havoc they cause, also bring some comic relief.
How the rest of the story pans out, well, I’ll leave that for you to see. No point me giving it away. But, let me just say, don’t be put off by the terrible DVD cover (which in my version has Welch in nothing but poncho/blanket and showing lots of leg and in another has her perched in a revealing dress between the Clemens‘). This is a really good revenge western. And nothing as sultry as the covers would have you think.