The rich and ruthless rancher Brandt Ruger keeps his beautiful young wife Melissa like a part of his property, subdued to his will. But one day she's kidnapped by the famous outlaw Frank Calder - just to teach him reading, so he tells her. Calder doesn't know or care who's wife she is. He takes care of her well, and eventually Melissa falls in love with him. But Ruger feels humiliated. Full of hate, he sets out to kill him - and Melissa too, if necessary. Together with his friends and the newest technology in guns, which carry 800 yards, he initiates a battue on Calder and his gang.
- One of those "lost" films that only shows up on cable once in a while, THE HUNTING PARTY is a blood soaked western that is an obvious response to Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH. Made in 1971 by Don Medford and starring a young Candice Bergen, a vicious Gene Hackman, and Oliver Reed with an American accent. This is certainly one of the most violent westerns ever made with slo-mo gunshot wounds and more agony and gore than most horror films. Nihilistic and extreme without hope or redemption. The soundtrack is excellent as well as the photography and editing. The Hunting Party will hopefully be rediscovered on home video soon, or else make sure you catch it on FLIX this month!
- Exciting and very dramatic western
This movie had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. As wild westerns go, this ranks near the top. It's very well paced, and the acting is superb. Plot twists and the unfolding of well-developed characters sustain the movies' tension to the end.
Oliver Reed is stunning as Frank Calder, the tough leader of an outlaw gang who wants to learn to read. Thinking she is a schoolteacher who can teach him his letters, he kidnaps Melissa (Candice Bergman), the wife of the very wealthy Brant Rudger (Gene Hackman). Rudger, a cruel sadist and absolute dictator, talks his wealthy cronies into hunting down the outlaw gang and picking them off one by one with high-powered rifles. But he proposes it more as a game of revenge or sport than out of love or fear for his wife's safety.
Calder and Rudger are both brutal men, but Calder values human life and relationships while the Rudger cares only for indulging his passions at any cost. Though his friends start to sicken of the game and beg him to stop, Rudger won't be deterred from the game.
As the movie develops, Oliver Reed's scenes crackle with tension, energy, and a depth of sexuality that may surprise those who are more familiar with his roles as the heavy or antagonist. Gene Hackman's character brings a single-minded intensity to the movie that has rarely been matched on screen. Candice Bergman gives a feisty performance and carries off a difficult role very well. Her character is caught, both literally and figuratively in a war of emotions, in a terrifying conflict.
I agree with the prior reviewer who says this needs to be released on DVD! With so many bad movie DVD's out there, I'm surprised this one's potential has been overlooked for so long. Frankly, I would love to see it on the big screen.
- Great movie!
I would love to see this movie released on DVD (Wide Screen format). It's tough, gritty, and exciting. How can you go wrong with Gene Hackman, Candace Bergen, Simon Oakland, and L. Q. Jones. The Sharps rifles are real plus here. Very good movie. Now if someone will just release it...
- Good portrayal
One of the most moving Westerns ever made. A man who kills out of revenge for his wife's abduction. Medford portrays a world full of pain and hidden sorrows. Thank you ,MAESTRO.
- I managed to get an uncut version of this rare western, and I thought it was very engaging. Now, I will freely admit that the screenplay is full of holes (like: How does the party know what Oliver Reed's character looks like? Why doesn't Hackman kill Reed when he has the chance? Why won't Reed admit defeat?) which definitely prevent this from becoming the epic, sweeping western it is obviously trying to be. (As well, most of the main characters are written poorly.)
Yet at the same time, I was immediately hooked and engaged until the end credits started. Though the movie has all of those above faults (and more), there is some really good stuff here. The locations... photography...production values... are all top-notch. And whoa, all of that violence! The bloddy shootouts and sniper attacks give Sam Peckinpah a real run for his money. People who don't like westerns probably won't like this movie, but western fans like myself will likely embrace it, flaws and all
- metaphor, or how it was in the west?
Others see this film as bland or metaphorical. I saw it after considerable reading about the West as it truly was, not as a Zane Grey work of fiction or morality play. What I saw in this film was a fictional story powerfully based on accurate historical fact. Many of those facts are not pleasant or moral and violence is as much a part of this Western movie as it is of most others. What is unique here is the accurate inclusion of the actual methods and attitudes surrounding that violence. The Lone Ranger it is not. Neither is it metaphorical. My interest in, and modest knowledge of, the methods and technology of that time led me to be strongly involved when watching this movie. Some of the scenes brought out a strong feeling of dread: dreamlike realism. In that way, it is, in my mind, one of the most honest Westerns of all time.
- AN UNDERRATED, MISUNDERSTOOD FILM
Plot: Reed is an illiterate outlaw who wants to learn how to read. Mistaking Bergen for a schoolteacher, he and his gang kidnap her. What he doesn't realize is that she is the wife of a powerful rancher Hackman. Hackman is on a hunting trip with his friends. When he hears the news, he tells his friends the hunting trip has changed. They are going to hunt the gang down instead of game. They have shotguns with telescopes that can fire away from 800 yards. So, Hackman and his hunting party can fire away and be out of sight. Things get worse when Bergen falls in love with Reed.
This film has gotten bad reviews. Hackman and Bergen have turned their back on this film, only Reed stood behind this film till his death. The film was mostly criticized for it's excessive violence. While I do think the film has faults (i.e., the bedroom behavior of a character is not necessary. Hackman is an impotent sadistic guy in bed vs. Reed's potent, tender lovemaking) and the ending doesn't quite work. But as for being excessively violent, absolutely not!! Violence is not glamorized in any means and the film has moments that people in support of gun control would envy (i.e. Reed is forced to shoot his best friend, played by an excellent Mitchell Ryan, who is dying. Once he shoots him, he throws away all arms and refuses to carry any through the remainder of the film.) Keep in mind, Vietnam was still going on during this film, which was made in 1971. Hackman's hunting party is a metaphor for Vietnam. It starts off with a noble cause, which is to rescue Bergen from Reed. The hunting continues long after it becomes clear Bergen wants to be with Reed, not rescued from him. (i.e. North Vietnam/South Vietnam) By that point, the hunting is no longer heroic and noble, but a senseless bloodbath. Several scenes indicate this. There is one scene where the hunting party comes across a dying member of Reed's gang. With the exception of Hackman, all the other members immediately realize a dying human is not the same as dying game and they can't quite finish him off. There is also another scene in the film where one member of the hunting party is seen vomiting after he has massacred several of Reed's gang members. Also, the hunting party abandons Hackman when one of his party gets killed by Reed and Hackman shows complete indifference about it.
It was very hard in 1971 to make a film criticizing Vietnam. The best way was to make a metaphor of it, in this case, a western. While Hunting Party is not up there with the Sam Peckinpah or Sergio Leone Westerns, it's anti-Vietnam and anti-gun themes puts this above many other westerns. It also did not deserve it's bad critical reputation and deserves a second chance.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Oliver Reed .... Frank Calder
Gene Hackman .... Brandt Ruger
Candice Bergen .... Melissa Ruger
Simon Oakland .... Matthew Gunn
Ronald Howard .... Watt Nelson
L.Q. Jones .... Hog Warren
Mitch Ryan .... Doc Harrison
William Watson .... Jim Loring
G.D. Spradlin .... Sam Bayard
Rayford Barnes .... Crimp
Bernard Kay .... Buford King
Richard Adams .... Owney Clark
Dean Selmier .... Collins
Sarah Atkinson .... Redhead
Francesca Tu .... Chinese Girl
Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes
Color: Color (DeLuxe)
Certification:Singapore:M18 | Iceland:16 | Finland:K-18 | Norway:18 (1972) | Sweden:15 | USA:R | UK:X (original rating) | UK:18