Monday, December 7, 2009
The Hunting Party (1971)
Studio S is finally releasing The Hunting Party on swedish dvd. I've been looking forward to see it, and it lived up to it's hype. Yes, it was even better than I thought it would be. As we all knows all traditional american westerns are shit, most of them anyway. Just patriotic bullshit from neanderthal-minds. So aren't we all happy that the rest of the world did some westerns to? According to IMDB The Hunting Party is a british movie, shot in Spain and with an emotional score by Riz Ortolani, one of his best I think. Gene Hackman plays the sadistic Brandt Ruger, a wealthy man that starts his movie by raping his wife Melissa (Candice Bergen) and then goes on hunting trip with his macho-friends - including torturing a chinese prostitute on a train. What a man!
At the same time Melissa is kidnapped by Frank (Oliver Reed), a well known bandit, together with his gang of thugs. Frank rapes Melissa, but the whole thing is getting way more romantic than they could imagine, and Melissa becomes his girlfriend. Ruger is of course furious about this and takes his new fancy guns and starts hunting Frank and the gang, taking them down one after another... until there's only two left...
I can understand that the über-sensitive politically correct critics of 1971 was upset over this violent and sexual western, but it's far away from being exploitation, though it has some controversial scenes of mayhem and nudity. Mostly mayhem. What we have instead is a multi-layered story with complex characters that behave like humans, stupid humans maybe, and chooses roads that we as an audience don't expect. Frank for example is a brute, but has obviously chosen that role to lead his men into some kind of wicked victory. They follow him, but with doubts, especially after he found love in the tough Melissa. Melissa is a teacher, but lives a controlled life under the perverted Ruger. She wants more of life, and is slowly realizing that there's something else behind Franks brutal image. The flattest of the characters, compared to the others, is Ruger himself. A man obsessed by a pointless revenge. He hate his wife, but still can't imagine another man have her, but still have sex with other women himself.
His obsession with killing for the sake of killing is sick, and even his own men is leaving him one by one after seeing what animal he is.
Don Medford was a TV-director that got a chance to be a new Peckinpah with this movie, and what I know it's his only adventure in violent machoism. He clearly has a talent for filming slow-motion action, and gives us some amazingly bloody squibs, blood, some nice stunts and a raw cynical atmosphere. The first half of the movie is good, but also the weakest because it gives the impression of a much lighter movie than it later becomes. Maybe it's a good thing, because it certainly fools you.
This is a movie without heroes, and most of the characters is not really likable. Not even Melissa, that sometime feels like a fool for following these doomed men. In a normal western a man like Ruger would be a hero, but here he's the closest to bad guy, which makes it even more interesting.
I'm not sure this is a masterpiece, but it's a damn good western.