Hannie Caulder (1971)
By: Craig Villinger on October 11, 2009  | 
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 81 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Burt Kennedy
Starring: Raquel Welch, Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Christopher Lee, Jack Elam, Strother Martin
Screenplay: Z.X. Jones
Country: UK
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
The western had long been a favourite of cinema goers and drive-in patrons alike, so when rising UK production company Tigon British Pictures went looking for more of that juicy box office dollar after enjoying success with several low budget horror flicks including The Blood Beast Terror and Blood and Satan's Claw, a good old fashioned revenge fuelled wild west adventure seemed like the way to go.

After fleeing from a botched bank robbery the Clemens brothers - Emmett (Ernest Borgnine), Rufus (Jack Elam), and Frank (Strother Martin), a trio of inept yet ruthless outlaws – stumble across a remote horse station. There they blast the owner with a shotgun and help themselves to a few of his horses, and when they wander inside and find the owners wife Hannie (Raquel Welch) alone and frightened... well, they help themselves to her too.

The next morning, drunk and spent, the brothers torch the house and leave Hannie for dead, but she manages to escape, and isn't very happy about her treatment! Homeless, and husbandless, Hannie grabs a gun and hits the trail, meeting up with Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp), a deadly bounty hunter who takes pity on the battered beauty and reluctantly teaches her the skills she'll need to give the Clemens' what's coming to them...

On the surface Hannie Caulder is a standard revenge western, but having a female protagonist made it something of an oddity, and its core story can also be seen as a precursor to the rape/revenge movies that became more prevalent in the late 70s and early 80s. Though, unlike most of the infamous rape/revenge shockers Hannie Caulder is a slick production that looks every bit as good as the Hollywood studio output of its era, and it also features touches of sublime, and at times slapstick humour that certainly would've looked out of place in grittier movies like I Spit on Your Grave or Thriller: A Cruel Picture.

For a revenge western this is surprisingly light in the gunplay department, but a script loaded with lively dialogue and helped by a few deft casting choices should keep the viewer interested when the bullets aren't flying.

There's no doubt 60s sex kitten Raquel Welch is the main attraction, though for much of the film her primary tasks involve little more than strutting around in outfits that show us subtle hints of the magnificent form underneath. She's given nothing in the way of an introduction – Hannie's rape scene literally occurs fifteen seconds after Welch first appears on screen – and her dialogue is limited to sporadic sentences, which is a shame as she clearly shows she is capable of much more in the final minutes when her character finally evolves into a confident killing machine, firing verbal comebacks at her opponents like a seasoned Hollywood tough guy. Robert Culp carries most of the acting work in the first two acts, and he delivers a likeable performance as the hardened yet sympathetic gun-slinger, and the iconic Christopher Lee also gets to play against type in his brief role as a master gun maker who is also a gentle father, living on a quiet Mexican beach with a wife and a dozen or so kids.

As well as being underdeveloped (and I'm referring to character development here, not the physical development of the actress playing her. No, she's very developed folks) the Hannie character is also something of a meek avenger. Most rape/revenge movies are undeniably works of sleazy exploitation, but it could also be argued that they are examples of female empowerment – the woman is usually defiled in the opening scenes, but she eventually becomes strong and independent, giving any and all men their just deserts in the most brutal manner possible. Hannie Caulder on the other hand takes a somewhat chauvinistic approach to its titular characters development - Hannie relies on Price's tutelage for most of the film, and when he eventually does move out of the picture for her final confrontations with the villainous Clemens clan another barely seen "Man in Black" character mysteriously steps in to help Hannie out when she gets in a pickle. Ultimately Hannie is portrayed as a character that wouldn't have got the job done were it not for the assistance of the men folk in her life, which sort of goes against the whole "female avenger" vibe established in later revenge movies. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying to say "not all men are bastards", but frankly, when it comes to the rape/revenge sub-genre all men are bastards.

In the overall scheme of things this is a minor quibble though. While the vengeance element of the film feels almost anti-climactic when it finally occurs (the film is more about the journey leading to the the vengeance, not the acts of vengeance themselves) Hannie Caulder still manages to be an entertaining yarn with just enough picturesque wild west scenery and tomato sauce bullet hits to satisfy your average spaghetti western fan. And Welch still manages to shine among a cast of wonderful actors, even with an underdone character, while also adding much sex appeal to the humble poncho.
Video
Hannie Caulder may be over 35 years old, but it doesn't show its age here! Umbrella presents the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, and the transfer quality is excellent. The source print is not without its flaws – occasional signs of film damage including lines and scratches are noticeable, and certain shots are a little grainy, but these instances are rare and overall the image is sharp and vivid.
Audio
We get the original audio track in 2.0 mono, and while your rear speakers won't be needed the sound is almost perfect, with no hints of the snap crackle and pop you often hear on the audio tracks of older movies.
Extra Features
Hannie Caulder's theatrical trailer along with trailers for Forty Guns, Myra Breckinridge, Girl on a Motorcycle and Broken Arrow (the 50s western, not the John Woo flick) are the only extras.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The uneven tone might have you wondering if it wants to be a revenge film, a comedy, or an overly sentimental drama, but Hannie Caulder's straightforward tale ends up being a satisfying one that does everything expected of a wild west adventure while still managing to give us something a little different. Looking like a sexualized female version of 60's era western icons, Raquel Welch commands attention as the poncho clad avenger and her stunning presence is reason enough to give this a look.

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