Mistaking her for a schoolteacher, bandits (led by Oliver Reed) kidnap Candice Bergen, with hopes she can teach Reed how to…er…read. Her husband Gene Hackman, a rich, gun-happy masochist gathers his rich buddies (who were on a hunting trip, riding a train that features a bordello, so Hackman can show what a misogynistic, sadistic bastard he is) and their super rifles and goes after the bandits, picking them off at a safe distance. Meanwhile, Bergen starts to fall for the uncouth but tender (well, comparatively) Reed. L.Q. Jones plays the most lecherous of the bandits (he attempts to rape Bergen), Mitchell Ryan the most compassionate, and William Watson is perhaps the most discontent. Hackman’s men include Simon Oakland and a gun-happy G.D. Spradlin.
Extremely violent, harsh, but generally uninteresting and unpleasant 1971 Don Medford (“The Organisation”) western wants to be a mixture of “The Wild Bunch” and “Straw Dogs”. Actually the plot is quite similar to the subsequent “Chato’s Land” and “The Last Hard Men”, neither of which were much chop either, but certainly better than this dull film (By the way, Oakland and Watson turned up in “Chato’s Land” as well, in essentially the same roles). Unfortunately, it provides little of interest in terms of character, action or story.
Reed (one of his better parts, despite a dodgy American accent- this film is British, but made in Spain and trying to give off an Italian-lensed spaghetti western feel) gets the juiciest part, and compared to the loathsome ‘hero’ played surprisingly blandly by Hackman (who looks miserable), he’s a pretty nice guy, for a rapist and murderer. Bergen does nothing with her thankless role, but the supporting cast has a lot of interesting faces (though only Ryan and Jones really distinguish themselves).
Alternately uncomfortable and dull for the most part, but the action, when it comes, is pretty cool, bloody stuff. Reed fans might want to check it out, but this is a real downer, especially the ending. Still, I’m surprised that with this cast, it’s not as well-known (The poor quality of the product somewhat explains things I guess). The screenplay is by William Norton (The notorious “Big Bad Mama” and the OK light-hearted western “The Scalphunters”), Gilbert Alexander, and Lou Morheim (one of the producers of “The Magnificent Seven”, of all films), from a story by Alexander and Morheim.