Hannie Caulder (1971)

Director: Burt Kennedy
Starring: Raquel Welch, Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors
Music: Ken Thorne

Hannie Caulder is a film that is very hard to classify. Sure it’s a western, but what kind of western is it? It appears to be a Spaghetti Western, produced by the British; and made by and starring Americans. Furthermore at times, particularly during the opening scenes, it comes across as a dirty little exploitation picture. Adding to that it often veers off into black comedy. Strangely that comedy is performed by the three most repugnant characters in the film – almost as if the film-makers wanted us to like them.

Here’s a quick overview of the story. The three Clemens brothers, Emmett (Ernest Borgnine), Frank (Jack Elam), and Rufus (Strother Martin) ride into a sleepy Mexican town. It is the middle of the day, and all of the Federales are taking a siesta. The Brothers make their way to the bank and hold it up. The robbery goes wrong and it turns into a violent bloody shootout. With the Federales awoken, the would be banditos mount their horses and gallop out of town. With the Federales hard on their heels, the Clemens boys ride their horses pretty hard until they are worn out.

Here, they come upon a farm with a corral full of fresh horses. As they attempt to steal some new beasts, the owner of the property enters the picture brandishing a shotgun. Unfortunately he doesn’t notice Rufus off to his left, also carrying a shotgun. Rufus fires and the farmer is killed. Inside the small homestead, the farmer’s wife, Hannie (Raquel Welch) is preparing a meal. Frank, Emmett and Rufus stumble into the house and repeatedly rape her.

With fresh horses and their carnal desires satiated, the brothers ride off leaving Hannie to die in the burning homestead. She manages to scramble out before the building collapses, but her only possession is a Mexican poncho which barely covers her.

Desolately she waits at the house. What for? – we’ll never know. Suddenly a stranger appears with two horses. The man is Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp), and he is one of the most feared and respected bounty hunters in the country – depending on which side of the law you stand.

Hannie offers her body to him if he will teach her to shoot. He says no and rides off. She refuses to take no for an answer and follows him on foot. Eventually Price gives in, and agrees to teach Hannie the art of gunfighting, so se can seek revenge.

Hannie Caulder is an uneven film, not only because of the differing styles, but because the actors appear to be acting in different films. The Clemens Brother are the Three Stooges – that is if the Three Stooges were violent psychopathic rapists. Everything they do is wrong – the bank heist goes wrong – a stagecoach robbery goes wrong. They are just plain incompetent. At one point Emmett explains that everything would have been okay if their father was still alive – only to learn that Rufus accidentally killed their Daddy while cleaning his gun. I don’t know if it is meant to be black comedy, but the lines are delivered as if it is.

Next we have Raquel Welch. This film was made at the peak of her popularity, and she certainly looks great, especially in the poncho. But as a rape victim her character is damaged goods. But at times this film displays a double standard – she wants revenge because she was brutally raped, but to get this revenge she is willing to offer her body to Price. Even when a sleazy sheriff spanks he on the ass, she passes it off as a joke. Now I am far from being an expert on the psychology of rape victims, but I can accept that after such an incident, that the sex act would no longer have any meaning to Hannie. But the fact that she is so doggedly determined to track down and kill the men who violated her would indicate otherwise. As I said, I am not an expert, but to me the character seems uneven.

That brings us to Robert Culp. I have seen Culp in numerous television shows, but in very few movies. Based on my limited viewing experience, I would say that this is Culp’s best performance. He is the ‘heart’ of the picture. He is noble, fair, and great with a gun. In real life, nice guys often finish last, but not so here. Of course, if you are going to watch Hannie Caulder, you are watching it foe Raquel Welch – I understand and appreciate that. But this is not a skin flick. It’s about performances, and Culp gives the best one.

And worth a quick mention, horror film icon Christopher Lee makes a small appearance as a gun smith, and what’s more – he’s a good guy?

I’d like to recommend Hannie Caulder very highly. But I can’t. It’s bit too confused and the character motivations are skewed. I can even see some people being offended by this film. But it is a ‘revenge and retribution’ flick, so some unpleasantness is to be expected. Maybe this would make a great vengeful female gunfighter double feature, teamed up with The Quick And The Dead.

Hannie Caulder (1971)

Hannie Caulder

HannieTMGHannie Caulder is a film that is very hard to classify. Sure it’s a western, but what kind of western is it? It appears to be a Spaghetti Western, produced by the British; and made by and starring Americans. Furthermore at times, particularly during the opening scenes, it comes across as a dirty little exploitation picture. Adding to that it often veers off into black comedy. Strangely that comedy is performed by the three most repugnant characters in the film – almost as if the film-makers wanted us to like them.

Here’s a quick overview of the story. The three Clemens brothers, Emmett (Ernest Borgnine), Frank (Jack Elam), and Rufus (Strother Martin) ride into a sleepy Mexican town. It is the middle of the day, and all of the Federales are taking a siesta. The Brothers make their way to the bank and hold it up. The robbery goes wrong and it turns into a violent bloody shootout. With the Federales awoken, the would be banditos mount their horses and gallop out of town. With the Federales hard on their heels, the Clemens boys ride their horses pretty hard until they are worn out.

Here, they come upon a farm with a corral full of fresh horses. As they attempt to steal some new beasts, the owner of the property enters the picture brandishing a shotgun. Unfortunately he doesn’t notice Rufus off to his left, also carrying a shotgun. Rufus fires and the farmer is killed. Inside the small homestead, the farmer’s wife, Hannie (Raquel Welch) is preparing a meal. Frank, Emmett and Rufus stumble into the house and repeatedly rape her.

With fresh horses and their carnal desires satiated, the brothers ride off leaving Hannie to die in the burning homestead. She manages to scramble out before the building collapses, but her only possession is a Mexican poncho which barely covers her.

Desolately she waits at the house. What for? – we’ll never know. Suddenly a stranger appears with two horses. The man is Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp), and he is one of the most feared and respected bounty hunters in the country – depending on which side of the law you stand.

Hannie offers her body to him if he will teach her to shoot. He says no and rides off. She refuses to take no for an answer and follows him on foot. Eventually Price gives in, and agrees to teach Hannie the art of gunfighting, so se can seek revenge.

Hannie Caulder is an uneven film, not only because of the differing styles, but because the actors appear to be acting in different films. The Clemens Brother are the Three Stooges – that is if the Three Stooges were violent psychopathic rapists. Everything they do is wrong – the bank heist goes wrong – a stagecoach robbery goes wrong. They are just plain incompetent. At one point Emmett explains that everything would have been okay if their father was still alive – only to learn that Rufus accidentally killed their Daddy while cleaning his gun. I don’t know if it is meant to be black comedy, but the lines are delivered as if it is.

Next we have Raquel Welch. This film was made at the peak of her popularity, and she certainly looks great, especially in the poncho. But as a rape victim her character is damaged goods. But at times this film displays a double standard – she wants revenge because she was brutally raped, but to get this revenge she is willing to offer her body to Price. Even when a sleazy sheriff spanks he on the ass, she passes it off as a joke. Now I am far from being an expert on the psychology of rape victims, but I can accept that after such an incident, that the sex act would no longer have any meaning to Hannie. But the fact that she is so doggedly determined to track down and kill the men who violated her would indicate otherwise. As I said, I am not an expert, but to me the character seems uneven.

That brings us to Robert Culp. I have seen Culp in numerous television shows, but in very few movies. Based on my limited viewing experience, I would say that this is Culp’s best performance. He is the ‘heart’ of the picture. He is noble, fair, and great with a gun. In real life, nice guys often finish last, but not so here. Of course, if you are going to watch Hannie Caulder, you are watching it foe Raquel Welch – I understand and appreciate that. But this is not a skin flick. It’s about performances, and Culp gives the best one.

And worth a quick mention, venerated horror film icon Christopher Lee makes a small appearance as a gun smith, and what’s more – he’s a good guy?

I’d like to recommend Hannie Caulder very highly. But I can’t. It’s bit too confused and the character motivations are skewed. I can even see some people being offended by this film. But it is a ‘revenge and retribution’ flick, so some unpleasantness is to be expected. Maybe this would make a great vengeful female gunfighter double feature, teamed up with The Quick And The Dead.

Hannie Caulder

Fathom (1967)

Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Raquel Welch, Ronald Fraser, Clive Revill, Greta Chi, Richard Briers, Tom Adams
Music: John Dankworth
Based on a novel by Larry Forrest

The film opens with a stylish title sequence, courtesy of Maurice Binder (Binder did the title sequences to many of the Bond films, as well as Charade, Arabesque and many other films). Fathom Harvill (Raquel Welch) is carefully packing a parachute, while John Dankworth’s theme song and chorus drift over the top. ‘Drift’ is the right word, as the whole title and opening sequence have a dream like quality to them. After the parachute is packed we cut to Fathom floating through the clouds. You see, Fathom is part of the American sky-diving team and on this day she is competing in Spain.

After making a perfect jump she is collected by Timothy Webb (Richard Briers) and driven to meet Colonel Douglas Campbell (Ronald Fraser). At first Fathom is suspicious, after all she is a beautiful girl in a strange land, and wonders why she has been dragged off the beaten path. But she needn’t have worried. It seems Campbell is a good guy, and works for H.A.D.E.S. (Headquarters Allied Defences, Espionage & Security). To prove how good he is, he flashes his credentials which state: ‘Extend all diplomatic priorities to the barer’, and it is signed by Lindon B. Johnson (President of the USA) and Harold Wilson (British Prime Minister). You can’t get much better than that. Golly good!

But what do Campbell and Webb want with Fathom? It seems there has been a calamity in the air. A Hydrogen Bomb has been lost at sea. The bomb was recovered but the fail safe device, called The Fire Dragon, that triggers the weapon by means of an electronic signal was not found. They believe a shady character named Peter Merriweather (Tony Franciosa) is about to sell it to a Red Chinese Agent, Jo May Soon (Greta Chi). But before H.A.D.E.S. can act they need evidence. They had planted a listening device in Merriweather’s villa in Malaga, but it is malfunctioning. Now what they would like Fathom to do is pose as a sky diver who has drifted of course, over Merriweather’s villa naturally, Inside her sky-diving helmet is another little transmitter which should bring the first listening device back to life.

Fathom reluctantly agrees and is soon crash landing at Merriweather’s villa. And so begins her life of espionage. Now you know Fathom’s mission, I’ll leave the synopsis at this point, but will mention a few highlights. The first features Fathom, dressed in red, trapped in a bull ring with an angry bull. The sequence is great fun as she sprints around, avoiding the horns of the enraged animal. The sequence builds an amount of tension, even though her stunt double is clearly a man (who should have shaved his legs).

Another chase, because that is what this film is – a chase film; features friendly hotelier, Mike – owner of Casa Miguel (Tom Adams – the square jawed hero from Where The Bullets Fly and The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World). Mike pursues Fathom in a speedboat, armed with a speargun. In fact there are a few good speedboat sequences throughout this film. And the action is not just restricted to bulls and speedboats, Fathom gets chased inside a train and in a plane too.

Also a mention should go to Clive Revill, as the villainous Sergei Serapkin who is also after the Fire Dragon. Revill is one of my favourite sixties spy actors having appeared in The Double Man, Modesty Blaise, The High Commissioner and Kaleidoscope. Here he is clearly enjoying his chance to ham it up as the gigolo millionaire who posses a lethal bladed pocket watch. Although Revill enjoys himself, the performance is so over the top (how many mannerisms can one character have), that it becomes rather annoying and the Serapkin over stays his welcome.

At one point during the film, Franciosa says to Welch: “You jump well, you ride well, and you lie well.” Unfortunately Welch doesn’t act well. Her delivery is rather wooden and stilted. But Raquel Welch does have other assets (anyone who has seen the trailer will remember that the film is sold on her measurements 36, 28, 36), which are all on display here. The lime green bikini that she wears in this movie has almost passed into cinematic folklore.

So the film is a good perv. Not much more than lightweight frothy fun in the late sixties spy tradition. It is much better than it’s stable mate, Modesty Blaise, but a few rungs under Our Man Flint.

This review is based on the 20th Century Fox USA DVD

Fathom (1967)