Hannie enlists the aid of bounty hunter Tom Price to teach her how to be a gunfighter so she can hunt down the 3 men who killed her husband and raped her.
Raquel Welch ... Hannie Caulder
Robert Culp ... Thomas Luther Price
Ernest Borgnine ... Emmett Clemens
Christopher Lee ... Bailey
Jack Elam ... Frank Clemens
Strother Martin ... Rufus Clemens
Diana Dors ... Madame
Director: Burt Kennedy
Runtime: 85 mins
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
Pretty terrific western is outlandish (and occasionally funny unintentionally), yet engrossing and satisfying. After being violently raped and left for dead by three dirty, cackling brothers, widow Raquel Welch learns to shoot a gun from hot-headed bounty hunter Robert Culp and hopes to seek her revenge. Welch is funny and sexy as Hannie Caulder, and we are on her side from the get-go. Excellent supporting performances by Culp, Christopher Lee and the three villains: Jack Elam, Strother Martin and Ernest Borgnine. A fairly unusual western which, until "Ms. 45" and "Sudden Impact", pretty much stood alone in the female sharpshooter genre. A large portion of its success belongs to Ms. Welch: she is convincing and sympathetic while riding the vengeance trail...but always remembering, "win or lose--you lose." Nobody won any awards for this, but it is exceptionally well done.
I saw this again after more than 30 years, and was prepared for a campy, laughable Western-parody, as so many from the Spaghetti Western Era are...especially anything at all starring camp queen Raquel Welch. I was rather pleasantly surprised. Yes, there are campy moments, but overall this is an interesting movie, especially for the early 70s when the western genre was going into a long hibernation.
The worst or campiest elements are the "feminist/sexploitation" aspects...on one hand "Hannie Caulder" wants us to take this story about a woman in the Old West seriously (Hannie is raped, and takes revenge into her own hands) and on the other, it wants to show us Raquel Welch, very sexy and Playboy foldout-ish in a short poncho and nothing else. Raquel was (and is) a tremendously beautiful woman, but in an extremely period way -- and that period was naturally the early 70s! Her artfully highlighted main of long straight hair and heavy eye makeup (false eyelashes!) don't look like anything remotely believable from the 1880s. I mention the poncho because it forms a very iconic image of Ms. Welch -- almost as famous as her animal skin bikini from "1 Million BC" -- and it's so obviously meant to be titillating, since we are intended to think she is totally naked underneath this skimpy garment (and while riding a horse...OUCH). Later on, Hannie acquires a pair of very very tight deerskin trousers, also absurd for a woman of that era. (Let's just make this clear -- in the 19th century, women absolutely never ever wore pants or men's clothing. Period.)
Putting that aside though, the storyline is intriguing. Hannie's husband is killed and she is raped by a gang of sleazy thugs (Strother Martin, Ernest Borgnine etc.) who burn down her cabin and all her possessions. She is rescued by Thomas Price, a bounty hunter played by Robert Culp. This is an unexpected turn by Culp (I, Spy), and a very nice one -- he's extremely appealing and makes for a different sort of romantic hero, especially with his glasses. After some initial coldness, he warms up to Hannie and helps her on her mission of revenge (while warning her of it's ultimate futility). Culp & Welch are not a romantic pair you'd expect and maybe because of that, it really works. From the standpoint of the 21st century, I don't feel the overall plot gives enough weight to the rape as a catalyst for Hannie's actions. It's a horrific rape and presented as such, but then Hannie is encouraged to forget about it and find happiness with Thomas Price. Anyone who has ever lived through a rape or studied the aftereffects of such an experience, recognizes this as a naive and simplistic solution. Also, Hannie seems overly dependent on Price to teach her and do everything for her, and only comes into her own in the last 20 minutes of the film.
Still and all, how often do you see a Western with a strong, interesting female protagonist? NOT VERY. Even good modern Westerns, such as "Unforgiven" or "Open Range" feature very passive females in traditional roles such as prostitute or schoolmarm. "Hannie Caulder" is actually ABOUT a female character and her experiences and as such, it's a rare bird.
It would be very interesting to see this remade today with a little less cheesecake (Raquel in her poncho) and a little more psychological awareness of a rape victim's emotional state. At any rate, it kept me interested throughout and compared to other westerns of it's period, I think "Hannie Caulder" is above average. Look for Christopher Lee in a rare, non-horror cameo as a gun maker.
A good solid 70's western of the revenge formula with one vital refreshing story point, a woman pursuing those who did her wrong. And she's not just any old cowgirl, as you may have noticed from the cast list. If the plot as a whole is not one of the most original, the great cast does give a good reason to see this movie. Raquel Welch does what she can in the bit limited role and she does it fine. Three western icons of Elam, Borgnine and Martin make a bunch of villains that is at the same time one of the most revolting and tracelessly funny. If you have liked them in earlier westerns of Peckinpah and Kennedy you get mostly the same great treatment here. Martin especially always ends up stealing the show as the most dangerous idiot in the west ever. Robert Culp gives a good performance as a bounty hunter and killer with a piece of heart still left and a sensible head. And for Christopher Lee fans like me, here he is noteworthy as always and apparently in his only western role of all the countless movie roles he has made. A pretty small role actually but it can't keep a great actor down.
The strong influences of Peckinpah and spaghetti westerns are pretty obvious and mix together surprisingly well. The plot could have deserved a bit more development but it gives fairly good enjoyment as it is, if you enjoy westerns in general. I consider this one of the better films from director Kennedy.