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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

Hannie Caulder

1971 | United Kingdom | 85 min | More...
A still from Hannie Caulder (1971)
  • Watched on B: 4 stars (out of 5)
    on Sat Aug 20, 2022 via Watch TCM

    Raquel Welch plays the titular Hannie, a woman who recruits a bounty hunter to train her to exact revenge on the outlaws that murdered her husband then raped her.

    The film opens with a bank robbery. In a small frontier village, Ernest Borgnine leads his two brothers, played by Jack Elam and Strother Martin, as they creep past a cadre of sleeping guards and enter the bank. All goes to plan until one of the bank employees rings the alarm bell, rousing the guards. Spooked, the three brothers open fire, their shotgun blasts tearing through soldiers and civilians, spraying Hammeresque saturated blood over the walls.

    The brothers escape and chance upon the Caulder farm. They move to steal horses, and Hannie’s husband confronts them. They kill him with an abrupt shotgun blast, then discover Hannie cowering inside the small house. The rape sequence that follows focuses on her reactions, before cutting to an outside shot, where we see Strother Martin getting kicked out, then scrambling back inside via a window like Dino in The Flintstones.

    This bit of slapstick comedy transposed against the sexual violence may prove off-putting, but the dark humor carries through the film. Later, Hannie exacts her revenge against one brother, cornering him upstairs in a brothel. Her blast blows him through the second-story window and he lands dead atop a working girl below.

    Anyway, Hannie survives, but Borgnine and company burn down her house on their way out. Half-naked and dazed, she staggers to a well where she meets bounty hunter Price, played by Robert Culp.

    HANNIE: You’re a bounty hunter.

    PRICE: I am.

    HANNIE: You kill people for money.

    PRICE: You know a better reason?

    HANNIE (hissing): Yes.

    Bearded, bushy-haired, and squinting behind small glasses, Culp is all quiet menace and studious attention to detail. I could imagine James Coburn or Kris Kristofferson in the part, but wouldn’t trade Culp. He makes the movie.

    Hannie wants Price to teach her to shoot. He proves reluctant, but soon acquiesces, and we get a training montage of Hannie doing wrist rolling exercises with bigger and bigger weights as Christopher Lee—in what I believe is his lone western—crafts her a custom six-shooter. Once armed and strong, Price gives her shooting lessons. In a refreshing detail, these go beyond aiming, reminding her to turn sideways because, “they’re shooting at you too.”

    After the training, some plot-convenient bandits assault Lee’s home. One sneaks up behind Hannie. She turns and puts her training to work, plugging him. But she can’t finish the job and Price has to save her.

    This scenario (bad guy creeping up behind her) recurs in the finale. Once again, a man must save her. I can rationalize Welch spending half the film bottomless, yet always sporting perfect hair and mascara, but for a film she produced meant to portray her as a feminist hero capable of being more than a pretty face, this disappoints. I wanted Hannie the badass, not Hannie the oblivious to her surroundings.