Monday, December 26, 2022

Hannie Caulder

Image of Raquel Welch at top, Hannie Caulder movie title on slant in middle, 3 male actors underneath movie banner title

Perhaps even more relevant now than when it came out fifty-one years ago, in 1971, Hannie Caulder tells the story of one woman’s revenge against three men who killed her husband and then raped her.  Although I haven’t read other reviews of this film, since I don’t read any before posting my own review, after watching this movie through the filters of the #MeToo movement and the feminine gaze, I can’t help but think its reception was probably rather different back then than it would be today.
Raquel Welch is the eponymously-named heroine and embodies strength, perseverance, vulnerability and above all, agency, in the aftermath of the devastating attack that occurs at the beginning of Hannie Caulder.  Known for being a sex symbol, I was pleasantly surprised by Welch’s acting.  She has good chemistry with Robert Culp, a bounty hunter named Thomas Luther Price who helps her achieve her objective.  Christopher Lee makes an appearance as a gunsmith in Mexico who helps Caulder and Price.  Set in Mexico and Texas, this 85-minute long movie was actually filmed in Spain.
The plot of Hannie Caulder is simple: Caulder seeks vengeance against her attackers.  Supporting actors Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, and Jack Elam (Boot Coby in Bad Night in Big Butte in Alias Smith and Jones) give good performances as the inept but brutal outlaws, the Clemens brothers.  Although their bickering becomes a bit tedious as the movie goes on, they do provide a good contrast to the ruthlessly efficient Price. 
When she meets Price, Caulder is vulnerable but gradually he decides to help her and slowly they develop an attraction to each other.  A few scenes make this obvious and could have been shorter but overall their relationship is understated and works well.  There are no love scenes in Hannie Caulder but after what happened to her, that makes sense. 
The movie does, however, periodically give a glimpse of Welch’s naked thighs and torso when she brushes aside the poncho she’s wearing.  It’s almost as if Burt Kennedy, the director of Hannie Caulder, felt required to include some shots of a woman’s body in order to keep the male audience engaged.  That and the fact that some characters in the movie utter various swear words probably account for the “R” rating it received.
Hannie Caulder builds up to its climax with a series of showdowns that become more and more dangerous.  I was surprised at the outcome of one of them, but I think it actually makes the movie stronger.  I would have preferred the movie to conclude at the end of the final showdown.  Instead, there is a very anticlimactic scene that, in my opinion, weakens the power of this film that allows a woman to reclaim her self, if not her soul.