Hannie Caulder (1971)

Raquel Welch stars as the title character in this lively, oddball Western that alternates between a serious tone and a comedic one. Ms. Welch, who looks MIGHTY fine throughout, has her life forever altered by the villainous Clemens brothers. They kill her husband, take turns raping her, then burn down her house! Hannie becomes coldly determined to exact vengeance upon them, and keeps pestering bounty hunter Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp) to teach her the fine art of shootin’. Eventually, he agrees.

The movie has an extremely intriguing pedigree: it’s produced by the British company Tigon, was shot in Spain, and was directed by American Western specialist Burt Kennedy (“The War Wagon”, “Support Your Local Sheriff!”). Not only that, but it actually plays its nasty bad guys for laughs much of the time, and Ernest Borgnine (as Emmett), Jack Elam (as Frank), and Strother Martin (as Rufus) are priceless as they spend much of their time bickering with each other; Martin is particularly funny.

This thing gets off to one Hell of a great start by coming up with a unique way to view a bank robbery: through the barrels of a shotgun! Superb widescreen photography (cinematography by Edward Scaife, camera-work by John Harris), beautiful scenery, and soaring music by Ken Thorne only add to the fun factor. Welch is quite easy to watch, and Culp, in one of his best ever roles, is excellent as the reluctant teacher. Diana Dors is wasted in a nothing role as a madame, but there’s still great curiosity value in seeing Sir Christopher Lee here, as he plays Bailey, the kindly gunsmith who lives out in the middle of nowhere; his performance is wonderful. Look also for Aldo Sambrell, uncredited as a Mexican soldier, and Stephen Boyd, who has perhaps the most interesting role in the entire movie, as the mysterious and ultimately helpful “preacher”. He utters not a word, yet has an undeniable presence.

A jaunty pace and generous doses of the red stuff help to make this a solid visceral entertainment. Quotable dialogue includes the gem “There are no hard women, only soft men.” Clocking in at a trim 86 minutes, “Hannie Caulder” doesn’t overstay its welcome, or ever get too draggy. It’s sexy, violent, and a real hoot, and one of the influences on Quentin Tarantino’s pair of “Kill Bill” films.