***Grim early 70’s Western with Oliver Reed, Gene Hackman and Candice Bergen***
In the Southwest, an outlaw gang led by Frank Calder (Oliver Reed) kidnaps a school teacher (Candice Bergen) so he can learn how to read. Unfortunately for them, she’s the wife of a sadistic wealthy rancher (Gene Hackman) and he’s coming with his personal posse to hunt ’em down with high-powered rifles. Mitchell Ryan, Simon Oakland and L.Q. Jones are also on hand.
“The Hunting Party” (1971) treads similar terrain of two earlier Westerns: "Bandolero!" (1968) and "Macho Callahan" (1970). There are also elements of the later “The Train Robbers” (1973). But “The Hunting Party” is the least of these, although it’s not far off. It’s worth catching just to see Reed star in a Western (he’s essentially the British version of Brando), not to mention the potent sequence between Frank (Reed), Doc (Ryan) and Melissa (Bergen) in the last act. The grim climax is memorable as well.
There’s a lot of Peckinpah-styled violence. One effective scene involves someone getting shot in the face with a shotgun. There are also a couple of rough adult-oriented sequences. The problem is, the characters are too shallow to care much when their lives are eventually threatened. There’s loads of quality emoting by the actors, but not enough character-defining moments, which was expertly done in “Bandolero!”
Speaking of which, the issue of Stockholm syndrome rears its head. This condition occurs when a strong emotional link develops between captor and captive wherein the former intermittently abuses the other in one way or another, whether beatings, threats, intimidation or harassment. Melissa gets to know Frank & Doc and slowly discovers that they're not outright evil. They're basically goodhearted people trapped in a tough lifestyle.
The film runs 1 hour, 51 minutes, and was shot in Spain (Almeria and Granada, with interior stuff done in Madrid).