Friday, April 14, 2006

TAKE A HARD RIDE

The American-Italian Western TAKE A HARD RIDE (1975), was recently released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Directed by Italian exploitation veteran Antonio Margheriti (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CASTLE OF BLOOD, etc.), it was made at the tail end of both the Spaghetti Western and Blaxploitation cycles, and starred Jim Brown (SLAUGHTER), Fred Williamson (BUCKTOWN, BLACK CAESAR) and Jim Kelly (ENTER THE DRAGON, BLACK BELT JONES) alongside Spaghetti Western superstar Lee Van Cleef.

Brown plays a trail boss who has to carry $80 grand across a couple hundred miles of desert to a Mexican village in order to fulfill his employer's dying wish. A slick gambler (Williamson) agrees to help him for a cut. As they make their way South, a bounty hunter with a grudge (Van Cleef) and just about every greedy gunman in the West pursue them. On their "hard ride" they pick up a stranded widow and a half-breed mute with mad martial arts skillz (!), before coming to the inevitable bloody conclusion.

It's a decent B-Western, with some very good action (famed stuntman/director Hal Needham was the stunt coordinator), some picturesque Canary Island locations and a rousing score by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith. There are also some welcome cameos by Hollywood veterans Dana Andrews, Harey Carey Jr, and Barry Sullivan (PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES).

Personally, I enjoyed it – the only part that really strained my willing suspension of disbelief was the casting of Jim Kelly as a kung fu-kicking mute "Indian," but what the hell.

Anchor Bay's presentation is up to their usual high standards, with a sharp, nearly flawless 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and clear Dolby mono soundtrack. The only extra is the original theatrical trailer and trailers for other, unrelated Anchor Bay releases, including BUTCH & SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS and DIRTY MARRY, CRAZY LARRY.

If you're a fan of the film, it's a solid presentation and worth adding to your collection. If you dig the Blaxploitation cast or Spaghetti Westerns in general, you might want to check it out. It's no classic, but there's some fun in there.

BUY: Take a Hard Ride