Welcome to Hard Times is a film that tends to divide audiences. There are some who view it as a minor masterpiece of a Western. Like many other "oaters" of the 1960s, it's revisionist, looking at the Old West with a jaundiced eye and turning many of its formulas on their head for an examination of their inner workings, and putting them back together in a way that may be unexpected. Those who object to this treatment are unlikely to "get into" Welcome, especially because it's a "downer" that focuses so much attention on its message and method that many will feel it has left out entertainment value. Indeed, the film spends a lot of time setting up a villain so vile that viewers surely long for his comeuppance; yet when that comeuppance occurs, it's unsatisfying, leaving many viewers uncomfortable for wanting it so badly. This, of course, is intentional, but it's also understandable why some audience members will object to it. That said, for those who appreciate this style, there's a great deal to ponder and to study in Welcome. The cast generally pleases, with Henry Fonda an excellent choice to portray the morally ambiguous mayor and Aldo Ray an excellent sadist. Janice Rule's accent is annoying, but Keenan Wynn does quite well as the man whose brothel rejuvenates the town. There's also fine work from Warren Oates, Edgar Buchanan, Janis Paige and Denver Pyle.
by Craig Butler review