The Hunting Party (1971)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Western  |   Release Date - Jul 16, 1971 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This attempt at a The Wild Bunch-style revisionist Western is fascinating. Unfortunately, it's fascinating for all the wrong reasons: simply put, The Hunting Party is a gruesome, wrong-minded disaster masquerading as a serious statement on man's inhumanity to his fellow man. The characters are a ridiculous lot: antihero Frank Calder is a lame variation of the "noble savage" stereotype, Melissa fulfills the offensive cliché of the repressed society woman who falls in love with the brute who rapes her, and the writers try to cover the paper-thin nature of their villain, Ruger, by having him indulge in all kinds of hateful behavior. The script sets up a solid if rudimentary plot in the first 20 minutes and then proceeds to wander around in circles for the rest of its running time while indulging in periodic outbursts of graphic violence. It all culminates in a shock ending that is as absurd as it is mean-spirited. In terms of acting, Oliver Reed and Gene Hackman struggle with their thin roles to no avail, while Candice Bergen is clearly out of her depth. Director Don Medford gives the mayhem a professional look, but his leaden pacing provides the film with its final nail in the coffin. In short, The Hunting Party is such a dreadful mess that even the hardiest bad-film enthusiasts will want to tune out before the end credits roll.