Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Woman Who Shot Liberty Valance

Raquel Welch was honored in Summer Under the Stars this past August. One of her movies that I hadn't seen before was Hannie Caulder, so I recently sat down to watch it in order to be able to do a review on it here.

Welch plays Hannie Caulder, a woman who lives in an isolated part of the old west with her husband, who manages one of the changing stations for a stagecoach company. The Clemens brothers: Rufus (Strother Martin), Frank (Jack Elam), and Emmett (Ernest Borgnine) are an outlaw gang robbing banks. After one of their heists goes wrong, they make a getaway, which is how they wind up at the Caulder station. That's very bad news for the Caulders, as the Clemens brothers kill Hannie's husband before raping her and leaving her for dead when they set the place on fire.

Although they leave her for dead, you know she's going to survive, since all of this happens in the first reel of the movie, and we wouldn't have a movie if Hannie dies right at the beginning. Or, at least, we'd have a much different movie than the one we do. Hannie survives, after which she meets Thomas Price (Robert Culp). Price is a bounty hunter, which means that he has to use a gun to capture the bad guys. So that's two skills Hannie would like: how to find bad guys, and then how to kill them. Because, having been raped by the Clemens brothers, she sure wants revenge, and who can blame her.

Price isn't too sanguine about the idea, since Hannie doesn't know how to use a gun. He also knows that the sort of quest she wants to go on is something that's going to change her, and not for the better. But Hannie isn't to be stopped in her desire to get the Clemens brothers. With that in mind, Price takes her to a coastal cottage where Bailey (Christopher Lee) lives. Bailey is a gunmaker, and Price recommends using Bailey to make the gun that Hannie can then use to try to kill the Clemens brothers, she needing a gun specifically designed for a woman's physical needs. Price also tries to teach Hannie how to act in a gunfight, since it requires different skills from just target shooting.

Still, Hannie has difficulty with all of this, as we see when a different gang approaches the house, resulting in a gunfight in which Hannie does not acquit herself well, at least not by Price's standards, which to be fair to him are a life and death matter. You do want to survive the gunfight after all, don't you?

The Clemens gang are still around, and when Price and Hannie find out where they are, both of them follow the gang for the final showdown, ending the movie in a fairly compact time just under 90 minutes.

Having said that, Hannie Caulder feels a lot like something that would have worked better as an episode of something in one of those old TV westerns where a main character teaches a guest-starring Welch how to win a gunfight. It feels like there's surprisingly little going on in the movie. Not that it's a bad movie, just that it's fairly lightweight. Raquel Welch felt she never got good enough opportunities because she was typecast as a sex symbol, and she and her then husband made this one independently in order to showcase her in something more serious. Welch does show that she's a more capable actress than she's often given credit for, and, given the right script, probably could have been successful at least in supporting roles in more serious stuff.

Hannie Caulder isn't a great movie, but it's certainly a watchable enough movie.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Agreed; I'd rate this one maybe two stars out of four.