Thread: Western Movies.
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Old 15th July 2016, 02:34 PM
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The Last Hard Men (1976)

A band of desperado's led by James Coburn escape their captors whilst working on the railroad. Now fugitives, Coburn decides to go after Sam Burgade (Charlton Heston) the now retired lawman who captured Coburn and who he holds responsible for the death of his wife. The gang kidnap Burgade's daughter (Barbara Hershey) prompting Heston to strap on his guns and saddle up one last time.

The Last Hard Men came at the time when the classic western was on it's way out of fashion. 1976 was the year John Wayne hit our screens for the final time with The Shootist and only revisionary westerns remained popular after the genre had become stale. Even Spaghetti Westerns had become tired. The film was the very last western from stalwart director Andrew V. McLaglen, a man with a fine output in the genre with films such as Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973), Chisum (1970), The Undefeated (1969) - With John Wayne, and Shenandoah (1965), The Rare Breed (1966) and Bandolero! (1968) - with James Stewart. (McLaglen would go onto direct some classic action / war films following his westerns - often starring Roger Moore). Clearly influenced by the films that breathed new life into the western genre in the 60's such as Leone's Dollars trilogy and Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), McLaglen gave us a typical revenge western the likes had been around since the forties but with an added sadistical menace in the form of strong blood thirsty violence and a lengthy bloody rape sequence, every bit as controversial as Straw Dogs - probably the reason the film has never seen the light of day on dvd in the UK. (My copy is Dutch)

The story line is a tried and tested formula which has been done countless times before and indeed afterwards. Bone Tomahawk (2016) for the most part travels the same familiar road, however it is a road that works. It allows for characterization as we get to know how Heston's Burgade thinks as well as his sidekick Chris Mitchum who plays Hershey's soon to be husband, and also the other side of the coin, Coburn's band of convicts, who are all nasty pieces of work and deserve what's coming to them. The exception to the rule being Larry Wilcox (C.H.I.P.S.) who tries his best to look after Hershey whilst in their clutches, but to no avail. Coburn playing against type is excellent. Just when you think he might have a shred of decency he lets two of his dogs have their way with Hershey. (One of them is John Quade who you might recall as the Hells Angels leader in Clint Eastwood's 'Which Way' films) whilst Coburn sits in the background laughing in the hope Heston will show his face so he can blow it off.

Shot totally on location, McLaglen's direction is both leisurely and frenetic. Characterization is to the fore but it's the frequent sequences of sadism which prove most memorable.The blood spills frequently, every bullet and knife woud is savage, with the final shoot out especially gory. Who wins? Well anyone who knows Heston's genre output at the time will know his fate...Or will they? It is called The Last Hard Men after all.

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