The Hunting Party


1h 48m 1971

Brief Synopsis

When a noble outlaw kidnaps a rancher's wife, the husband sets out to slaughter both of them.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Western
Release Date
Jul 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 14 Jul 1971; New York opening: 16 Jul 1971
Production Company
Brighton Pictures, Inc.; Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Spain and United States
Location
Almeria,Spain; Madrid,Spain; Guadin, Spain; Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Synopsis

As outlaw Frank Calder and his gang near Ruger, Texas, the sheriff rides out to warn them against entering the town. Meanwhile, Brandt Ruger, the cattle baron who owns and runs much of the town, and his beautiful, abused wife Melissa arrive at the Ruger train station. There Brandt meets his wealthy friends, Matthew Gunn, Watt Nelson, Sam Bayard and Buford King, to embark upon a two-week hunting trip. After loading their horses on board, the men enter the bordello car, equipped with an array of prostitutes of various nationalities. Melissa then continues on to the schoolhouse, where she helps the local teacher with the children. Soon after, Frank and his gang ride through town and toward the schoolhouse. Mistaking Melissa for the teacher, Frank kidnaps her and tosses her into the gang's wagon. As they ride out of town, Hog Warren, a crude member of the gang, tries to rape Melissa, buts Frank throws Hog over the side of the wagon and kicks him in the face. After Melissa tries to defy Frank, he slaps her, but promises that no further harm will come to her as long as she teaches him how to read. On the train, as the men dine on a hearty banquet, Brandt dispenses the new high-powered rifles he has purchased that are accurate to a range of 800 yards. When Jim Loring, Hog and several of the outlaws later challenge Frank over who will have possession of Melissa, Frank's old friend Doc Harrison defends Frank with a shotgun, causing the others to back down. Meanwhile on the train, Brandt takes one of the prostitutes into a bedroom, orders her to disrobe, then sadistically burns her with his cigar. Later that night, the train makes an unscheduled stop at a station and the station master delivers a message that Melissa has been kidnapped and her kidnappers are heading north. Brandt then proposes that instead of shooting animals, they hunt the outlaws, picking them off from a distance with their high-powered rifles. That night at the camp, Melissa tries to run away. Running blindly into the river, she begins to sob hysterically. Frank, who is sitting on the bank, then tries to calm her and tenderly kiss her, but when she tries to resist him, he rapes her. As the train rushes on through the night, Matthew tries to reassure Brandt that the outlaws will probably accept a ransom for Melissa's safe return. Instead of being heartened, Brandt retorts that by then she will be defiled, and he has no interest in "used goods." Brandt then vows that he will kill all the kidnappers. The next morning at the outlaw camp, Doc assures Melissa that Frank is a good man, and not what he seems. As they ride off, Frank tells Melissa he was not sorry about raping her, then hands her a book to start teaching him. Instead, she attacks him, and after he subdues her, he declares that she will not be fed until she teaches him how to read. Melissa continues to defy Frank, refusing to eat and tossing the book aside. As Melissa becomes increasingly hungry, Doc and Frank tempt her with a bottle of preserved peaches, and after she ravenously downs the peaches, she begins to teach Frank the alphabet. Meanwhile, Brandt and his friends have disembarked from the train and tracked the outlaws to their camp. From a ridge above, Brandt and the others watch as two of the gang go into the bushes to relieve themselves, then shoot them down with their rifles. As Frank scans the ridge trying to spot their attackers, Brandt fixes Frank in his rifle sight, then shoots the man standing next to Frank in the eye. After riding for cover, Frank and his gang puzzle about how a rifle could shoot that far. Hot and thirsty, the outlaws come upon a watering hole. After the men eagerly jump into it to cool off, rife shots ring out, killing several of the outlaws and wounding Doc. When the firing suddenly stops, Frank and the remaining outlaws push on. Hysterical, Melissa sobs "he'll kill you," prompting Hog to realize that her husband is their pursuer. At the waterhole, Brandt lines up the dead bodies, like game that they have bagged. Frank decides to set a trap to draw Brandt and his friends out into the open, and as the hunters swoop down on a single man, the other outlaws attack and succeed in picking off Watt. Disgusted by the senseless violence, Buford and Sam give up the hunt. When Brandt rides out alone, Matthew follows him. The outlaws, meanwhile, have retreated to a Mexican village where Frank tries to extract the bullet from Doc's stomach. As Frank operates on Doc, Hog bursts into Melissa' s room and tries to rape her. Melissa resists, and as she screams for Frank, she pulls a knife from the bed stand and stabs Hog. Frank arrives to find Melissa covered with blood, and after she runs into his arms, he apologizes for her ordeal and they make love. After Frank and the others leave, Matthew and Brandt arrive at the village and are shown the wounded Hog. Brandt asks Hog where they are heading, and after disclosing the direction, Hog taunts Brandt about Melissa's sexual exploits, goading Brandt into stabbing Hog in the neck. Soon after, Frank and the others ride into a nearby village just as Brandt and Matthew scale the wall and start shooting at them. After Melissa jumps onto Frank's horse and rides off with him, Matthew admonishes Brandt to give up the hunt, but Brandt relentlessly continues on, leaving his friend behind. When Frank stops to tend to Doc's wound, Loring trains a rifle on Frank and announces that he plas to hold Melissa for a $10,000 ransom. Doc, still conscious, pulls out his gun and fires at Loring, allowing Frank to grab the rifle and blast Loring in the face. As they continue their arduous trek through the desert, Doc, in agonizing pain, begs Frank to kill him. In tears, Frank fires his gun at Doc, then throws down his gun, rifle and gun belt. Finally reaching some secluded woodlands, the few remaining gang members bathe in the creek while Melissa begs Frank to head out alone with her for California. Their conversation is interrupted by the roar of Brandt's rifle, killing everyone but Frank and Melissa. With no other choice, Melissa and Frank enter the desert, where as they become more and more delirious from the heat, Frank recalls his regrets about refusing to learn how to read as a boy. Once their water is depleted and their horse dies, they continue on foot. When Melissa collapses, Frank spots Brandt on the horizon, and as a Brandt approaches, he blasts Frank, who tries to shield Melissa from him. After shooting Frank again, Brandt kills Melissa, then begins to circle them. As Frank stares up at Brandt, he falls over dead into the sand, after which Brandt also succumbs from the heat, toppling over next to the two lovers.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Western
Release Date
Jul 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 14 Jul 1971; New York opening: 16 Jul 1971
Production Company
Brighton Pictures, Inc.; Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Spain and United States
Location
Almeria,Spain; Madrid,Spain; Guadin, Spain; Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Articles

The Hunting Party -


There are revisionist westerns... and then there are what might be called vivisectionist westerns: prairie adventures harsh and brutal, particularized by shootings, stabbings, burnings, beatings, mutilation, and the wholesale slaughter of men, women, children, and animals. Unlike the critical kudos awarded Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), no one stood up to defend Don Medford's The Hunting Party (1971). The tale of an outlaw who kidnaps the wife of a Texas cattle baron and asks her to teach him to read even as the gang is hunted down by the rancher's posse, the production had been slated as a vehicle for married actors Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom - whose pending divorce (not finalized until 1972) necessitated recasting. Fresh from his torturous experience filming The Devils (1971) for Ken Russell, Oliver Reed headed to the deserts of Almeria, Spain, to play illiterate bandit Frank Calder opposite Candice Bergen as Melissa Ruger, the mistreated housewife whom he mistakes for a school teacher, and Gene Hackman (in his first role post-The French Connection) as the sadistic Brant Ruger. In her 1984 memoirs, Bergen maintained that Reed stayed in character on location, behaving as badly as a wanted man might in polite company, and demanding from her an off-camera sexual relationship to match that shared by their characters; when Bergen demurred, Reed cut off all nonessential contact with her, referring to Bergen for the duration of filming as "the Girl."

By Richard Harland Smith
The Hunting Party -

The Hunting Party -

There are revisionist westerns... and then there are what might be called vivisectionist westerns: prairie adventures harsh and brutal, particularized by shootings, stabbings, burnings, beatings, mutilation, and the wholesale slaughter of men, women, children, and animals. Unlike the critical kudos awarded Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), no one stood up to defend Don Medford's The Hunting Party (1971). The tale of an outlaw who kidnaps the wife of a Texas cattle baron and asks her to teach him to read even as the gang is hunted down by the rancher's posse, the production had been slated as a vehicle for married actors Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom - whose pending divorce (not finalized until 1972) necessitated recasting. Fresh from his torturous experience filming The Devils (1971) for Ken Russell, Oliver Reed headed to the deserts of Almeria, Spain, to play illiterate bandit Frank Calder opposite Candice Bergen as Melissa Ruger, the mistreated housewife whom he mistakes for a school teacher, and Gene Hackman (in his first role post-The French Connection) as the sadistic Brant Ruger. In her 1984 memoirs, Bergen maintained that Reed stayed in character on location, behaving as badly as a wanted man might in polite company, and demanding from her an off-camera sexual relationship to match that shared by their characters; when Bergen demurred, Reed cut off all nonessential contact with her, referring to Bergen for the duration of filming as "the Girl." By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Before the opening credits roll, a scene is shown in which "Frank Calder" and his gang evicerate a cow and eat its entrails. This is crosscut with a scene in which the impotent "Brandt Ruger" brutally forces himself on his wife "Melissa." Throughout the film, scenes are crosscut between the outlaws and the hunting party. Although Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. is listed as copyright holder in the copyright registery, onscreen credits contain a copyright statement for Brighton Pictures, Inc. Production charts list Hove Pictures, Ltd. as the production company, but it is likely that the company changed its name to Brighton Pictures.
       According to a December 1968 Daily Variety news item, Rod Steiger was initially to play the part of Frank Calder, and Claire Bloom, to whom Steiger was married at the time, was to appear as Melissa Ruger. A May 1969 "Rambling Reporter" column in Hollywood Reporter noted that the impending Steiger-Bloom divorce necessitated recasting the film. According to Filmfacts and an August 1970 Variety news item, location shooting was done in and around Almeria and Guadin, Spain, and interiors were filmed at the Moro Studios in Madrid.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1971

Released in United States 1971