The Deadly Trackers


1h 44m 1973
The Deadly Trackers

Brief Synopsis

A pacifist sheriff joins forces with a Mexican lawman to track a deadly bandit.

Film Details

Also Known As
Deadly Trackers, Riata
Genre
Western
Release Date
1973

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

A Texas sheriff wrecks revenge on a band of desperados who murdered his wife and child.

Film Details

Also Known As
Deadly Trackers, Riata
Genre
Western
Release Date
1973

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

The Deadly Trackers


It's fair to say that no one connected to The Deadly Trackers had any love for the final product, a violent western that was given a quick release by Warner Brothers in late 1973. Initially, however, the project had held much promise. The original screenplay, entitled Riata, was written in the mid-1960s by maverick filmmaker Sam Fuller, who felt it was "one of the best scripts I ever wrote. It hit on all the themes I loved telling stories about. Father-son relationships. Outlaws and lawmen. Revenge and forgiveness. Fidelity and betrayal. Violence and peace. Love and rancor. Sacrifice and satisfaction."

Fuller's yarn concerned a Texas sheriff named Riata whose wife and son are killed by an outlaw, Brubeck. Riata chases Brubeck to Mexico, where a local lawman, Paco, is hot on Brubeck's tail himself. Riata and Paco team up, but Paco, sensing Riata's lust for revenge, makes Riata promise he'll capture Brubeck alive rather than kill him.

MGM agreed to produce the film, but that deal fell through and Warner Bros. picked the project up. After gently turning down Doors rocker Jim Morrison for the part of Riata, who strangely enough had expressed interest, Fuller cast Richard Harris in that part, with Mexican actor Alfonso Arau coming aboard as Paco. Warners insisted on Bo Hopkins as Brubeck, and Fuller rewrote the character to accommodate him. Meanwhile, a producer of the film went to France looking for an actress to play Brubeck's French lover; he returned with a woman who had no acting experience. (What she did have, said Fuller, were "oversized breasts and [a] willingness to sleep with whomever would help her 'career.'") Fuller and Richard Harris complained, but the studio insisted that production get underway, which it did, in Spain, in October 1972.

The shoot was disastrous. Film editor John Glen, who worked on this first incarnation of the film, recounted that Fuller was spending far too much time shooting and reshooting the same sequences, and that most of the footage was not cutting together properly. He finally took Fuller aside and showed him the footage; Fuller, he wrote, "was visibly shaken and became very emotional, apologizing profusely and trying to explain that he was suffering a lot of pressure." Soon thereafter, Warner Bros. demanded to know why the film had fallen so far behind schedule; Glen showed the footage to the studio executives, who promptly shut the entire production down after five weeks and $1 million. (In his memoir, Fuller blamed the shutdown on the inexperienced French actress, writing that her involvement and performance "triggered a violent reaction from the studio executives.")

Warner Bros. re-started the picture with a new script by Lukas Heller (The Dirty Dozen, 1967), a new director in television veteran Barry Shear, new producer Fouad Said, and the new title The Deadly Trackers. The crewmembers were all replaced as well. Richard Harris kept his role, which like the rest of the characters was re-named, but the other parts were re-cast, with Rod Taylor now on board as the villain and Al Lettieri as the Mexican lawman. Filming resumed in Mexico in May 1973.

The result kept Fuller's name on screen with a story credit, but Fuller declared "they completely lobotomized my story." Writer Lukas Heller wasn't pleased either, complaining in a Variety article that his characterizations had been drastically changed, that the film's ending contained twenty "arbitrary and ludicrous" pages that were written after he left the Mexican set, and that in the entire film, there was "not a single line in its entirety that I recognized as my own." He asked for his name to be removed, but the studio refused.

Composer Fred Steiner also asked for his name to be removed, and in that case, the studio agreed. He had composed a full, original score, but the film ended up using only bits and pieces of it, in scenes not originally intended by Steiner, with the bulk of the final music coming from Jerry Fielding's score from The Wild Bunch (1969)--without credit to Fielding. This led to a bill from the American Federation of Musicians and to even more unwanted negative publicity in the trades. When The Deadly Trackers was finally released, Variety deemed it "a b.o. turkey for Thanksgiving" and the Los Angeles Times called it "the worst film released this year."

By Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:
Samuel Fuller, A Third Face
John Glen, For My Eyes Only
Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood
The Deadly Trackers

The Deadly Trackers

It's fair to say that no one connected to The Deadly Trackers had any love for the final product, a violent western that was given a quick release by Warner Brothers in late 1973. Initially, however, the project had held much promise. The original screenplay, entitled Riata, was written in the mid-1960s by maverick filmmaker Sam Fuller, who felt it was "one of the best scripts I ever wrote. It hit on all the themes I loved telling stories about. Father-son relationships. Outlaws and lawmen. Revenge and forgiveness. Fidelity and betrayal. Violence and peace. Love and rancor. Sacrifice and satisfaction." Fuller's yarn concerned a Texas sheriff named Riata whose wife and son are killed by an outlaw, Brubeck. Riata chases Brubeck to Mexico, where a local lawman, Paco, is hot on Brubeck's tail himself. Riata and Paco team up, but Paco, sensing Riata's lust for revenge, makes Riata promise he'll capture Brubeck alive rather than kill him. MGM agreed to produce the film, but that deal fell through and Warner Bros. picked the project up. After gently turning down Doors rocker Jim Morrison for the part of Riata, who strangely enough had expressed interest, Fuller cast Richard Harris in that part, with Mexican actor Alfonso Arau coming aboard as Paco. Warners insisted on Bo Hopkins as Brubeck, and Fuller rewrote the character to accommodate him. Meanwhile, a producer of the film went to France looking for an actress to play Brubeck's French lover; he returned with a woman who had no acting experience. (What she did have, said Fuller, were "oversized breasts and [a] willingness to sleep with whomever would help her 'career.'") Fuller and Richard Harris complained, but the studio insisted that production get underway, which it did, in Spain, in October 1972. The shoot was disastrous. Film editor John Glen, who worked on this first incarnation of the film, recounted that Fuller was spending far too much time shooting and reshooting the same sequences, and that most of the footage was not cutting together properly. He finally took Fuller aside and showed him the footage; Fuller, he wrote, "was visibly shaken and became very emotional, apologizing profusely and trying to explain that he was suffering a lot of pressure." Soon thereafter, Warner Bros. demanded to know why the film had fallen so far behind schedule; Glen showed the footage to the studio executives, who promptly shut the entire production down after five weeks and $1 million. (In his memoir, Fuller blamed the shutdown on the inexperienced French actress, writing that her involvement and performance "triggered a violent reaction from the studio executives.") Warner Bros. re-started the picture with a new script by Lukas Heller (The Dirty Dozen, 1967), a new director in television veteran Barry Shear, new producer Fouad Said, and the new title The Deadly Trackers. The crewmembers were all replaced as well. Richard Harris kept his role, which like the rest of the characters was re-named, but the other parts were re-cast, with Rod Taylor now on board as the villain and Al Lettieri as the Mexican lawman. Filming resumed in Mexico in May 1973. The result kept Fuller's name on screen with a story credit, but Fuller declared "they completely lobotomized my story." Writer Lukas Heller wasn't pleased either, complaining in a Variety article that his characterizations had been drastically changed, that the film's ending contained twenty "arbitrary and ludicrous" pages that were written after he left the Mexican set, and that in the entire film, there was "not a single line in its entirety that I recognized as my own." He asked for his name to be removed, but the studio refused. Composer Fred Steiner also asked for his name to be removed, and in that case, the studio agreed. He had composed a full, original score, but the film ended up using only bits and pieces of it, in scenes not originally intended by Steiner, with the bulk of the final music coming from Jerry Fielding's score from The Wild Bunch (1969)--without credit to Fielding. This led to a bill from the American Federation of Musicians and to even more unwanted negative publicity in the trades. When The Deadly Trackers was finally released, Variety deemed it "a b.o. turkey for Thanksgiving" and the Los Angeles Times called it "the worst film released this year." By Jeremy Arnold SOURCES: Samuel Fuller, A Third Face John Glen, For My Eyes Only Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris


Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old.

Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination.

Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You."

The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father.

Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000).

Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris

Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old. Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination. Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You." The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father. Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000). Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1973

Released in United States on Video March 13, 1991

Samuel Fuller was the original director, but left the project after disagreements with actor Richard Harris.

Released in United States 1973

Released in United States on Video March 13, 1991