Hannie Caulder – Olive Signature Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Hannie-CaulderOlive Signature enters its third month of existence with a continued trend in rebranding and improving upon one of their previous Western genre releases.  This will make it four total for the series out of six movies that have gone into the collection so far.  November brings us to Hannie Caulder, the Raquel Welch revenge Western from 1971 that also co-starred Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine and Christopher Lee (His only appearance in a Western).  The Burt Kennedy film now comes with some new interviews, a commentary and the nice packaging with the little booklet that these Signature Editions are known to have.  Its also got a new look image and audio track as well.  This film, along with Orson Welles MacBeth, will be available on Tuesday, November 15th.

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Hannie, a widow sworn to avenge her own brutal rape and husband’s murder at the hands of Emmett, Frank, and Rufus, three of the most despicable scoundrels to have ever roamed the prairie. Eager for revenge, but lacking the gunfighter’s know-how, Hannie soon discovers new confidence and skill when bounty hunter Thomas Luther Price teaches her the way of the gun. In no time, Hannie is strapping on her six shooter and setting out to put a few notches on its handle.

Burt Kennedy’s Hannie Caulder might not be the first film in the rape-revenge genre of film, but it is possibly the first one that ever let the female have her the revenge.  Up until this film, the woman would suffer the abuse but never get the chance to fight back.  She’d be a tool or object to justify the protagonist’s violence and ultimate killing spree to exact vengeance upon those who wronged “him”.  Here, we find a woman wrong that collects herself and takes action to set into motion her path to finding justice for what had happened to her.

While this is Hannie’s story, her revenge and film, the most intriguing and best character to come out of this film winds up being a man.  And I don’t mean to take away anything from what the crux of this story is, but I can’t deny that Robert Culp is fantastic in this film.  It may be on the page, but I feel Culp added what makes his Thomas Luther Price so memorable and interesting.  Culp plays a bounty hunter unlike anything you’d get in a western.  He’s almost akin to being like a town doctor in terms of his personality and the way he carries himself.  However, through us seeing the way people react to just his name, we know he’s one of the baddest dudes on the planet.  Price has a cool, collected professional demeanor about him, close to something you’d see from Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  As a matter of fact, Tarantino happens to be a big fan of this movie, especially the Culp performance.

Raquel Welch is outstanding, too.  Let’s not forget the title character and ultimate protagonist of the film.  As we all know, Welch is one of the most striking women to ever walk the planet.  However, she’s underrated as a performer.  In this film she pulls of the transition from us seeing her as helpless in her worst possible moment, all the way to commanding badass.  We see a confidence build in her naturally in the film, and that’s something that’s on her and a boost she gives to the film.  She’s able to match chops with Robert Culp, making their chemistry the finest point of the film.  Also, she wears the hat well, as she fills out the female version of The Man With No Name perfectly, looking like a complete badass.

While the scholar finds her rape scene to be a bit too titillating, I have to disagree.  To me, it was pretty horrifying and just gross watching this derelicts laugh and grope her.  From the perspective given by Kennedy in this film, I found it to be just a bit of crazed lunacy that could get one fired up and ready to see the someone, anyone exact revenge on these deplorables.  Part of the problem may be in scenes surrounding the trio of antagonists where they are put in comedic scenarios and the film is asking us to laugh at them, when its just really not appropriate when you pair it up with our feelings on them and desire to see them put out to pasture.

One attraction for this film is that its done in the tradition of the spaghetti western.  The locations and architecture were used from a previous film’s location/sets.  The performances, audio and overall technical prowess of the film definite feel more Americanized.  Keeping with the Italian thematics though, is the gore.  Lots of blood gushing in this film, which almost looks like Dario Argento blood to boot.  If you haven’t seen this film and area  fan of spaghetti westerns, you should really treat yourself to this.

Hannie Caulder is a quick, tight western revenge story that still flourishes with some good character development and performance from its two leads.  The film soaks in many spaghetti western traits while also making its own footprint on the genre and film itself.  Raquel Welch feels very iconic here and people really need to check up on Robert Culp in this.  This is one of the best westerns that you may not have known about or haven’t seen that you’re gonna find.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  I’m not familiar with the previous release of Hannie Caulder, but this Signature Edition boasts a new high definition transfer.  And it looks quite lovely in my opinion.  Grain is retain, giving a lot of natural detail inherent in the picture.  There is also a nice strong flush of color.  Detail is pretty strong on things like the wood grain, chipping, surface texture and blood splatter on things like the fence at the home in the beginning.  Raquel Welch’s pants, especially when they are wet, emit a nice level of texture to go along with the pattern and cracks in the leather.  The image is as crisp as its probably going to get and this transfer highlights some of the blurry photography in the film as well.  You get a really good gist on how true of a transfer this is right from the opening credits (Which are awesome).  There is both a nice example of the grain and how strong the colors are going to be in this series of drawing used.

Depth:  Dimensional work here is on the stronger side of decent.  Character are free in their space and background/foreground relations are pretty sharp.  Interiors provide some good distance between character in front of the screen and the backdrop.  Movements are smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and provide a heavier layer of grain on darker areas.  Minimal detail is hidden due to darkness or being black in color. Textures and patterns are still pretty discernible for the most part.  No crushing witnessed in this transfer.

Color Reproduction:  While this is very old west in its colors, some do stick out.  The purple on Raquel Welch’s outfit looks very strong.  The blood is very red and very vibrant.  There are many strong and bold shades of brown in this transfer that are varied and boldly displayed.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and showcase a consistent appearance from start to finish on the film.  Medium shots and close-ups are your best best on facial features like stubble, wrinkles, scars, dried blood and and wrinkles.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a healthy, revealing layer of grain left intact on this transfer.  Surprisingly no dirt or specs appear on the video throughout.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: This is a pretty impressive 2.0 track.  I’m not familiar with the previous edition, but I understand this is a new track.  It excels in the lower range frequencies.  The music beats, notably during the rape sequence, hit really deep and boom.  They also add to some gunfire and clip clopping.  The track also sounds very clean, with no sign of analog distortion.  Sounds are full and crisp.  A healthy balance keeps this thing sounding very fresh, especially for the type of film it is and its age.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clean and clear, plenty audible and any given time.  No hiss or analog sounding recording carry with it.  A very polished sound that has plenty of detail on the diction of words from the given performer.

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Hannie Caulder – Olive Signature Edition comes with a booklet that features an essay titled “Sympathy For Lady Vengeance” by film critic Kim Morgan.

Audio Commentary

  • With Alex Cox, director of Repo Man and author of 10,000 Ways To Die: A Director’s Take On The Spaghetti Western.

Exploitation or Redemption? (HD, 12:13) – Ben Raphael Sher, a film scholar, discusses the history of the rape/revenge film, focusing on its more exploitative era and place in the western.  He touches upon titles like I Spit On Your Grave and Ms. 45. He also talks its relation to Hannie Caulder and Raquel Welch. Sher even goes into the perspective from which we are supposed to experience the rape scenes and how Hannie Caulder’s is just sort of the wrong way to go about it.

Win or Lose: Tigon Pictures and the Making Of Hannie Caulder (HD, 21:17) – An interview with Sir Christopher Frayling (Author of a bunch of Western film genre books) goes over the history of the production (and the production company that produced the film).  He gives some anecdotes on the struggle to get this film made (From notes/journals of the director), Kennedy’s techniques, Raquel Welch, the feminist impact of the film as well as its reception at the time and its legacy to now.

“Sympathy For Lady Vengeance” (HD, 11:02) – The same essay by Kim Morgan as the booklet, now scroll-able in a 10 slide version.

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Hannie Caulder is a terrific spin on the revenge western that’s a favorite of mine.  Robert Culp and Raquel Welch are terrific in their roles and their scenes together.  This new Blu-ray from Olive Films in their Signature Edition is quite good too with very good video and some awesome audio.  The bonus features don’t gather anyone from the film, but its always fascinating to listen to scholars discuss these old films as well.  If you’re a fan of the spaghetti westerns, revenge films or exploitations of the 70s…you get all that here, plus Raquel Welch.  A solid recommend here for the fans.


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