Erin Richter
October 31, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Hired Hand: Collector's Edition

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Verna Bloom, Ann Doran
director
Peter Fonda
author
Alan Sharp
genre
Western

We gave it a B

Captain America set out to prove he had more mettle than the chopper-cruisin’ anti-hero he portrayed in 1969’s ”Easy Rider,” and that’s just what Peter Fonda did with his hardly seen 1971 directorial debut — a simple, lyrical tale of loyalty, revenge, and redemption in the rugged 1880s West. A stoic drifter (Fonda, embodying ”ambiguity,” as he notes in the commentary) returns home after seven years, with his sidekick (Warren Oates), hoping to regain the favor of his emboldened wife (Verna Bloom). Despite its poetic use of montage and lush lens work by Vilmos Zsigmond (who later won an Oscar for ”Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), Hand was initially marketed as a jazzy actioner and played in U.S. theaters for only two weeks. But in Hamish McAlpine and original editor Frank Mazzola’s glorious restoration, Zsigmond’s New Mexican sunsets glow, Bruce Langhorne’s period soundtrack mesmerizes, and the cast’s raw performances prove Hand worthy of an encore. A EXTRAS Mostly the requisite stills and ads. Fonda gives a production breakdown in his commentary, but repeats some stories in a making-of doc. The most worthy feature is a deleted scene of young Larry ”J.R. Ewing” Hagman, playing a well-meaning sheriff.

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