When you think of Raquel Welch, the words ”violent, pistol-packing seeker of vengeance” don’t exactly spring to mind. But that’s exactly what makes her lost ’70s Western Hannie Caulder such a strange — and strangely compelling — movie. For those who are too young to recall, Welch was the alpha and omega of Hollywood sex bombs during the late ’60s and early ’70s. With her suggestively sassy grin, smoky almond eyes, and a figure as curvy as an amusement-park ride, Welch rocketed to pinup stardom after donning a skimpy fur bikini in 1966’s schlocktastic One Million Years B.C. No one would have argued back then that it was her acting chops or interesting choices that made her famous. But then her husband, producer Patrick Curtis, got the idea to have her strap on a .45 and unleash hell in the Wild West. Hannie Caulder didn’t make much of a splash at the box office, which might explain why it hasn’t gotten a proper DVD release until now. Still, this feminist Western is absolutely worth watching, especially alongside other she-gunslinger movies like Joan Crawford’s Johnny Guitar and Sharon Stone’s The Quick and the Dead. The gritty revenge flick kicks off brutally as three psycho, bank-robbing brothers (the grizzled troika of Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, and Jack Elam) stop at a remote ranch, murder Hannie’s husband, and then take turns sexually assaulting her. Dazed and left for dead, she hitches up with a bounty hunter (a supercool Robert Culp) who teaches her how to exact bloody payback. Welch will never be confused with Meryl Streep, but there’s something uncharacteristically low-key and life-size about her performance in this forgotten gem. For once, it’s not just her looks that kill. The only disappointment? No EXTRAS. B+
NEVER BEEN WILDER Raquel Welch with ruffians Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, and Strother Martin in the classic B-movie Hannie Caulder (Paramount/Kobal Collection)
Posted July 21 2010 — 12:00 AM EDT
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