Hannie Caulder (Olive Signature) Blu-ray Review

Raquel Welch takes up gunfighting in this underrated western

Director Burt Kennedy’s (The Train Robbers) Hannie Caulder introduces the concept of the lady gunfighter in this revenge-driven western. Already an international sex symbol by the time of Hannie Caulder’s release in 1971, star Raquel Welch would appear in yet another western after earlier roles in Bandolero and 100 Rifles. The movie is a satisfying western greatly helped by an understated performance from Robert Culp, and fine supporting roles from such luminaries as Christopher Lee and Ernest Borgnine.

Hannie Caulder is an odd duck in terms of westerns with its rape-revenge plot and female protagonist. Directed by a man steeped in making Hollywood westerns, it introduces several new elements against convention. Produced by British distributors Tigon Pictures, more well known for horror films in the 1960s like Witchfinder General, they picked an amazingly appropriate cast for the b-movie western. A woman seeks revenge on the men that raped her, becoming a gunslinger in the process.

Raquel Welch plays the titular role, a widow looking for retribution after bank robbers kill her husband and then rape her. This is Raquel Welch at her best, a terse role that exploits her sexiness and mystique. Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, and legendary character actor Jack Elam play three loathsome brothers. The Clemens brothers are unrepentant villains, brutally raping the beautiful Hannie after murdering her husband.

The movie is almost schizophrenic in tone, juxtaposing bickering, almost comically crude villains with its more respectable protagonists

Christopher Lee shows up as a friendly gunsmith to Hannie in a supporting role. Robert Culp plays the infamous bounty hunter Thomas Price, a man that will take Hannie under his wing after her tragedy. Toss in Stephen Boyd in a mysterious cameo and you have a strong cast, especially for a standard western.

You have to take Hannie Caulder for what it is, a vaguely exploitative b-movie driven by the rape of its lead character in the film’s opening act. The movie is almost schizophrenic in tone, juxtaposing bickering, almost comically crude villains with its more respectable protagonists, Hannie and her bounty hunter mentor, Thomas Price. That dichotomy has been tough for some viewers to properly square, though the plot develops quite conventionally along western lines. The film could have easily played up a romance between their characters, undermining Hannie’s strength as a character.

Where Hannie Caulder is unique lies in its development of a female gunfighter, told in fairly believable detail. Years before the wave of female-driven action movies, seeing Raquel Welch learn to wield a six shooter and eventually seeing her character get a shot at justice is eminently pleasing.

Hannie Caulder Blu-ray screen shot 9

Video

Olive Films offers up Hannie Caulder in this newly remastered Signature edition that improves upon their earlier version in every way. A prior barebones issue from 2011 offered adequate clarity with somewhat questionable texture and soft picture quality. This Olive Signature edition features a new digital restoration with appreciably more detail and refined texture, including a much more film-like presentation. The 2.35:1 video has better definition, a more faithful grain structure and an enhanced contrast. Hannie Caulder has finally received a solid film transfer this time with no overt processing.

The 85-minute main feature is encoded in nigh perfect AVC at extremely high bitrates, found on a BD-50. This is flawless video compression, accurately replicating the mild grain structure. The elements are in fine shape, if not completely restored to pristine condition. They are presented in stable, consistent 1080P video with strong black levels. Some tweaks to the color grading have been subtly applied, bringing out warmer flesh-tones and deeper magenta levels.

Stronger levels of detail and texture bring out more definition, especially in the tighter close-ups. The western Panavision cinematography includes several wide, panoramic shots in excellent clarity. Short of a top-notch 4K film scan from perfectly restored elements, there isn’t much left for Hannie Caulder’s picture quality. A hint of sharpening is faintly noticeable but it’s fairly low in magnitude. Olive Films gives the western a solid upgrade on Blu-ray.

Audio

The original mono soundtrack is heard in 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio. Composer Ken Thorne’s score dominates the action, occasionally overwhelming the mix’s dynamic range. Dialogue is clean and intelligible. This is standard audio design for a western movie, expanding during the gun fights and shoot-outs. Hannie Caulder’s lossless audio won’t wow anyone but offers serviceable sound quality with no blatant problems.

Optional English SDH subtitles appear in a white font. They remain inside the scope presentation at all times.

Extras

Olive Films gives the 1971 western several new special features, including a commentary from Alex Cox. This Olive Signature edition is a bit light on supplements compared to others in the line like The Quiet Man or Johnny Guitar. They keep the line’s standard trade dress, enclosing a clear BD case in a classy slipcase.

The included booklet offers an essay on the film by critic Kim Morgan, covering its critical reception and some of its major themes in academic terms. “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” is an interesting take on the film without dismissing it.

Audio Commentary – Repo Man director Alex Cox gives a lucid solo discussion of the movie. Author of a book on spaghetti westerns, he delves into the genre’s influence on Hannie Caulder and helps give context for what was a different western for the time.

“Exploitation or Redemption?” (12:13 in HD) – An examination of rape-revenge movies with film scholar Ben Sher. This featurette has Sher covering Hannie Caulder’s pivotal rape scene and the idea of the male gaze in Hollywood films.

“Win or Lose: Tigon Pictures and the making of Hannie Caulder” (21:17 in HD) – Sir Christopher Frayling discusses the implications of taking a masculine genre in westerns and switching things up with a female gunfighter. The featurette also covers the movie’s production background in Europe and other topics.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full-resolution 1080P screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered during the process. Patreon supporters are able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to eight Hannie Caulder exclusives.