After spending a few years making insipid pictures that promised (and delivered) little more than ogling shots of her bikini-clad body, Raquel Welch decided to prove she could act by tackling more serious roles beginning with Hannie Caulder, a nasty little Western costarring and produced by Ernest Borgnine. Welch plays the title character, a frontier woman determined to revenge herself upon the unsavory trio of Borgnine, Jack Elam, and Strother Martin, who killed Hannie’s husband and raped her. To help things along, she hires a bounty hunter (Robert Culp), who teaches her to shoot and provides just about the only sympathetic male presence in the movie. Under the seasoned hand of director/co-writer Burt Kennedy, the picture moves along at a good clip and offers plenty of color, via sweaty locations and sweaty actors, plus the action is brutal and exciting. Borgnine, Elam, and Martin are always enjoyable to watch, even when playing utterly forgettable clichés as they do here, but no matter how valiant the efforts of the supporting players—especially Culp, who easily steals all of his scenes with his rascally charm—the picture can’t quite overcome the talent vacuum at its center. Welch tries, but there’s just no forcing a great performance out of someone lacking innate ability, so even when she’s mowing down bad guys with her newly acquired six-shooter skills, she’s never more than a beautiful physical presence. FYI, Hannie Caulder generated one of the sexiest promotional photos of the ’70s: An image of Welch wearing nothing but a poncho and a gun belt goes a long way toward explaining why her lack of acting ability didn’t stop her from having a movie career. The poster shot (above) demonstrates her appeal in a similarly lurid fashion.
Hannie Caulder: FUNKY