Written by: John White on April 16th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Italy/USA, 1975
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Cast: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Lee Van Cleef, Catherine Spaak
DVD released: January 17th 2006
Approximate running time: 103 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Anchor Bay/20th Century Fox
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
Pike has given his word to take $86000 to Mexico and whilst on his way he comes across Tyree, a gambler who makes clear he wants the money. They make a deal to fight once they get to Mexico but to protect each other whilst on the trail. Kiefer, a bounty hunter, is on Pike’s trail as is a corrupt marshal and assorted bandits – racists, Mexicans and others. Pike and Tyree help a maiden in distress and her helper, Kashtok, an American Indian. Together they travel through ambushes from all on their trail until they reach the Mexican border where Keifer has talked a band of Mexicans into one last ambush. Can the two survive against 40 Bandits and Kiefer?
Take a versatile Italian director, Margheriti, three of the biggest stars of Blaxploitation, a Jerry Goldsmith score and a plot involving a Kung Fu Indian, a whore seeking redemption, religious racists and an evil Lee van Cleef – and you have got this cracking western. A rare example of taking Spaghetti western ethics back to the US and building on them to do something unique – a blaxploitation spaghetti western!
Take a Hard Ride is not the most original plot. Jim Brown swears to his dying boss that he will return his money to Mexico o that their Mexican version of Shangri La can be built. He then is ambushed regularly by anyone who hears about the money including the ultra-slick Fred Williamson. Simply, Fred Williamson should be in every film ever made as the man is so cool, so damn convincing and just so much fun. Once Williamson and Brown team up, their victory is assured as they fight off Banditos, the KKK and Cleef. They also pick up Jim Kelly as a fairly unusual Indian who is Karate literate. Take a Hard Ride is not a history lesson but it is wonderful to watch a western where the Black guys win out.
What Margheriti brings to the party is a tremendous flair for momentum. He lets his stars do what they do – Williamson is cool, Brown is earnest, Kelly kicks butt and Van Cleef squints. Spaak is far from great here, her role is meant to be sympathetic but the way her lines are delivered is far from meaningful and any pathos is lost. Around the actors, Margheriti blows stuff up, does great scenery and handles the action brilliantly.
This film has a strong sense of film history as well with Hollywood greats of the past like Barry Sullivan, Harry Carey and Dana Andrews in small roles. Goldsmith’s score is the missing link between Morricone and the golden age of US westerns. Take a Hard Ride does exactly what it should. Great action, great music and iconic stuff especially from Williamson. The idea of a blaxploitation western has been done since but nowhere near as well as here and nowhere near as much fun.
Anchor Bay present Take a Hard Ride in an Anamorphic print which is sharp but shows grain and occasional damage. The image looks well proportioned and no information seems to be obviously missing from the screen. The sound is good showing off Goldsmith’s fine score well.
The extras are a trailer only.
It seems hard to credit that no one at Anchor Bay or Fox realised that Anthony M Dawson was a pseudonym for Margheriti but that is who they listed the director as. Take A hard Ride has had a decent DVD release here but it does make you think whether Anchor Bay are the film afficianados they claim to be when they miss that fact.