The Hunting Party (1971 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Hunting Party
Poster of the movie The Hunting Party.jpg
Original film poster
Directed byDon Medford
Written byGilbert Ralston
Music byRiz Ortolani
CinematographyCecilio Paniagua
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • 1971 (1971)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.6 million[1]

The Hunting Party is a 1971 American-British western film directed by Don Medford for Levy-Gardner-Laven and starring Oliver Reed, Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, Simon Oakland and Ronald Howard.


Relations are strained between cattle baron Brandt Ruger (Gene Hackman) and his wife, Melissa (Candice Bergen) when he leaves for a two-week hunting trip with some of his wealthy friends.

Mistaking her for a schoolteacher, outlaw Frank Calder (Oliver Reed) and his band of rustlers and thieves kidnap Melissa, not for ransom but because Calder wants to be taught how to read a book.

Traveling by luxurious private train, the hunting party engages in debauchery with women, one of whom Ruger sadistically abuses. Notified that his wife has been taken captive, Ruger arms his friends with high-powered rifles to begin a hunt not for animals but for men.

Calder twice must keep Melissa from being raped by his men. But eventually he overpowers and rapes her himself. Melissa tries to shoot and stab Calder and to flee, each time in vain. She goes on a hunger strike, but cannot resist the temptation of a jar of peaches. She begins to enjoy Calder's company.

Using rifles with telescopic sights that can allow shooting a target at 800 yards, Ruger and his men begin to pick off the outlaws one by one. Melissa also stabs one, Hog Warren (L.Q. Jones), after he attempts a second time to rape her. Calder charges within close range and is able to shoot one of Ruger's men. Two others quit the hunting party when they see Ruger's lack of concern over their friend's death.

Calder's men become upset to discover that they have kidnapped such a powerful man's wife, placing them in danger for no good reason. The men revolt and Calder kills one. When his own best friend, Doc (Mitchell Ryan), is gravely wounded, Calder obeys a last request to put Doc out of his misery.

On his death bed, Hog Warren further angers Ruger by telling him Melissa is now Calder's woman. In yet another ambush, Ruger sees for himself that Melissa, rather than trying to escape, leaps onto Calder's horse voluntarily to ride off with him. Ruger's last remaining ally, Matthew (Simon Oakland), implores him to let her go, but the crazed Ruger pays no mind.

The last of Calder's men are gunned down from long range at a water hole. Alone now, Calder and Melissa are driven out into the desert. Weak from heat and thirst, their horse dead, they stumble toward an inevitable fate. Ruger materializes on foot. He fatally shoots Calder with his rifle. As Calder is dying Ruger kills Melissa. Ruger then collapses beside them. The credits roll over what appears to be a sepia photograph of three bodies in the sand.



The reviews for the movie were unrelentingly negative and hostile. Roger Greenspun wrote in The New York Times that it was "a really stupid movie" in which Bergen had "an utterly thankless role" and that the director "hokes up the action to a degree not required by the story and, with a stunning tactlessness, catches scene after scene at its dramatic limit and pushes it over into helpless banality."[2] Variety wrote "seldom has so much fake blood been splattered for so little".[3] Tony Mastrioanni wrote in The Cleveland Press that "This movie is no picnic. It is a gory western for audiences with strong stomachs. It also is pretentious. If D. H. Lawrence had written westerns, he might have turned out some of the plot of "The Hunting Party".[4] Leonard Maltin gave it his lowest rating, writing "Fine cast is wasted in repellently violent western that adds nothing new".[5]


The soundtrack was composed by Riz Ortolani. While in Hollywood to score the film he gave interviews criticizing the trend of low budget movies to recut existing music.[6]


  1. ^ Trio Pleads Guilty to 'Hunting Party: Guilty of 'Hunting Party' Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 July 1971: s1.
  2. ^ "Movie Review, Love of Rancher's Wife Is Spark for 'The Hunting Party,' a Western -".
  3. ^ Staff, Variety (1 January 1971). "The Hunting Party".
  4. ^ "Lots of blood served at "The Hunting Party" : Cleveland Memory Project, CSU Library".
  5. ^ "IndieWire". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 2014-09-19.
  6. ^ Billboard - 6 Feb 1971 - Page 4 LOS ANGELES— The trend to low-budget pictures is detrimental to the music industry and to the future of soundtrack recordings, according to composer Riz Ortolani." Page 70 "The Italian composer was here last week to score "The Hunting Party," with Candice Burgen. Ortolani, whose "Till Love Touches Your Life," from the motion picture "Madron," is a contender for an Academy Award, feels that producers are turning more towards "pre-writ- ten" music in order to save money. ""They're taking existing tracks and trying to fit them into motion pictures instead of hiring a composer to score a film. It's a simple economic reason "

External links[edit]