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Western films, from silent to today

The Hunting Party (1971)

The Hunting Party (1971) poster Outlaw Frank Calder (Oliver Reed) decides he wants to learn to read, so he snatches Melissa Ruger (Candice Bergen) from a school yard and hauls her off in a wagon.

Of course, many gang members have more sordid ideas in mind for the pretty young lady. Calder manages to protect her from them and he soons finds himself smitten with her.

What he doesn’t know is that she isn’t a teacher; she was simply helping out at the school.

She is the wife of the rich Brandt Ruger (Gene Hackman), who’s used to taking his buddies on hunting trips. And he’s bought each member of the party a new, long-range rifle.

Once he finds out his wife has been kidnapped, Ruger and friends set out on a different sort of hunting party. They pick off members of the Calder gang at long range.

And Ruger’s determination doesn’t wane when he comes to realize that his kidnapped wife is now traveling with Calder of her own free will.


Stellar performances from Oliver Reed, Gene Hackman and Candice Bergen salvage a film with a ridiculous opening premise — that a gang leader in the Old West would actually kidnap a pretty young woman so he can learn to read. Yikes!

But as for those performances, Bergen plays a young woman married to a sadistic husband who discovers surprising gentleness and caring in her bandit beau.

Reed has to watch his men die, one by one, or in batches, and tries his best to get help for the wounded. One of the film’s best scenes is his farewell to a gang member known as Doc.

As for Ruger, he seems most happy when he’s inflicting pain. And he purposely spars Calder time and again so he can prolong his suffering and inflict as much as possible.

Neat ending too.

Candice Bergen as Melissa Ruger in The Hunting Party (1971)Directed by:
Don Medford

Oliver Reed … Frank Calder
Gene Hackman … Brandt Ruger
Candice Bergen … Melissa Ruger
Simon Oakland … Matthew Gunn
Ronald Howard … Watt Nelson
L.Q. Jones … Hog Warren
Mitch Ryan … Doc Harrison
William Watson … Jim Loring
G.D. Spradlin … Sam Bayard

Runtime: 110 min.

Memorable lines:

Frank Calder to his men: “You dumb bastards. You kill each other, then nobody’s gonna get any money.”

Melissa Ruger: “Why do you want to learn to read?”
Frank Calder: “Cause I can’t.”

Matthew Gunn: “Melissa is going to be alright. You gotta believe that.”
Brandt Ruger: “Oh, sure. He’ll give her a kid and I’ll have a little outlaw bastard runnin’ around the house.”
Matthew Gunn: “Jesus Christ, Brandt, out of respect for Melissa …”
Ruger: “What the hell do you think he’s going to do with her? Sing church hymns?”

Frank Calder to Melissa: “Injun gets his eyes on a woman, he either buys her or takes here. You got took.”

Melissa Ruger to Frank Calder: “Why don’t you teach people not to steal other people?”

Simon Oakland as Matthew Gunn and Gene Hackman as Brandt Ruger in The Hunting Party (1971)

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