BAMF Blaxploitation Archive – TAKE A HARD RIDE

BAMF’s Blaxploitation Archive is a collection of reviews originally written in the 1990s that appeared in the pages of BadAzz MoFo. This review and many others have been reprinted and collected in BadAzz MoFo’s Book of Blaxploitation, Volume One, which is now available for purchase.

TAKE A HARD RIDE 1975 director: Anthony M. Dawson; starring: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Lee Van Cleef, Katherine Spaak

The first time I sat through Take a Hard Ride, I wasn’t all that impressed. But for whatever reason, this is one film that gets better every time I watch it. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown in my appreciation for film over the years, or maybe it’s because I’ve sat through so much crap that this just doesn’t seem that bad anymore.

Jim Brown stars as Pike, and honest cowboy looking to deliver the payroll to the ranch of his recently deceased boss. Word quickly spreads about Pike’s wad-o-cash, and pretty soon every two-bit varmint this side of the Pecos is lookin’ to get their hands on the loot — including ruthless bounty hunter Keiffer (Lee Van Cleef). Along the way, Pike teams up with Tyree (Fred Williamson) a gunslingin’ gambler, who likes to use rattlesnakes when he gets in a bind. Tyree offers to ride shotgun for Pike, but his true intention is to swipe the dough for himself. Pike and Tyree come to the rescue of Catherine (Catherine Spaak), a former hooker turned mail-order bride, who’s husband has just been filled fulla lead by some evil bandits. Traveling with Catherine is her protector, Kashtok (Jim Kelly), a half breed injun, trained in the art of Chinese foot fighting, who’s tongue has been cut out by evil gringos. Together the unlikely quartet set out to deliver the money, and evade all the scumbags out to get their hands on the cash.

Unlike some of the other blaxploitation westerns that only appear to be spaghetti westerns, Take a Hard Ride is the real deal. Director Anthony Dawson (his real name is Antonio Margheriti) also helmed other Eurowesterns, including Dynamite Joe, And God Said to Caine, and The Stranger & the Gunfighter (which also featured Lee Van Cleef). Dawson’s direction is nothing spectacular, but he does a competent job, delivering the action with at least a modicum of style (let’s face it, he’s no Enzo Barboni). The photography by Ricardo Pallotini offers a bit more inspiration than the direction, as Pallotini comes up with some pretty interesting angles and compositions. Among other things, Pallotini shot Blindman, and Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time.

Despite a soft spot in my heart for Take a Hard Ride, the film is not without its problems. For starters the soundtrack to this film sucks, never drawing from either the blaxploitation genre or spaghetti westerns. Instead it’s some crap that sounds like it belongs in any old horse opera. The movie also drags at times, and could stand to be about ten to fifteen minutes shorter. Lee Van Cleef has been much better in many films. This is not the menacing Angel Eyes we’ve come to know and love — this is a character actor collecting a paycheck. And although he’s no Olivier, Jim Kelly is about as totally wasted as you can get. With very little to do, very little screen time, and literally not a word of dialog, hardcore Black Belt Jones fans may be disappointed, but you will get to see him kick ass. There’s a great appearance by Charles MacGregor, who we all know and love from Super Fly and The Baron. Jim Brown and Fred Williamson both give good, solid performances, but Fred does steal the show. He plays the Terence Hill to Brown’s Franco Nero, while Kelly is like a poorly used Tomas Milian. Together they work well, and help to make Take a Hard Ride a solid bit of entertainment.

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