Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lots of blood served at "The Hunting Party"

Cleveland Press February 7, 1965

"The Hunting Party" 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."

This is another variation on the bandit and the lady formula. Oliver Reed is the leader of an outlaw band. He mistakenly thinks Candice Bergen, wife of a wealthy rancher, is the local school teacher and kidnaps her because he wants to learn to read and write.

THE LAWRENCE motif comes into play in the three-way relationship with the woman being physically and emotionally drawn to the rough man well below her in station. Also there is more than a suggestion of an unhappy marriage with her sadistic husband Gene Hackman.

While all this is going on Hackman is off on a hunting party with wealthy friends. They have their own private railroad cars complete with supplies ammunition and prostitutes.

When word comes of the kidnapping Hackman and his companions set off in pursuit armed with high powered rifles with telescopic sights, rifles capable of killing game at 800 yards.

It isn't a war. It's a massacre.

THE HUNTERS hang back, well out of range and almost out of sight of the outlaw band. There follows a succession of scenes of men caught in the cross-hairs of telescopic sights, explosions and fountains of blood.

Much of this is in slow motion, a la Sam Peckinpah's "Wild Bunch." It is blood and more blood with men left with gaping holes in their bodies.

The chase finally is reduced to the two hunted lovers and the vengeful husband, all of them being destroyed -- Reed rather overly shot and Miss Bergen rather unusually so.

Reed wears his usual soulful, hurt expression, Hackman is properly menacing and Miss Bergen mostly gasps a lot.