Take A Hard Ride (1975)
You might think Django Unchained was the first flick to combine elements of Blaxsploitation and Spaghetti Western cinema, but in truth, Take A Hard Ride did it almost 40 years earlier. Directed by Antonio Margheriti, co-financed by Italian film producers and starring Blaxsploitation and mainstream legends Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, Hard Ride can certainly claim to have done it first.
When cattle baron, Morgan (Dana Andrews) dies suddenly, his top ranch hand, Pike (Jim Brown) vows to get the $86,000 they made from a big cattle sale back to Morgan’s wife and ranch in Sonora, Mexico. All that money has put a target on Pike’s back and it’s a long way to Mexico. While pursued by all sorts of outlaws, as well as, vicious bounty hunter, Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef), Pike finds allies in dapper and dangerous gambler, Tyree (Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson) and a karate chopping half-breed Indian, Kashtok (Jim Kelly)…and what Western would be complete without the prostitute with a heart of gold (Catherine Spaak).
Despite the presence of an Italian director, Hard Ride plays more like a traditional western, especially with Jerry Goldsmith’s score being that of a Hollywood style cowboy flick. There are plenty of gunfights, though we wish director Margheriti didn’t take such a leisurely pace with the scenes in-between. Despite our heroes being pursued by dozens of gunslingers, they never really seem to be in a hurry to get where they are going. It is fun, however, to watch Brown and Williamson play cowboy and Kelly doing his martial arts fighting and the rest of the cast are lively enough, too. They all seem to take their roles seriously yet, it’s obvious they are enjoying themselves. Need I say it’s always a pleasure to see the steely Van Cleef play a stone cold bad guy.
So, in conclusion, despite it’s reputation as the first Blaxsploitation/ Spaghetti Western, Hard Ride is actually a fairly straight forward Western which, works both for and against it. It is an entertaining enough Western and we enjoy seeing the leads in action, but from a nostalgia standpoint, we wish it had a bit more of the elements it’s reputation suggests, to make it more unique and one of a kind. Still worth a look for fans of all the genres and actors listed above.
An entertaining 3 (out of 4) pistols