Take a Hard Ride (1975)

Director: Antonio Margheriti

I was always a little puzzled as to why this title appeared in the blaxploitation section of the Drive-In Delirium series, given that it was a Spanish co-production with an Italian director (and a Dutch production company name in the closing credits?), and so would’ve been better suited to the Eurowestern section. Whatever. Though not a spaghetti western as such, Take a Hard Ride continues the noble spaghetti tradition of using southern European locations—in this case, the Canary Islands—to stand in for the southwest of the US/border of Mexico area. And, as this review rightly notes, “it’s all about the stunt casting” rather than the plot. It really doesn’t do much that other westerns hadn’t done before, except perhaps making two black men the leads, but even then one of those two (Fred Williamson) had already done that in Boss Nigger a year or so before this… Anyway, the plot revolves around Pike (Jim Brown), who works for a cattle baron who rather inconveniently dies at the start of the film, leaving Pike the task of returning $86,000 in payroll money to the boss’ ranch in Mexico. And also leaving him with the problem of not getting killed along the way by the surprisingly large number of people who know what he’s carrying. The real problem, though, might lie in Pike’s own travelling companions, particularly Williamson’s enigmatic gambler. Nothing hugely new in the story department, then, but the story’s fairly well told and the main attraction is indeed the casting; Pike and Williamson make for a solid odd couple; Lee Van Cleef plays the bounty hunter pursuing them who remembers Pike from the latter’s less upright days, and seems to be out for the still standing bounty on him as much as the payroll. On the whole, Take a Hard Ride isn’t exactly the most demanding of high art cinema, and that’s fine; it’s a completely efficient genre picture with some neat lead performances, interesting locations, good stunts and action, and it basically does the sort of things a film of its type should do in a pretty fair manner. And I got it for $7 at Lawson’s. No complaints for that money.

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