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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Martial Arts > Blaxploitation > Take A Hard Ride (DVD-Video + FSM CD)

Take a Hard Ride (DVD-Video + Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)


DVD-Video:  Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Film: C+

FSM CD: Sound: B     Music: B



Sometimes fans just cannot win.  A few years ago, we reviewed the terrific CD soundtrack from Film Score Monthly.com’s FSM soundtrack for the Anthony M. Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti) genre hybrid Take A Hard Ride, released by 20th Century Fox in 1975 at the end of two cycles of film (Blaxploitation, Martial Arts) and one big genre, The Western.  Now that Anchor Bay has finally released the film on DVD from the Fox titles they have been acquiring, the limited edition CD soundtrack has sold out.  All 3,000 copies are gone.


Three The Hard Way had been a big hit the year before, so bringing the three stars of that film together again (Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly) was part of the inspiration as trail boss, gambler/hustler and mute martial arts fighter respectively.  Add Lee Van Cleef as an evil bounty hunter, Catherine Spaak as a beautiful hooker and three veteran actors (Dana Andrews, Barry Sullivan, Harry Carey, Jr.) in supporting roles and you’ve got quite a mix.  The problem is that Dawson cannot make al the elements gel in a convincing way throughout, though the actors are good.


As a result, though it is interesting to watch, the Eric Bercovici/Jerrold L. Ludwig script is smart and solid, but the wall in essentially hits is not being able to be a Spaghetti Western ands be a confined Hollywood production at the same time, because they are contradictory things.  It can sometimes imitate and reference Sergio Leone, but the production does not move in pace, editing or cleverness.  The additional genres only complicate matters and the lack of energy too often is also a dead giveaway of a sort of desperation.  In all this, even the best Westerns of the time could not end the end of that genre’s height, but they all at least give it a good try and they get extras points for not being politically correct.  It is a one of a kind film worth a look.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is a little grainy for the time and the DeLuxe color is in decent shape.  The late cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini was a pretty good cameraman, having also shot films like the Dog Eat Dog! (1964) with Jayne Mansfield that was just issued by Dark Sky Films.  This has a consistent look and tries to look like a studio production and Spaghetti Western at the same time, but the result is odd instead.  It looks and feels a bit older than its age as a result.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono shows its age and is no match for the fine stereo sound on the out of print soundtrack.  We can only hope Fox will remix this for Stereo with that great Jerry Goldsmith score when the Blu-ray version rolls around.  Extras include the original trailer for this and four other Anchor Bay-licensed 20th Century Fox films, but that is all.  Too bad an alternate soundtrack with the music score in stereo was not included.





Jerry Goldsmith pulled off yet another interesting score for a Western in Take A Hard Ride, 20th Century-Fox’s 1975 tale of for-profit cowboys with the twist of three African American males in the cast.  The film mixes up some other popular genres of the time, but we’ll wait until Fox issues the DVD to go into that.  What we can say is that this is the Goldsmith Western work that comes after al of the Sergio Leone Westerns had been made and were being imitated by hundreds of lesser composers.  What Goldsmith comes up with here is his final words on the era.


The 19 tracks are not of the most traditional music associated with the genre, but also pull from the thrust of other great Goldsmith work of the time not associated with the Western at all.  He had done several Spy genre works (The Man From U.N.C.L.E. series and Flint films), the original Planet Of The Apes that influenced the four sequels and two TV series, other Westerns and some War genre films (Morituri, Von Ryan’s Express, The Blue Max and even Seven Days In May).  Here, Goldsmith pushes the limits by allowing the work to exceed the genre, in part for the film to work and be possible.  The new direction in music, casting and theme shows how much the Western was running out of steam in its original years.  It was on the verge of having to reinvent itself with every film.


The booklet has great detail about the film, maybe too much if you have not seen it, but is very informative just the same.  This score debuts for the first time ever here and is more offbeat than usual, even for a Goldsmith work.  There is almost a struggle here between traditional Western genre music and new experiments that usually work and win out.  This is a must for all serious Western and Goldsmith fans, as he takes new liberties with the narrative that he might not have without the influence of Leone and composer Ennio Morricone.


The PCM 2.0 Stereo is very rich and dynamic, coming from the original multi-channel master recordings.  I doubt the DVD is going to be able to match the sonics heard here.  This is yet another top-rate Goldsmith work, conducted in this case by the great Lionel Newman.  Cheers to producer/archivist Douglass Fake for delivering on the potential of the masters.  This is rich music represented well by a rich recording. 



The limited run of 3,000 pressings is now out of print, but you can still hear samples of some of the tracks in stereo by going to the company website at www.filmscoremonthly.com, where you can find out more information about this and other great exclusives before they run out too.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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