Take a Hard Ride (DVD-Video + Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)
Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C- Film: C+
FSM CD: Sound: 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
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.
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK REVIEW:
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