The Hired Hand (1971) Poster

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Heart-Breakingly Beautiful Film
faith_b10 May 2004
You know a film has impact on you when you remember it 30 years later. Those that are mediocre all merge together and fade from memory quickly, but a good one you're still thinking of a week later --a great one, years later. The Hired Hand is like that. I saw the movie in 1971 and thought it mesmerizing. The other night I was delighted to see the remastered copy in Blockbuster, and I had to rent it right then and there! It was even better than I had remembered. The cinematography was nothing less than stunning -- especially the sunsets. It has the most unusual and haunting soundtrack of any movie I've seen.

I have to laugh at the reviewer who thought Verna Bloom was ugly. Verna was perfect for the role of the quintessential pioneer woman -- strong and direct, with an amazing presence and an inner beauty. I guess that "beautiful Hollywood people" have been playing the guys and gals next door for so long that average looks have become "ugly" to us. Heaven help us all.

Some of the scenes in the movie are quiet but powerful. One is strangely erotic -- Verna Bloom is sitting in her rocker on the front porch and Warren Oates on the step near her. As she explains to him that it wouldn't really matter who she slept with that night (either he or Harry would be interchangeable), Warren Oates character is visibly moved and caresses her bare foot for a few seconds before the scene fades to black. This is a example of a how "less can be more" in an erotic scene -- it was brillantly done.

I give this movie my highest recommendation.
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Fonda's overlooked masterpiece
Derek-313 December 2000
This is not only an overlooked western, but a sorely overlooked piece of filmmaking, beautifully shot by Vilmos Zsigmond (who uses some of the slowest dissolves anywhere in cinema) and directed by Peter Fonda, who seemed bent on capturing an authentic period flavor often missing from westerns of that time. His eye for detail, and his refusal to insert too much of it, is impressive for a young director. That is, the visual authenticity, like the acting performances and dialogue, work by way of understatement. This is a very understated film, at a time when few coming from the American market were.

Ultimately, it is a sort of 'buddy' film about the deep friendship between two characters played by Fonda and Warren Oates. It also has in common with EASY RIDER the tragic, "backward" movement from West to East, which goes against the "natural" flow of American history and literature, and which ends in death here as in the earlier film, when the "hired hand" of the title takes on a sadly ironic new meaning.

Fonda directs his actors in an understated, low-key, highly naturalistic style; Warren Oates was never warmer or more at ease seeming on camera. It is good to see him relaxed and even jovial. His character is genuinely disturbed when forced to shoot in self defense a menacing drunk taking shots at him. Larry Hagman even gives a good performance here in an uncredited role as a town sheriff, caught in an awkward spot when peace in the community demands he ask Oates to leave his jurisdiction. The off-beat comedian and actor Severn Darden (memorable from THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, 1966) appears here in an uncharacteristic role as a malignant villain. Bruce Langhorne's music is among the most haunting anywhere in film. It will stay with you.

This film is a work of true film ART, where most westerns of its day (e.g. John Wayne's) were little more than loud, mass-market entertainments. The understated THE HIRED HAND will probably not satisfy western fans looking for action and violence in the Wayne or Eastwood mold. It is closer in feel to, say, Jan Troell's ZANDY'S BRIDE, made in the mid-70s, or HEARTLAND, the highly realistic drama of frontier struggle that closed the 70s. Yet even those who favor Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH (1969) should appreciate the literate script of THE HIRED HAND, written by Alan Sharp, whose credits include Arthur Penn's NIGHT MOVES (1975), and the equally overlooked Robert Aldrich western, ULZANA'S RAID (1972), which presents even more intense moral complexities.

THE HIRED HAND is, alas, now difficult to see. But make the effort, and you will be greatly rewarded.

-- Derek Bousé
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Practically the definition of "neglected masterpiece"...
JDWalley22 April 2004
I saw the last half or so of this film many years ago, on a small black-and-white television. Even then, I was impressed by a film I had only heard described as a commercial flop and a come-down after "Easy Rider." Maybe people were expecting another "counter-cultural" demythologizing of America's past, as was common in those days, and didn't know what to make of a surprisingly traditional and sensitive drama about loyalty, love, and the desire for new horizons versus the call of home.

Finally, thanks to the 30th Anniversary restoration, I was able to see the entire work, and was not disappointed. Not only is this a well-told and -acted drama, it's easily one of the most stunning-looking films I've ever seen. Nor is it merely "pretty photography," but key to the inner life of the characters, in that you can see how one could be drawn by such beauty into either wandering off through the world in search of new wonders, or returning to those which you've already known.

It's a shame, to me, that Peter Fonda only went on to direct two more (relatively obscure) films. In a decade now recognized as one of the greatest in American filmmaking, "The Hired Hand" is worthy of being considered among the classics.
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Atmospheric, Visual, Sensitive Western
EyeDunno19 August 2005
I had forgotten about renting "Hired Hand" until I saw the DVD in my mailbox. Looking at the printing on the disk, I shook my head, thinking the movie had to have been a mistake. But the whole film simply embraced my senses and I didn't want them to let go, even as the film ended.

Visually, it was no typical Western, Spaghetti or traditional. In fact, this isn't the kind of movie to watch if you're into the drama of the shoot-out or chase. Emotionally, it captured nuances and a sensitivity that the likes of masters John Ford and Sergio Leone steered clear of. Please, watch this film in its completely, and then play it with the commentary of director Peter Fonda. He adds some interesting information, including that the voice of Larry Hagman was even used for just a moment at one point in the film.

The characters gallop far from the typical. The movie simply looks western, but doesn't feel western. Nor do the sounds, as the music was beautifully atmospheric. This film should have been included for submission to the Academy Awards. The cinematography might make some feel somewhat put off by the layers of fades and dissolves, but relax and let yourself become absorbed by the acting, writing and production.

Overall, this movie, while it has an incredible climax, lives through subtlety, which is captured by a director who seems to been a labor of love.
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A Beauty of a Film
pbmcd26 April 2004
If you're into film that has to have a cut every 3 seconds to stay interesting, skip this one. But if you're into film as an art form, this is a must see.

The photography is masterful by Vilmos Zsigmond. From the deeply rich silhouettes made with the natural light of a sunset to the shading and textures of lamp and fire light, this film is a profound lesson in painting with light.

The montage scenes blend the beautiful images into a pensive and graceful passage of time. The editing creates a deliberate pace that recreates a time when a horse trot was the natural speed. But when the gun battles begin the pace quickens to a gallop.

The delicate music is perfect blend of instruments for the visuals and provides the emotional depth that music should.

Under Peter Fonda's creative direction the film's elements deliver a story of a man who returns home to make things right because he had the courage to change. And just when the man and his wife restore their love and trust in each other, he had the courage go away again to save his longtime friend.
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A good, quiet Western with solid performances from the stars
staylor38131 December 2004
I enjoyed The Hired Hand because of its simplicity. I like a slow moving western in which the characters can be developed. The Hired Hand had three interesting characters who used dialog sparingly(Fonda, Oates, Bloom). The movie had a sense of believability to it. It is a well done movie and I applaud its creators. I had not heard of this film until stumbling across it yesterday. I plan on recommending it to friends. The realism contained in the acting and scenery make it stand out. Although it contains some violence, it was secondary to the build-up of tension that led to it. I enjoyed Fonda's quiet nature and Oates' sincere friendship he had for Fonda. Movies this good that you have never heard of before are hard to find.
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Intimate Masterpiece
Bob-4518 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I had seen `The Hired Hand' when it first opened, on the bottom half of a double bill with `The Beguiled'. I had gone to the double feature to see Eastwood. I'd always thought Fonda was a dull actor and I'd figured he'd also be a dull director. Well, `The Hired Hand' blew me away, so much so that I never bothered to comment it on it on the IMDB for fear of not doing it justice. Until recently it was very hard to find, and the VHS copies don't do it justice; because, quite frankly, `The Hired Hand' is the most stylistically beautiful western I've ever seen and one of the great westerns of all time. WARNING SPOILERS The plot of `The Hired Hand' is deceptively simple. Harry (Peter Fonda), Arch (Warren Oates) and Dan_ (Robert Pratt) are sidekicks, drifting from noplace to nowhere, living free and, mostly, off the land. Harry is quiet and reserved, Arch is warm and Friendly. Dan is wild-eyed innocent, the kind of man both the younger Harry and older Arch had been when they began their drifting. Harry has become of late, wearing of the road, never more so after his fishing line accidently snags the body of a little girl drowned in the river. For Harry is a married man, who, at 20 married a woman 10 years his senior and had fathered a little girl. The responsibility had frightened him so much he had run away to wander for six years. Now, Harry knew, it was time to go home. Harry tells Arch and Dan over bad tequila in another dark, dirty cantina. However, Dan wants to go to California. He tells Arch and Harry his dreams about California, and their reactions reflect the weary knowledge that things are never as good as we believe they will be. Arch knows about Harry's wife and daughter and knows his place is on the road with Dan What none of the trio know is that cantina owner McVey (Severn Darden ) has taken a fancy to Dan's horse. While Dan is away from Harry and Arch, he is lured into a comprising position by McVey's slutty wife and is shot by McVey , `a husband protecting his wife.' Dan dies in front of Arch and Harry; and they know, but cannot prove their friend was murdered. Harry and Arch bury Dan and Arch reads profound words from Jesus apparently hand written on folded sheets. The next morning Harry and Arch set out to McVey's ranch to reclaim Dan's horse. While Harry keeps watch, Arch takes the horse. Harry looks through a ranch house window and sees McVey, asleep, laying on the bed, his big feet exposed. Harry shoots McVey through both feet, crippling him before escaping. Arriving at Harry's home, Arch first meets Hannah (Verna Bloom) and Harry's little girl. Immediately, Arch feels a longing for what Harry has. For Hannah is handsome, sensuous and passionate and Harry's little girl is adorable. Harry is not so sure. He is humbling himself to return, to be a hired hand to his own wife; to keep his identity secret from his own daughter. To feel the resentment every day from the woman he abandoned. Harry leaves Arch an opening and Arch does his best to resist the temptation. But, when Arch finds out from an obnoxious jerk that Hannah has been sleeping with the previous hired help, his resolution crumbles. However, Harry has overheard part of the conversation and insists that Arch tell him the rest. The next day he returns to town and posts a notice that he has returned and that his wife was no longer in need of `hired help'. While Harry has warned other men away, he still makes no moves on Hannah. He remains aloof, trying to sort out his feelings. Arch goes to Hannah and, as she sits on the porch, Arch tries to speak on Harry's behalf. Instead of replying, Hannah brazenly admits to Arch the physical longing she felt while Harry was away and how afraid she was he would leave again with Arch. Arch removes his hand from Hannah's lower calf and knows it is time to leave Harry to the happiness he will ultimately claim. Harry moves out of the shed and takes a bath. Hannah strokes her hair in anticipation of having the lover back she had so long missed. The love scene is brief but very telling, for Harry is still something of a child-man, and Hannah's love is as maternal as it is sexual. Arch leaves `for California' and Harry fully reintegrates himself into his life with Hannah and his daughter. But, one day, one of McVey's henchmen return's with Arch's horse and the little finger from Arch's hand. He tells Harry, If harry doesn't come with him, McVey will take a finger a week, and then begin on Arch's toes. Horrified, Harry prepares to ride out. Hannah, at once resentful and terrified, begs Harry to forget Arch and accuses them of planning this so that Harry and Arch could go away together. It's clear from her tone that Hannah believes nothing of what she says, even about abandoning Arch. Hannah just doesn't want to be alone again. Harry leaves with the henchmen, anyway and, that night, murders the henchman to improve his chances against McVey and his other men. Meanwhile Arch is trying to convince McVey's abused, slutty wife to bring him a gun. She doesn't, but it's obvious she helps Arch escape. However, Arch's freedom is too late, because Harry is already mortally shot by McVey and the remaining henchmen. Arch kills the remaining henchmen and Harry kills McVey before he can kill Arch. Knowing he is dieing, Harry asks Arch to hold him and the scene freezes on that embrace. However, that is not the final, for that is Hannah watching from the porch, then going inside as Arch returns and puts away his horses and gear in the barn. For Arch is now the `hired hand' who will claim for himself and his memories of Harry the life that both he and Harry wanted with Hannah and her daughter. END OF SPOILERS However, nothing I have said captures the pure lyrical beauty of `The Hired Hand;' for, how much can one explain about a five minute opening scene without dialogue of Dan swimming in the river while Harry fishes from the bank that is so beautifully scored and montaged that it is positively exhilarating, yet reinforces the plot by establishing the mood, history and future of the sidekicks? This is nothing short of brilliant filmmaking, and Peter Fonda has been very generous to his costars, even in cast billing. `The Hired Hand' is also exceptional technically, be it sound, editing, cinematography and optical effects. Warren Oates and Verna Bloom were never better, and, Fonda gives a beautifully understated performance which further reinforces Oates and Bloom. `The Hired Hand' is more likely to appeal to a generation raised on music videos than on the generation that first shunned it. It is available in either a single disk or a 2 disc `Special Edition'. This may be one of the few times the `Special Edition' is worth the extra money, especially if Fonda's commentary is as interesting as his FILMFAX interview. It's truly sad how Universal betrayed Fonda for his loyalty, since he turned down an opportunity to move the production to a more sympathetic United Artists. While `The Hired Hand' does not possess the epic sweep (or pretenses) of such classic westerns as `The Searchers,' `Dances With Wolves' or `Unforgiven', it is superior as art to all three of these films. Fonda has largely created the perfect counterpoint to the Sergio Leone masterpieces, `For a Few Dollars More,' `The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' and `Once upon a Time in the West'. While Leone's films where grim, sweeping and action packed, with surprising touches of humor and sentiment, `The Hired Hand' is lyrical, personal and tender, with surprising touches of sudden grim, bloody violence. It is certainly, in my opinion, the greatest `small' western in the history of film. I give it a 10.
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Perhaps the most "accurate" western ever filmed. A classic.
DaveMcKane7 August 2000
This unheralded subtle film should be a "must see" for students of western US history and film buffs alike. The plot is a believable story involving characters that are NOT larger than life. These are people we could expect to know - only 125 years ago. As others have observed, Verna Bloom is THE western/frontier single mother in this film. She looks the part and shows us the day-to-day hard work of her life. Warren Oates has always been the classic prototypical "cowboy" and never elsewhere is he more perfectly cast. Finally comes Peter Fonda. Who could have thought that he could go from the drug-running renegade of Easy Rider to the thoughtful character struggling with deep conflicts of loyalty and justice? It is a tour-de-force that creeps up on you in its quiet way.

This film works on many levels. The story, the characters, the cinematography, the music, the dialog are all top flight - especially since the dialog is sparse and punctuates moments of thoughtful non-verbal imagery. If you want to see it your best chance is on Bravo or some public broadcasting service station. Please, PLEASE - somebody put this one on video or DVD. In genre this film deserves a solid nine out of ten. In general at least a 7.5 out of ten - try to see it!
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Simply a great film
jaykay-1023 May 2003
To call this picture a Western is to diminish it, although it is in fact a Western; to call it a picture about male bonding is to do likewise, although it is most assuredly about that. It is so much more. Like the greatest works of art in any narrative medium, it concerns human relationships, including a person's relationship with the self. Because the story is presented with unrelieved seriousness it will not come close to appealing to everyone - but neither will the classic novels, plays, poems, etc. As an example of cinematic art, this obscure film belongs among the greats. All aspects of filmmaking are handled with a firm but sensitive touch. Its obscurity is difficult to explain, and impossible to justify.
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Who said westerns have to be loud and brash cowboys vs indians horse operas?
chaos-rampant27 September 2008
I'm surprised at the maturity Peter Fonda the director displays with THE HIRED HAND. It'll be a fruitless search to attempt to find a western resonating with the ambiance and themes of THH in its time. It would take quite a few years for the American western to embrace this new take on the mythos of the old west - far removed from the works of John Ford, Anthony Mann or Howard Hawks.

THH relates a small but intimate drama about three men travelling west for California - the gold, the ocean, the cold beer, it's a promised land of sorts for drifters like them. After a deadly incident in a small, rundown village where they bury the younger companion, the other two, Harry (Peter Fonda) and Artch (Warren Oates) decide to turn back and instead of California return to Harry's wife - whom he abandoned six years ago to become a drifter.

Upon their return Harris finds a frigid and distant wife, reluctant to have him back. She satisfied her natural sexual frustration over the years by sleeping with the men she hired - and that's exactly how she takes Harry back, a hired hand to do work around the house, until he can earn his way back as her husband.

This little vucolic drama unfolds in some neck of the woods, unpretentious and stripped of all fat, laconic as much as it is melancholic. A simple story superbly told, with small nuances and glances and full images that stand in for a barrage of dialogue and the actors hitting all the right notes, underplaying it enough to suck you in the heart of it all.

It is only natural then that Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography matches the tone of the script. Beautiful exterior shots turn the landscape, in turns rugged and comforting, into another character. The only misstep, in my opinion, in the visual aspect of THH is the overuse of montages - Fonda superimposes image upon image as a transitory device which doesn't always work that well. I prefer full, clean images as far as that goes.

I can't find any major faults with THH - apart from that it's not what many western fans might be looking for which is of course not an inherent flaw of the film. The third act builds into a gritty and violent revenge subplot that includes a short but terrific shootout whose outcome is suffused with bitter irony. Apart from that however THH doesn't have anything in the way of action, no wild galloping through the prairie, no robbers holding up banks and no cavalries chasing away injuns.

As much sombre as it is elegiac, heartfelt and poignant, THH might be little seen but remains one of the best westerns of the 70's. Fans of UNFORGIVEN, OPEN RANGE and the recent THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES will find something to appreciate.
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The Best Western since Seven Samauri!
brewsterlewster14 July 2003
I just saw this film at the Maine International Film Festival and it was a real surprise. Sure it's not perfect but it is the most realistic, sensitive portrayal of the west I have seen on the big screen. Jane Fonda called it the first "feminist western" but I disagree. It does have the strongest female role you may see in a western and Verna Bloom is fantastic! Peter Fonda is excellent in his role, also, and does brilliant direction. The cinematography is a big heavy handed on the special ethereal effects for such a realistic film, but it does not distract too much from the underlying story and excellent acting. A must see!
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Slipping through the cracks
fpbaggia24 November 2003
It is hard to believe that this film has toiled in relative obscurity for so long. This is a wonderful western with a great cast, shots and a mesmerizing score. The movie is deliberate, and allows the viewer to contemplate all that occurs. Peter Fonda has done away with overblown action scenes to craft a real character study with consequences we can all identify with. If you are a fan of Unforgiven do not miss this!
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Wild West Space Cadets
Johnny_West3 August 2017
Peter Fonda's career in westerns was about tearing down everything that his father, Henry Fonda, ever stood for. Where Henry Fonda was a top gun in most westerns, Peter Fonda is more like a sad and thoughtful loser.

Where Henry Fonda always had women lusting after him in the westerns, Peter Fonda's movie wife, Verna Bloom, does not want much to do with him. While traditional western women are faithful to their men, Bloom is open about screwing all of the men she hires to help at the ranch, because her husband was away, and she needed sex.

This movie throws a lot of darts at the westerns that Henry Fonda made. In many ways, it is an anti-western, and anti-Henry Fonda. As a movie, while the photography is beautiful, the actual story is very lame and boring. Peter Fonda loves to have close-ups of his face. It is like he is in love with himself.

There is not much story here. One day Peter Fonda decides to go home to see what happened to his wife after seven years of abandonment. Warren Oates, his best friend, tags along. That is the whole movie.

The end of the movie was badly choreographed and features a sub-par shootout that once again contrasts the difference between the great Henry Fonda, and his pathetic stoner son, Peter Fonda. It literally ends with a thud, and everything positive that was building up gets let down. It is truly the anti-Christ of a Henry Fonda Western movie.
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Strange project from Fonda
allyjack26 August 1999
A remarkably slow-paced movie - defined largely through its repetitive (though lyrical) guitar-based music and its reliance on somnambulant montages and dissolves. It's a somewhat idealized version of the West as essentially tranquil and taciturn, with violence erupting sporadically and unnaturally. The most intriguing aspect is its handling of sexual politics. There's an acknowledgment of the relationship between the two men as being akin to a loving one, and all the more stable for the lack of demands. This contrasts with the portrayal of the marriage - Bloom is initially tough and unforgiving when Fonda returns, and defiant in admitting that she's slept with hired helps in her hunger for a man; but once his permanence is established she slips easily back into a position of submission. The movie is liberal in taking her actions as they come, but obviously seems to be reasserting a patriarchal code of restrained, stoic male bonding that writes the dominant stories. Well and subtly told, and all the acting is good, but a strange project from Fonda at this point in his career - almost as if he consciously wanted to negate the radical image created by Easy Rider.
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Haunting Music, Unpretentious
bwo20 May 1999
One of my favourite films, it glamorizes nothing of the period, which truly had little glamor. The dialog; the clothing; the imagery; the overall storyline; all aspects of the film point to the hardships and plainness of the time. Fonda's genius lies in the fact that although the film is harsh, it is not bleak. Hard to believe that this is the same actor/director who walked through Easy Rider just a few years prior.

And the music! It has haunted me all these years. I sometimes play the movie while working, just to listen to Bruce Langhorne's brilliant score. I would love to find a copy of the soundtrack.
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The Hired Hand
Scarecrow-8831 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Harry Collings(Peter Fonda)decides it's time to head back to a home where a wife of his he left behind resides(he has been traveling for seven years as a hired hand making ends meet and moving to the next town). Arch Harris(the great Warren Oates)has been riding with Harry pretty much seven years and tags along when his design to ride to California goes bust..a third party is killed by a mad husband claiming the young fellow was in bed with his wife. Harry and Arch get revenge on the shooter, blasting holes in his feet. They do not count on repercussions and hope that after burying the young man, whose sights were so set on the ocean water of California, they can leave this whole mess behind. Once Harry and Arch make the distance to the farm place of Hannah(Verna Bloom, very good)things are a little sticky at first. I mean your husband up and leaves you with child and then reappears seven years would you react? Still, deep inside the love for Harry burns as bright as ever. Arch begins to feel out of place(..or in the way)after a while and decides it's best to let Harry, Hannah, & their daughter Janey(Megan Denver)begin a new life together. Harry and Hannah find that renewed joy and love that had been kept separate for so long, but it will be tested yet again when the past comes haunting back..the man whose feet Harry shot has taken Arch captive and wants him to return or else he'll cut off all his fingers and toes, eventually killing him. The thought of seeing Harry ride off again with the uncertainty of what will happen to him is too much to bear. But, Harry just can not sit back and let them slowly kill Arch..

Sad, somber, beautiful film is about romance and love lost then regained, but also about the strength and bond of friendship. Perhaps a bit slow-going for more traditionalist western fans wanting shootouts and faster pacing. The photography of Vilmos Zsigmond is absolutely stunning;a western has never quite been framed this way before. The performances are top-of-the-line and the film is made with heart and care for the characters. But, I won't lie, the visual work from Zsigmond is the main reason to give this western a try.
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oates the great
jukeschnoor29 October 2003
Another in the great string of Oates movies to finally come out on dvd. He's flawless as usual, Fonda is great, the old weathered wife does a good job too. Wonderfully shot. The best thing about Oates is his facial expressions, the way he frowns and gestures, he would have been a great silent actor. I'll take Oates over Nicholson any day, I love Jack too, but Oates was the best of his time....
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thoughtful and haunting
cwatson5518 March 2003
I'll echo the sentiments in (most of) the other comments. A quiet and deeply poignant movie that drew me in powerfully. Fonda's more recent movie, "Ulee's Gold", had much of the same feeling about it. Highly recommended, if you can find it.
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the pasts' stone thrown ripples through to this future & on...
kenneth_strong5 March 2002
I just have to add my praise to continue the interest in the Peter Fonda master work-"The Hired Hand."In many ways, this is a KEY '70s era film;from casting(c'mon-Oates ,Verna Bloom,Dardren !!!),the very definition of psychedelic 19th century photography,the Bruce Langhorne lost& found ~out of time~ score...the best of what was & continues to shimmer out across the universe!I saw it in "the day" & have been depressed by the washed out video offerings that seem to have been it's fate since.The main point of this listing is to pass on the fact of it's restoration & re-release glory,in far.Last Dec./'01, a beautiful new print was theatrically released; I have been in touch with the Landmark Theater chain(revival/contemporary foreign find specialists) & they said there is a strong possibility that the release rights for the North American market may be imminently secured.To bring this forgotten film to an audience now, would be just rewards ! the Landmark Theater people...other distributors as well..keep the interest up.Maybe there will be cinematic justice for "The Hired Hand" !
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A remarkable labor of love from Peter Fonda.
ranwev28 January 2002
If ever a film was so overlooked, this is probably the best film you never saw. During a time when the western genre was filled with action,Fonda slipped this film in.It is a story about relationships and values that few films, this day have(they make way too many movies anyway). Beautifully photographed(eye candy as some would say)by Vilmos Zsigmund(Easy Rider,Sugarland Express),and a score to that will hypnotize(Bruse Langhorne-the one man band).A cast of strong stalwart performers,(Warren Oates,Verna Bloom,Severn Darden) who are actually into their parts,round out this film.
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Hardscrabble Western, male loyalty, versus family responsibility, surprise ending
Mr Lucky-218 February 1999
I saw this film 28 years ago, and it stuck hard with me. Because of the era of presentation, and the relative obscurity of Peter Fonda, (even though he had directed/stared "Easy Rider" 2 years earlier) I had thought it was a made for TV movie. I called a radio talk show guest with a heavy movie background in '96, who remembered it, but that was all. I was amazed when I found it on the IMDB.

I loved the music. The plot, (28 year old memory), two very loyal friends travel the West, (lots of Easy Rider in here). Peter Fonda's character, has haunted memories of an abandoned wife and child and feels drawn to return. His loyal friend, (Warren Oates), stoicly indulges Fonda's ambivalent jounery home, where they both encounter anger and resentment. Oates finally leaves when he realizes Fonda sincerely wants to give up the wild life and be a father to his child. Fonda eventually discovers his friend has run afoul of an old enemy bent on revenge on both men. Fonda is torn between abandoning his newly re-found responsibilities or saving his friend. Shocking ending which I will not give away. This movie could be very valuable for fathers to see with their sons. So many subtle lessons to be absorbed here. Thank you Peter Fonda for all the image lessons of life who have portrayed in so many works. Would love to get my hands on the video.
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A forgotten beautiful piece of film that deserves greater acclaim!
kidmagic24 August 1999
A forgotten beautiful piece of film-making that bizarrely has never gained the recognition that it deserves. An utterly great film in every way. The photography, music and editing are second to none and Warren Oates, Peter Fonda and Verna Bloom are brilliant. SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Tell everyone to watch this movie!
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Not a Classic
arfdawg-110 December 2016
The Plot:

Harry Collings returns home to his farm after drifting with his friend, Arch.

His wife, who had given up on him, reluctantly allows him to stay, and soon believes that all will be well again.

But then Harry has to make a difficult decision regarding his loyalties and priorities.

OO, so this is a VERY 60s/70s movie. It was billed as a hippie western before it was re-discovered. The version I saw was Fonda's version which is about a half hour shorter than the TV version. Interestingly, for some reason Fonda cut this film twice. First time i know of where the director wanted his movie shorter than the Man did!

It's probably a good thing too because it's a very slow plodding atmospheric film that would likely be very boring with a 2 hour running time!

It's a very slow movie and it doesn't really built. Further, lot's of it contains some scene that are rather laughable.

I just don't think this is a classic western. It's more of a curio piece for the late 60s/early 70s. I was rather bored watching it.
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Only for those who want to watch all the films
RodrigAndrisan12 November 2016
Beautiful music signed Bruce Langhorne. Otherwise, the film does not say much. Because it's not happen much. And what is happening, is not at all justified. Why is shot Dan Griffen (Robert Pratt), the young companion of Harry Collings (Peter Fonda) and Arch Harris (Warren Oates)? Nobody knows. Then, why is taken prisoner Arch Harris? I wonder if the writer Alan Sharp knew. I doubt it. Warren Oates is a very good actor. But here he does not have much to do. Peter Fonda is just the son of his father(Henry Fonda, for those who don't know) and the brother of his sister(Jane Fonda). I think he wanted to look like Clint Eastwood in those movies with dollars, but without being a Western. All the fault of the same Sergio Leone. But, how many people know or realize that?
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