The Hired Hand

After Easy Rider, partners Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper rode off into their separate sunsets -- Hopper to Peru to film his demented classic, 1970's The Last Movie, and Fonda back to the familiar family tradition of the American Western for his directorial debut, The Hired Hand.

DVD Watch

The Hired Hand

Sundance Channel Entertainment, $39.99

After the breakthrough box-office success of 1969's Easy Rider, partners Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper rode off into their separate sunsets -- Hopper to Peru to film his demented classic 1970's The Last Movie (which very nearly was), and Fonda back to the familiar family tradition of the American Western for his directorial debut, The Hired Hand (1970). Their solo endeavors defined the aesthetic gulf between the two: Hopper fiery, Dionysian, nonlinear; Fonda, elegiac, traditional, and intuitively intelligent. In the battle for artistic supremacy, Fonda won, but nobody noticed or cared, since Universal released The Hired Hand without fanfare or support before consigning it to oblivion. Longtime saddle pals Harry (Fonda) and Archie (Warren Oates) are tired of the trail, and Harry decides it's time to return to the wife he deserted years ago, Hannah (Verna Bloom). When the two show up on her front porch, Harry finds himself torn between loyalties of friendship and love, especially when an old enemy (Severn Darden) abducts Archie, taunting Harry to come rescue his friend. Fonda was intimately familiar with the mythos of both the real West and the Hollywood version, inherited from his father's Fordian classics, particularly My Darling Clementine (1946). Fonda's direction is at once solid and ethereal, enhanced by Vilmos Zsigmond's (Blade Runner) breathtaking cinematography and Bruce Langhorne's haunting, high-lonesome score. The fledgling director drew miraculous performances out of his ensemble. Bloom is a revelation, reticent and vulnerable, but the soul of the movie belongs to weathered Warren Oates -- in a role as close to leading man as he ever got. DVD extras on the deluxe two-disc version include a making-of documentary, deleted scenes (including Larry Hagman as the town sheriff in a role eliminated from the final cut), outtakes, and Fonda's engaging audio commentary.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Screens Reviews
What If the Marx Brothers Got Around to Making That Movie With Salvador Dalí?
What If the Marx Brothers Got Around to Making That Movie With Salvador Dalí?
Josh Frank brings the legendary unproduced movie to printed life

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 22, 2019

What If <i>The Texas Chain Saw Massacre</i> Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
What If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
Putting the Austin-made seminal slasher back into context

Marc Savlov, March 22, 2019

More by Steve Uhler
SXSW Film
Looming Issues: Bennie Klain on 'Weaving Worlds'
Daily reviews and interviews

March 16, 2007

State Fair
State Fair
Recognizing the stars but also the spirits

March 9, 2007

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Hired Hand, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle