Following the end of the Civil War, soldier-turned-trail-guide Buck (Sidney Poitier) makes a living by helping former slaves find settlements in the West. But it makes Buck a man with a price on his head as racist bounty hunters lead by Deshay (Cameron Mitchell) will do anything to get their hands on him whilst rounding up those former slaves to take them back to Louisiana to work the fields.
Buck and the freed slaves are joined by a con artist, the Preacher (Harry Belafonte), who constantly clashes with Buck but when Deshay’s bounty hunters, attempt to round up the freed slaves to bring them back to Louisiana, the two put aside their differences to fight a common enemy.
This 1972 film (directed by Sidney Poitier) was re-mastered in high definition and re-released in 2023 in memory of the recently deceased two celebrated stars. Although the underlying story is socially significant – the film generally has a relatively light tone somewhere between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and spaghetti westerns.
Running Time 103 mins
Director(s) Sidney Poitier
Cast includes Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Cameron Mitchell, Ruby Dee
Sidney Poitier’s terrifically enjoyable directorial debut from 1972, in which he stars opposite Harry Belafonte, is rereleased in all its galloping glory.
………….. a terrifically enjoyable western adventure bromance, packed with brio and breezy, unreflective energy and tilted to the lighter end of the tonal spectrum. ………….. there is …….. a tremendous chemistry between these two heavyweights, Poitier and Belafonte.
Poitier films himself magnificently as an elegant western vision, whether gliding smoothly by on horseback or stalking desert towns in a natty pink shirt. But the scene stealer is Harry Belafonte as Preacher. He’s the Sundance to Buck’s Butch, a dubious clergyman with a penchant for quick-draws and Bible speak.
Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut has been sadly overlooked for over 50 years, but hopefully this excellent Criterion Collection Blu-ray release will readdress the balance and rightfully ‘shine a light’ on this under-appreciated gem of a film.
Not only is the film historically of interest, but it’s great entertainment too, with some stellar performances, great cinephotography, excellent locations and impressive action sequences, all underpinned by Beny Carter’s excellent score.
The film strikes a wonderful balance, mixing comedy, action, and drama, plus some heist elements and one of the most satisfying of all film tropes (enemies to friends). It’s full of action and gunslinging without being gratuitous. Family-appropriate without being sanitized. Socially conscious, but not preachy.
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