|Bite the Bullet/ B, C+
|Columbia/1975/131/ANA 2.35/PS 1.33
A sweeping western that fills the widescreen
with glorious landscapes, big sound and big performances, Bite the
Bullet injects more wind in its cross country 2000-mile endurance
horse race than the average western conjures up on a dust filled main
street showdown. There were snippets of good work and the cinematography
took advantage of the fabulous terrain, but it failed to live up to its
scope. I love watching Gene Hackman and he was terrific as former Rough
Rider Clayton, the Good Samaritan of the contestants In the end, it
really seemed to go on for 2000 miles.
Clayton's class room.
There's no question about the grueling nature of the
race, but at times the repetition seems almost as grueling. Some script
elements appear contrived serving simply to add meat to the bones of the
race. What seems rather odd is that there's never any qualification
or entering the race and it's not clear how much the entry fee, if any,
costs. Some of the participants seem outright out of place. Though an old
tough guy like Ben Johnson would normally fit right in, his character
simply does not work.
Writer/director Richard Brooks displays a sure
hand in in leading the production. Characters are introduced and set-up
with cool efficiency. The thrust of the film is established almost
immediately. There are some perfect moments as simple as when a prostitute
asks Clayton "How do you like it Mister?," and the response is a
terse "Without conversation."
The Alex North score is vitally important to the
scope of the film. It combines with the sweeping cinematography of Harry
Stradling, Jr. to mine the most out of the relatively repetitious race
Along with Hackman's fine performance, James
Coburn does his usual cool gig with customary élan and Ian Bannen is an
interesting addition to the mix of characters.
Despite some obvious flaws, Bite the Bullet still
manages to entertain over the course of 200 miles and 131 minutes.
The source material is fairly grainy. Color saturation
is a little less than optimum. Volume level needed adjustment up three or
four dB. Overall image could have been sharper, but it's adequate.
At least it is not an edgy looking transfer with exacerbated noise.
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