Customer Reviews: Action Double Feature: The Last Hard Men / Sky Riders
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on August 24, 2004
Easily one of the least-known western movies in history to pair two great actors against one another, THE LAST HARD MEN is a painfully underrated sagebrush saga that at first might seem old-fashioned but turns out to be a very timely meditation on the final days of the West. It is on video now through Unicorn, but this 1976 film deserves to be released by its original distributor, 20th Century Fox, on video and DVD in its uncut form. It only runs 97 minutes here; in its uncut form, it was 105 minutes.

Based on the 1972 novel "Gun Down" by Brian Garfield, who also wrote "Death Wish" and is a western enthusiast, THE LAST HARD MEN stars Charlton Heston as an aging lawman who had once been a proud member of the Arizona Territorial Police but now in 1908 has now turned the reins of law enforcement over to a reform-minded younger man (Michael Parks). He laments about how the railroad changed the makeup of the West--that and, as Parks points out, the auto, the telegraph, and the telephone.

But before Heston can really call it quits, he has to contend with a vengeful half-breed outlaw (James Coburn) whom he put away fifteen years earlier for a train robbery near Santa Fe that killed Coburn's wife. Coburn is out to settle the score with Heston; and to force Heston into a fatal confrontation, he kidnaps Heston's daughter (Barbara Hershey) and allows his sadistic gang to rape her. The result is a jarring and frequently violent pursuit through the Arizona mountains and deserts.

Surprisingly, even though the film was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, who worked with John Wayne on several of the Duke's later westerns and who normally modelled his directing style off of John Ford, THE LAST HARD MEN has the hard edge of a Sam Peckinpah film, right down to the themes of the demise of the Old West, unchanging men in changing times, and jarring bursts of bloodshed and violence sometimes rent in slow-motion (hence the 'R' rating). McLaglen nevertheless directs the proceedings with professionalism. Coburn makes for an absolutely chilling main villain, and his gang, which includes Jorge Rivero, John Quade, and Robert Donner, rank right up there with the bounty hunters of THE WILD BUNCH and the sadistic rednecks of DELIVERANCE for sheer nastiness. Heston, meanwhile, gives probably the best performance of any that he gave during the 1970s as the aging lawman forced to put on the badge one more time. Christopher Mitchum also does well as Hershey's soon-to-be husband.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith, though it is cribbed from his scores to the 1966 remake of STAGECOACH and 1969's 100 RIFLES, is flavorful enough (Leonard Rosenman was supposed to have done the original score). Filmed entirely on location near Tucson, Arizona, THE LAST HARD MEN deserves to be seen, as it is a worthy, if frequently violent, saga, but hopefully it will one day be seen in its original 1976 cut.
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on February 6, 2012
Action Double Feature: The Last Hard Men / Sky RidersThis release is long overdue! This is a great James Coburn double feature (even though its not billed as such) coming from an era of the '70s when they made lower budget movies and turned out pretty good. The Last Hard Men looks great for DVD. The colors are bold, picture detail is good for this older release. Sky Riders the same thing. It's a pure joy to see these two in their original aspect ratio of 2.35 (even though the cover says 1.78)! This comes from an era when they really made widescreen movies (such as other classics from the '70s: Chinatown, Jaws, to name a few). These movies really suffered over the years in poorly pan and scan videotape editions. Shout! just keeps releasing these classics that no other company would dare touch. They just keep outdoing themselves. The two movies on this disc aren't the greatest, but the five star rating is for the product and not the movies themselves. I am so tired of reading reviews of people bashing the films and not telling us the quality of the DVD. For a two on one disc, this looks amazing! There aren't too many compression problems that are too distracting. I prefer to have each movie on its own disc, but hey as long as its done right...
This is a great double feature that looks really good for the price you pay.
I just can't wait to see what Shout! has in store for us next!
Keep up the great work!!
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on November 6, 2007
James Coburn plays a violent mixed race outlaw who escapes from Yuma prison as part of a chain gang along with a group of other equally thuggish types .He persuades them to join him by recounting tales of a hidden cache of gold that will make them all rich men ;his primary motive is to use tham to help him gain revenge on his nemesis ,a retired lawman (Charlton Heston)responsible for his incarceration..He lures Heston away from town by feinting to rob a gold shipment being conveyed by train and while the lawman is engaged on this wild goose chase rides into town at the head of his gang and abductes Heston's daughter (Barbara Hershey).There follows a sadistic ,violent denouement involving rape and a great deal of rather gloating violence
This is well acted by the stars and supporting cast .It has an excellent score and the photography is exemplary .The themes of violence and retribution are punched across with some vigour but for many the stumbling block here will be the lip-smacking violence and rape which feature heavily in the storyline .This is sad in a way because there are some thoughful elegaic moments as we witness the passing of an era -the trains have refrigeration and an automobile features prominently in one scene .This strain of the story gets lost in the scenes of slow motion death and protracted revenge

This is strong meat and for me tipped over into the pornography of violence rather too often for comfort but many will not be troubled by this ansd will enjoy the spectacle of two considerable actors in a strong drama
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on February 27, 2012
Entertaining pair of action movies, with The Last Hard Men being the least known of the pair. I am not going to cover the cast, or plot lines, as this review is for the video quality, which is quite good. recommended
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on July 10, 2014
Liked sky riders the best James Coburn is a very good actor, as well as Robert Culp, although the acting was not that great, I was able to sit through it, I think the sky riders really made this movie work for me.
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on May 10, 2013
Shout Factory did a great job on releasing these on DVD and the quality is great. All movies are in Widescreen and run for about 95mins for each movie. The special features included are the trailers and still galleries for both, both movies are also on a single disk and it's not double sided. These movies star: James Coburn, Charlton Heston, Robert Culp, Susannah York, Barbara Hershey, Harry Andrews, John Beck, Jorge Rivero, plus others! Overall, this is a great DVD and I would recommend it, especially to James Coburn.
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on March 11, 2014
An excellent showcase of the talents of Chuck Heston and Jim Coburn----buy it. Like a good bottle of wine, no surprises.
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on July 2, 2016
James Coburn, great actor and villan. Born and raised in Laurel Nebraska, 20 minutes from where I call home. Great western, why don't they make films like this anymore?
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on March 14, 2013
I had seen this movie before and even bought it, but it disappeared from my shelf. Lots of action in these movies. Would recommend this movie to friends.
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on March 6, 2012
Two great action movies staring James Coburn. One is a western with Charlton Heston, and the other is a modern day thirller.
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