Blu-ray: The Hired Hand

STUDIO: Arrow/MVD | DIRECTOR: Peter Fonda | CAST: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Verna Bloom. Robert Platt
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 18, 2018 | PRICE: Blu-ray $25.19
BONUSES: commentary, vintage featurettes, deleted scenes, more
SPECS: R | 90 min. | Western | 1.85:1 widescreen | mono

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video  | Overall

Peter Fonda’s 1971 Western The Hired Hand has greatly benefitted from forty-seven years of reconsideration, revisiting and revisionism.

Having emerged at the forefront of the New American cinema of the late Sixties with Easy Rider and the counterculture flicks of Roger Corman, Fonda took an expressive look into the American West of the late 19th Century for his directorial debut.

In the film, Fonda plays Harry, a man who deserted his wife (Verna Bloom, Medium Cool) and child to explore the wide-open plains with his best friend Archie (Warren Oates, Badlands), only to return home seven years later to rekindle his marriage and reacquaint himself with the daughter he barely knew.

With its saturated, lustrous cinema by the great Vilmos Zsigmond (DeliveranceBlow OutYou Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger), a gently captivatingly, carefully paced script by Alan Sharp (Ulzana’s Raid, Night Moves) and trio of muted but powerful performances by its three principals, The Hired Hand oughta be pictured in the dictionary next to the definition of elegiac. Indeed, when the film erupts into several moments of violence (there are only a couple of them), they play like with the power of an over-the-top Peckinpah gunfight.

Again, the years have been good to The Hired Hand, a film that was panned upon its debut and ignored for decades until Martin Scorsese and his team rescued, restored and re-issued it to a much more appreciative audience.

A clip of Scorsese from 2001 (when the film was restored) is among the extras here, along with other archival bits, including a Fonda commentary, a featurette, interviews with key cast and crew, and a handful of deleted scenes. One of them features Larry Hagman as a small-town sheriff with an agenda, which I mention here because, like many others, I still dream of Jeannie…

Buy or Rent The Hired Hand

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.