The Hired Hand Vhs CoverThe Hired Hand Vhs CoverThe Hired Hand Vhs Cover
Cover Title
The Hired Hand
Year of Release
Cat # / Distributor
Format Details
Running Time
93 min (NTSC) (SP)
Original Title / Year
The Hired Hand (1971)
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Videonut324 on 10/30/2013
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Peter Fonda is riding again... To the woman he lost ... for the revenge he craves!

Meeting largely mixed reviews during its first run in 1971, counterculture icon Peter Fonda's directorial debut was restored and remastered for its 30-year anniversary. The film opens with three drifters greeting the morning by cavorting in a sun-dabbled mountain river. Harry Collings (Fonda) catches a fish and gives it to Arch Harris (Warren Oates) who grills it over a low fire, while Dan (Robert Pratt) -- the youngest of the three -- bathes in the swift moving current. Later, as they head into Del Norte, a small town in the middle of nowhere, Dan talks breathlessly about going to California while Collings suddenly decides to return home after a seven-year absence. After Dan runs afoul of a group of unsavory characters lead by McVey (Severn Darden), Collings vows vengeance for the lad's death and blows off McVey's feet. Collings and Harris bury Dan and flee from the town riding hundreds of miles to Collings' homestead. His wife Hannah (Verna Bloom) -- now called "Widow Collings" by the local townsfolk -- is none too pleased to see her wayward husband at her doorstep. Taking his wife's anger in stride, he asks only to be allowed to work as a hired hand. Just as Hannah and Collings start to move beyond the years of anger and estrangement, disaster strikes. This film was screened at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. ~

The Hired Hand is a 1971 American western film directed by Peter Fonda, with a screenplay by Alan Sharp. The film stars Fonda, Warren Oates, and Verna Bloom. The cinematography was by Vilmos Zsigmond, and Bruce Langhorne provided the moody film score. The story is about a man returning to his abandoned wife after seven years of drifting from job to job throughout the southwest. The embittered woman will only let him stay if he agrees to move in as a hired hand.
Upon release, the film received a mixed critical response and was a financial failure. In 1973, the film was shown on NBC-TV in an expanded version, but soon drifted into obscurity. In 2001, a fully restored version was shown various film festivals, gaining strong critical praise, and it was released by the Sundance Channel on DVD. It is now considered a classic Western of the period.

The Hired Hand received generally mixed reviews, with some critics flippantly dismissing the film as a “hippie-western”.[1] Variety felt the film had "a disjointed story, a largely unsympathetic hero, and an obtrusive amount of cinematic gimmickry which renders inarticulate the confused story subtleties."[2] Time described it as "pointless, virtually plotless, all but motionless and a lode of pap."[3] But Roger Greenspun of The New York Times praised the movie as, “[A] rather ambitious simple movie, with a fairly elaborate technique and levels of meaning rising to the mystical, which seems so much a part of the very contemporary old West.”[4] Jay Cocks wrote that the film was "a fine, elegiac western".[5]
Despite Universal’s hopes for another Easy Rider-sized youth hit, The Hired Hand was a commercial flop. It was sold to NBC-TV for subsequent television showings in 1973, when the majority of the film’s fans first saw the movie. After that, it became difficult to see, rarely repeated on television and playing only occasional film festivals over the years.
In 2001, the film was fully restored and exhibited at a number of festivals to a generally enthusiastic critical response. Subsequently, the Sundance Channel released a DVD of the film in two separate editions that same year. The film is now well regarded as a minor western classic, with a 91% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[6] Bill Kauffman has called it "a lovely meditation on friendship and responsibility, one of the least-known great movies of that richest of all cinematic eras, the early 1970s."[7] However, some critics find the film overrated. Glenn Erickson (aka “DVD Savant”) believed the movie was “light in the story department and directed at a mannered crawl…”

Release Date: August 11, 1971

Distrib: Universal