The Revengers (1972) is a movie that I picked up some time ago and then just left it sitting on the shelf. I can remember seeing it offered for a bargain price and thinking that anything which had Bill Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Woody Strode in it must be worth at least a look. How very wrong I was. Having just had the misfortune of sitting through this turkey, my dearest wish is that I had let it alone on the shelf or, better yet, had never parted with cash for it in the first place. I think I’m usually fairly generous in my assessment of movies and can find something positive to take away from most of them. With The Revengers, I really tried to find something – anything – of worth, but ultimately, struck out.
I had a bad feeling right from the off, when the credits appeared to the accompaniment of the kind of theme music that screams “made-for-television” movie. However, one can’t judge a film on the basis of its title sequence and I just wrote this off as a particularly pungent slice of early 70s cheese. For a time (about a half hour or so), I thought this might turn out to be a moderately entertaining little flick – something I’m happy to settle for any day. The plot didn’t promise anything original – the family of Civil War hero John Benedict (Holden) are massacred by a bunch of comancheros during a raid on his ranch and he sets off in search of revenge – but I was okay with that. In order to assist in the pursuit of the killers he recruits a band of six ne’er-do-wells (Borgnine and Strode among them) from a Mexican prison. The fact that there are seven gunmen on a mission south of the border, and the casting, automatically evokes thoughts of both The Magnificent Seven and The Wild Bunch. But there’s nothing remotely magnificent about the events that follow. The main problem is that the comanchero camp gets attacked too early and leaves the movie thrashing around in need of direction and drive. None of the characters behave in a rational manner and their motivations are weak in the extreme. There’s an interlude in the plot where the wounded Benedict rests up in the home of an Irish nurse (Susan Hayward) that, while kind of sweet, serves only as padding. I suppose I could go into the script’s twists and turns in more detail but I honestly can’t be bothered; it’s just too dispiriting. As for the ending, the less said about that the better.
I would count myself a fan of Bill Holden and I’ve enjoyed about every performance I’ve seen him give. He could usually be depended on to provide some grit and world-weary realism but in The Revengers he just looks old and tired, although not as old and tired as I felt at the end of it. You might have thought that The Wild Bunch would have resulted in his landing more plum roles but it wasn’t to be – at least not until Network came along a few years later. Ernest Borgnine basically just chews up the scenery and Woody Strode shows his customary quiet dignity in what is a bit of a non-role. Susan Hayward’s part is a small one and, as I already mentioned, doesn’t add a hell of a lot to the story; if it weren’t for the fact that this was her last cinematic appearance it would hardly be worth noting. Whatever talents director Daniel Mann possessed, they didn’t lie in the western genre and it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that this was the only one he made.
The Revengers is available on DVD in R2 in continental Europe but not in the UK. The transfer of this Paramount release is merely passable, and is presented in its correct scope ratio but without anamorphic enhancement. I believe the movie can be obtained in R4 on an anamorphic disc, however, I wouldn’t advise anyone to seek it out as the enhanced picture isn’t going to make an essentially lousy film any more pleasurable. Not recommended.