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DEADLY TRACKERS (director: Sam Fuller/Barry Shear; screenwriters: Lukas Heller/Sam Fuller/based on the short story Riata by Sam Fuller; cinematographer: Gabriel Torres; editors: Michael Economou/ Carl Pingitore; Music: Carlo Esposito; cast: Richard Harris (Sheriff Sean Kilpatrick), Kelly Jean Peters (Katharine), Rod Taylor (Frank Brand), Paul Benjamin (Jacob), Al Lettieri (Gutierrez), Isela Varga (Maria), (Rick Battaglia (Montana), Pedro Armendariz (Blacksmith), Neville Brand (Choo Choo), William Smith (Schoolboy); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Fouad Said; Warner Bros.; 1972)
“Turns absurdly misogynistic when it goes South of the border.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Television director Barry Shear (“The Todd Killings”) replaced Sam Fuller (“The Big Red One”/”Fixed Bayonets”/”The Steel Helmet”) on the star Richard Harris’ complaints about Fuller to the studio. The troubled pic was originally filmed in Spain but was re-shot in Mexico. But even after Shear turned in his version to Warner Brothers, their suits got a strangle-hold on it and savaged it beyond redemption. It’s based on the short story Riata by Sam Fuller, and Fuller and Lukas Heller wrote the screenplay. Excessively violent, ugly and pointless, the revenge pic is filmed as a formulaic pursuit pic that turns absurdly misogynistic when it goes South of the border. A miscast Richard Harris is dreadful as the peace-loving Santa Rosa, Texas sheriff, Sean Kilpatrick, who never wore a gun but turns masochistic and vengeful when a vicious gang of bank robbers kill his wife Katharine (Kelly Jean Peters) and young boy. The killer gang leader is Frank Brand (Rod Taylor) and his henchmen are the smooth black gambler Jacob (Paul Benjamin), the brain-dead Schoolboy (William Smith) and the greedy piggish Choo Choo (Neville Brand). When they flee to Mexico, the obsessed Kilpatrick fails to notify the Mexican authorities and pursues the gang alone. Mexican lawman Gutierrez (Al Lettieri) is also in pursuit of the gang and both hinders and helps the American.

It ends in a convoluted and unsatisfying way, after the unsympathetic, crazed American sheriff withstands a mob beating, a lynching, and a temporary blinding in a saloon shoot-out. Kilpatrick, after killing in various ways three of the gang, arrests the sadistic Brand in a convent by resorting to the same amoral behavior used by the thug who held his kid hostage and after the arrest is told by the rigid Mexican lawman he will have to free the free prisoner because there’s no evidence against him in Mexico.

If Harris’s long-suffering overwrought performance wasn’t bad enough to endure, the simplistic following of the letter of the law to conclude the film left an unsatisfying taste in my mouth. It’s criminal what the studio did to Fuller’s baby.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”