Bite the Bullet (1975)

At the beginning of the 20th century, a newspaper organizes an endurance horse race : 700 miles to run in a few days. 9 adventurers are competing, among them a woman, Miss Jones, a Mexican, an Englishman, a young cow-boy, an old one and two friends, Sam Clayton and Luke Matthews. All those individualists will learn to respect each other.

***Big-budget Western about a 700-mile endurance race with a top-notch cast***
In 1906, a 700-mile horse race in the Western wilderness is sponsored by a newspaper. The racers include two former Rough Riders (Gene Hackman & James Coburn), a part-time prostitute (Candice Bergen), a punk “Kid” (Jan-Michael Vincent), an aged cowboy (Ben Johnson), a Mexican with a toothache (Mario Arteaga) and an English gent (Ian Bannen).
“Bite the Bullet” (1975) was written & directed by Richard Brooks, who said the movie is based on several historical cross-country races subsidized by newspapers and cities from 1880-1910. The most well-known was a 1908 race from Evanston, Wyoming, to Denver backed by the Denver Post with a $2500 prize, which was his main inspiration.
While this was a big budget production with a kick-axx cast it’s not often cited on Best Westerns lists, probably because the long race makes it a one-of-a-kind Western that’s not about a suspense-building story, but rather an episodic adventure with character-defining vignettes. Speaking of which, it helps if you utilize the subtitles to keep up with the sometimes mumbled dialogues.
Unfortunately, the escaped convict subplot seems shoehorned into the last act. It's like Brooks tried too hard to concoct an "exciting" ending, but ended up almost ruining the movie.
The film runs 2 hours, 12 minutes, and was shot in Nevada (Carson National Forest & Lake Mead), New Mexico (White Sands) and Colorado.
GRADE: C+/B-

Persky-Bright Productions, Vista, Columbia Pictures by Richard Brooks.
Stars: Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, James Coburn, Ben Johnson.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Western

Keywords: horse race horse endurance ex prostitute

05/01/1975

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