Moviedrome Mondays: The Hired Hand (1971)

Since I can’t find a video of Moviedrome presenter Alex Cox introducing actor Peter Fonda’s 1971 directorial debut The Hired Hand, I have once again relied on a link to Cox’s intro transcript of it via (read here). The episode’s original airdate was July 3, 1988 (read here). Along with director Monte Hellman’s 1966 film The Shooting, The Hired Hand can best be described as an Acid Western (read here). Read the link, but the one thing I can tell you that everybody else familiar with the term has noted is that Acid Westerns are characterized by their dreamlike pacing. Sadly, Cox does not think that The Hired Hand is a classic. The film garnered mixed reviews at the time so it is probably not much of a surprise. Nevertheless, by 2001, it’s critical standing had improved with some critics giving off the vibe that it is a misunderstood masterpiece of the Western genre (read here). Here is Cox, in his own words, about his problems with the film – the camerawork is all bleary and there are long transitions and the people don’t say much. It’s not as good as The Last Movie, it doesn’t have Hopper’s madness or breadth of vision. Once again, read here. Okay, first of all, maybe The Hired Hand was not intended to have The Last Movie’s (directed by Dennis Hopper) madness or breadth of vision. Coincidentally, both films came out in 1971.  For the record, I personally believe that The Last Movie is a bigger achievement by comparison, but The Hired Hand is still brilliant in it’s own ways. I appreciate the film’s bleary cinematography (courtesy of the late great Vilmos Zsigmond); it is not only beautiful, but it is appropriate for the film’s dreamy quality. Same thing goes regarding the film’s long transitions and the limited qualities of it’s characters. To be fair though, Cox did single out actor Warren Oates for praise. According to Cox, If one asked actors Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Ed Harris to name the best American actor living or dead it is quite likely that they are not going to say Marlon Brando. They’ll tell you it’s Warren Oates. Read here once again. I too am a huge fan of Oates as an actor. Here are two links below – one for the film’s original theatrical trailer in 1971 and the other for the 2001 Restored Director’s Cut.

Here is the youtube link below for the film’s 1971 original theatrical trailer


Here is the youtube link below for the film’s 2001 Restored Director’s Cut trailer




10 thoughts on “Moviedrome Mondays: The Hired Hand (1971)

  1. I saw this film in my late teens. I liked the ‘dreamy’ feel, and Warren Oates. But I didn’t enjoy the film overall, because I never really rated Peter Fonda that much, and was even less of a fan of him as a director, in this instance. It wasn’t until much later, in ‘The Limey’ that I saw some talent in his acting.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. You’ve chosen another of my favourites here John. Of all the films I saw for the first time on Moviedrome The Hired Hand has lingered in my mind more than most. The slow pace never bothered me at all, it’s perfect for the characters and their aimless lives and as you say the cinematography is beautiful.
    I’ll always remember that line from Alex Cox, of how Oates was the greatest American actor. He brightens any film for me, from Badlands to Two-Lane Blacktop, and he has good chemistry with Fonda both here and in Ride With the Devil. Verna Bloom was wonderful too, especially in her scenes with Warren’s character. They scarcely speak a word but you know exactly what they are thinking.

  3. I hear ya Pete 🙂 Truth be told, of the three films Peter Fonda directed, this one is his only great one. I do remember him in The Limey and he proved to be every bit as (If not more) electrifying as lead actor Terence Stamp. Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  4. Glad to hear that The Hired Hand is one of your favorites Paul 🙂 It is one of my many favorites as well. I also echo the view that Warren Oates was the greatest American actor who ever lived 🙂 Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  5. Sounds interesting, John. Sometimes I like Peter Fonda a lot–Ulee’s Gold, The Limey –sometimes I characterize him with one big eye roll–Easy Rider. But he’s always interesting, whether acting, directing or both.

  6. I think you will love The Hired Hand 🙂 The guy who photographed The Hired Hand also served as cinematographer on McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which is one of your favorites. The cinematographer’s name btw is the late Vilmos Zsigmond. You probably discovered that already through my blog post and link though 🙂 Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  7. Thanks for the recommendation, John. This one is definitely on my list. I will probably like it, if not for anything else, the cinematography. (I like the movie Wolf Creek, just for the cinematography. The movie itself is pretty bad, IMHO.) Anyway, I have a feeling I’m going to like The Hired Hand.

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