Before I was old enough to go hunting with my dad on open weekends, my mom and I used to stay in during the cold winters and catch a few movies together.
Shocking! I know.
We would sometimes go to the store and rent some, and sometimes we’d just sit back with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and peruse through our inventory of copied movies.
We had a lot of movies that we would watch when we weren’t sure what we were in the mood for. We’d call them “fall back” movies, now. “Jaws” was a big one and “Father Goose.” There was one movie that my mom and I picked as our “no matter what” movie, however, when we kept searching and reading and suggesting and just couldn’t think of any that’d hit the spot.
It was a movie that had a lot of what we liked:
- great cast
- great writing
- multiple characters doing many different things
- and redemption
It is a movie that rarely comes to mind when you mention “the greats” of all time, but if someone were to mention it as one, I wouldn’t argue with them. A lot of people have never even heard about it when I mention the title, but when I tell them to go watch it, I have yet to have someone tell me they didn’t enjoy it.
I might be lucky with that last bit of history, but I really feel this movie holds up over time.
“Bite the Bullet” is definitely a favorite of mine all time. Let alone a favorite western, it holds up as pure cinema to me. A lot of that probably had to do with the multiple viewings that my mom and I shared during those cold Idaho winters, but I highly recommend this film if you have never seen it.
It stars (try and catch your breath by the end of this list):
Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, James Coburn, Ben Johnson, Jan-Michael Vincent, and Dabney Coleman makes a brief appearance.
Those are just the stars.
The people that played the supporting characters were very excellent in their roles as well including Mario Arteaga, Ian Bannen, and Walter Scott. Ian Bannen’s character, Sir Harry Norfolk, has a heartbreaking scene in which I defy anyone with half-a-heart to watch without shedding a tear. The passion and pain he shared in that scene is ironed-onto my brain and won’t leave, even if I want it to someday.
Mario Arteaga also comes to a very heroic, self-sacrificing end in a scene that will cause even more tears by the time you get to it.
Wow, I don’t know that I’m really selling this movie…
I’ll talk about the premise and you decide if it is something worth your time.
It is a western about a horse race across the desert. There are 9 people that enter the race, and we gradually learn about their character(s) in the open of the movie, prior to the race starting. We join all of them on their own separate adventures along the way. Some of their adventures intertwine and some of them don’t. There are characters you love and characters you love to hate. There are even characters you love to hate that you end up loving…period; by the end. Hence the redemption that I mentioned earlier.
“Bite the Bullet,” isn’t just a great title or mantra for this movie. As the movie goes along, you realize how literal Richard Brooks was when he chose to run with that title.
With that last comment, you kinda have to see it now, right?