The Film (3.5/5)
Sheriff Sean Kilpatrick (Richard Harris) is an Irish immigrant with a strict code of law. He is a pacifist and believes that using a gun is always the last desperate solution. He keeps order in his town, and is a loving father to his son and wife. All this is shaken up, when outlaw Frank Brand (Rod Taylor) and his gang try to rob a bank and are trapped by the towns people. Frank breaks into the school house and kidnaps Kilpatrick’s son in the process. As he rides off he shoots Kilpatrick’s wife and drops the son off the horse to his death.
With nothing left to lose, Kilpatrick chases Brand’s gang to Mexico. He won’t let anything get in his way for revenge. The only thing trying to stop him, is a Mexican cop (Al Lettieri), who wants to arrest Brand.
THE DEADLY TRACKERS is a usual western in many ways. The movie has a sharp edge to it with its sudden violence. It’s rated PG, but there’s still an unusual amount of gritty bloodshed, such as Mrs. Kilpatrick (Kelly Jean Peters) being shot in the face or the boy being crushed by horses. Being released in 1973, THE DEADLY TRACKERS has a bleak ending that fits the era of movie making. But this is after an almost happy ending. As for the plot, about 75% of the movie is traditional western material with some Italian influence (mainly the upped violent factor), but then the film throws a curve ball at use by introducing a blinding gunshot blast and some nasty business at a whore house.
Cast wise, THE DEADLY TRACKERS has an excellent mix of 1970’s talent and cult cinema favorites. Richard Harris (A MAN NAMED HORSE, THE WILD GEESE) seems to be in auto pilot mood throughout but still shines in his character driven scenes. The action scenes with him are very animalistic and it’s always entertaining to see him yell and rant. Rod Taylor (THE BIRDS, DARK OF THE SUN) is a real evil bastard of a villain. Every scene he is in you simply can’t look away. He’s clever at points and yet simple and evil at others. His performance alone lifts the movie up above other westerns of the time. Brand’s gang is a great mix of characters. Neville Brand (EATEN ALIVE, THE MAD BOMBER) has the perfect face for a western and has the unique iron arm in the film. Paul Benjamin (ACROSS 110TH STREET, FRIDAY FOSTER) is the odd man out, as the super intelligent member of the gang who is out casted because he is black. Lastly, while only in about 20 minutes of the finished film, all around tough guy William Smith (GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE, RUN ANGEL RUN) plays the deformed strongman Schoolboy. Smith’s bit part steals the show in all his scenes.
The most surprising performance in the movie comes from Al Lettieri. Usually playing the villain in movies like Sam Peckinpah’s THE GETAWAY, THE GODFATHER, and the Charles Bronson classic MR. MAJESTYK, here Lettieri shines as the voice of reason. He is the emotional center of the film. The ending of the movie is even more shocking because of the tragedy of his character.
While tonally uneven, THE DEADLY TRACKERS is a highly entertaining western. Action packed with a blood thirsty backbone. Perfect raining Saturday afternoon viewing.
This Warner Archive Blu-ray is filled to the gills with audio options. First up is The English DTS-HD Master Audio track. Everything is crystal clear and smooth, no drop offs or pops. Next up is a French 2.0 Channel Dolby Digital track. The disc also comes with two Spanish tracks, one is 2.0 Dolby Digital Castellano, and one is 2.0 Dolby Digital Latino. As for subtitles there’s English for the deaf and hard of hearing, French, Castellano, and Latino. All in easy to read white letters.
As for the picture, DEADLY TRACKERS comes with an 1080p HD transfer. The movie looks stunning with its gritty locations. The level of detail in every shot is pretty impressive, but a few scenes are soft focused and rough.
Extras are limited to the original theatrical trailer.
While super violent and nihilistic, DEADLY TRACKERS is still a highly entertaining western. The action scenes are well done and there’s two solid performances by Taylor and Lettieri. The movie may not be a classic, but for western fans this Warner Blu-ray is worth adding to their collections. Highly Recommended.