88. Bite the Bullet (1975)
Leonard Maltin's Rating :
Should be :
IMDB Rating : 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 49%
The movie is beautifully filmed and has a wonderful cast. Gene Hackman, Ben Johnson, James Coburn and Candice Bergen lead a cast of characters who take part in a 700 mile horse race at the turn of the century.
The race goes on and everyone fights to be number one. At the beginning some are enemies but as the race goes on the contestants begin to respect each other. While most of it are in for the money, Ben Johnson is in it for the prize of being the winner, printed in the newspaper. In a speech right before he dies he says: "God, what ain't I tried. Pony express rider, Overland Stage driver, lawman, gambler, riverman, rancher, rodeo hand, barman, spittoon man... old man. Never much to remember. Of course, there ain't much to forget, either. Nobody's got much use for an old man. I can't blame 'em much. That's why I'm going to win this here newspaper race. When I cross the finish line, I get to be a big man. Top man. A man to remember."
The Old West is ending and Ben Johnson dies on the trail and Jan-Michael Vincent buries his horse after it dies under him. Gene Hackman beats his horse too, but his horse doesn't die as continues on the race which I came to wish was only 350 miles (it just went on too long). I have to admit that by the time it finally ended, I really didn't care who won.
I love Westerns, and I love these actors, particularly Ben Johnson, but I didn't love this movie. Ben Johnson was in some great Westerns including The Wild Bunch, The Last Picture Show, and Shane all of which Leonard deservedly has as 4 star movies. But Ben Johnson was also in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, One-Eyed Jacks and Wagon Master all of which are also great Westerns and Leonard gave each of those a 3 star rating. It's hard to believe he thought the mediocre Bite the Bullet was better than those iconic films.
On his great movie site Tom Dirks has a list of what he thinks are the Hundred Greatest Westerns . It is a very good list, and Bite the Bullet (not surprisingly), didn't show up on it.
Not a bad movie but definitely not four stars. The Movie Guide is a great book and is really valuable, but it is also contains a very serious flaw while it has this movie rated a star higher than Unforgiven.