Directed by Barry Shear
The Deadly Trackers opens with a few minutes of still images introducing us to the town of Santa Rosa. Sometimes dialogue plays over these images, creating the feeling of recalling a memory through a series of photographs. The images also carry the texture of a painting or an old photograph. This intro drags on for quite a while, eventually introducing a group of bandits robbing the bank. If there was ever an opposite to the slam-bang, ball-grabbin’ Sam Fuller-style intro, this would be it.
Where the motion begins, though, becomes all the more jarring because of this slow run-up of still images. The leader of the bandits, Brand (Rod Taylor), shoots a bank clerk in the forehead and the film almost literally explodes into action. Is it possible to assume that if Sam Fuller had been allowed to make the film he would’ve just opened here? Probably not, but it would definitely be closer to his style than anything Barry Shear decided to do in The Deadly Trackers.
From Fuller’s memoir, A Third Face, it’s clear that the basic storyline is largely the same between the two versions of the film. After the bank robbery, the bandit kills Kilpatrick’s son and Kilpatrick (Richard Harris) gives chase through the dangerous hills of Mexico. Fuller’s description of his version sounds like a thrilling revenge-western laced with the kinds of hard moral choices to be found in many of his other films. The Deadly Trackers, on the other hand, is merely a few sparse, fairly entertaining gunfights strung together with a ton of slow-moving, unaffecting dialogue scenes.
At 105 minutes, The Deadly Trackers feels about three times as long. I don’t really recommend it under any circumstances, although it does have its moments here and there. My favorites were the bandit character Choo Choo, who has a big chunk of railroad track for a hand, and when Kilpatrick went blind for a bit and saw in Predator vision. 🙂