DVD Review: The Last Hard Men / Skyriders (Action Double Feature)



James Coburn projected a cocky nature that few could top in cinema. On a lesser man, he’d be a jerk. But when Coburn turned on the attitude, he was electrifying. He carved out screen time in The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape even with Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in both movies. He thrived in three Sam Peckinpah flicks: Major Dundee, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Cross of Iron. He cranked up the macho charm as Derek Flint in the Bond spoofs Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. He achieved the respect of his peers with an Oscar for terrorizing Nick Nolte in Affliction. He was a movie star. Action Double Feature: The Last Hard Men and Skyriders takes us back to when Coburn dominated the duplex movie houses via horseback and the air in 1976.

Skyriders (90:41) kicks off with a mother and her children being kidnapped by Greek terrorists. Her husband (I Spy‘s Robert Culp) is a rich American doing business in the country. They view Culp as a soft target for playing ransom. What they don’t realize is that she’s James Coburn’s ex-wife and the eldest child is his son. He not eager to follow the Greek cop’s suggestion on how to quietly handle this situation. When things go wrong, Coburn takes control. He tracks down the kidnappers to a remote mountain top location. The high lair will look familiar as the villain’s monastery in For Your Eyes Only. Instead of merely climbing up the mountain, Coburn plots to attack it from the air using a team of hang gliders. This is the kinda fun action film that would have been perfect to experience at a drive-in during the Bicentennial summer. The hang gliding gimmick fits the fad without become a completely campy device. Coburn looks convincing swooping down from the sky to rescue his ex-wife from the terrorists.

The Last Hard Men (97:18) is a showdown between Coburn and Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes). Coburn and convicted associates escape from a chaingang. Instead of making a break to Mexico for freedom, Coburn wants revenge on the man who put him in irons, Heston. He starts off by kidnapping Heston’s daughter (Barbara Hershey). This leads to a massive chase and battle in wilderness between the two stars. It’s rough and tumble with lots of teeth gritted. Larry Wilcox (CHiPs) gets a meaty role as Coburn’s more trusting man during the kidnapping. It’s a fine Western that doesn’t appear to get abused with repeats on cable.

Skyriders and The Last Hard Men is a fine double dose of Coburn in his prime. He gets to flip sides in the roles of kidnapper and non-ransom paying ass kicker for the films. He shines both as dastardly escapee and concerned ex-husband with equal bravado. He can look equally macho jumping a train and holding onto a hang glider This is a double feature worth running to gets a proper dose of cocky in your system.

The video for both films is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfers are fine. Not much dust on the frame. You’ll get a good look at Greek countryside from the hang glider shots. The audio on both are mono. The levels are about right for the shoot outs.

Skyriders Trailer (2:39) pushes the hang gliding. It really summarizes the film.

TV Spot (0:31) declares the film as “the one adventure that soars above them all!”

Last Hard Men Trailer (0:58) gives the ultimate showdown between Heston and Coburn.

TV Spot (0:30) stresses that only one will survive.

Action Double Feature: The Last Hard Men and Skyriders brings the best of James Coburn from 1976. He’s attacking by land and air even though he’s on both sides of the law during the double feature. The Last Hard Men is a rough western that works best when Heston and Coburn face off. Skyriders is a family thriller that includes the joy of hang gliding when attacking the kidnappers’ hideout. This is a perfectly fine way to spend the evening with Coburn fever.

Shout! Factory presents Action Double Feature: The Last Hard Men and Skyriders. Starring: James Coburn, Robert Culp, Charlton Heston and Larry Wilcox. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 1 DVDs. Released on DVD: January 17, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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