Stephen Boyd spent the better part of 1971 making films in Spain. It’s a little difficult to track the order of the movies, but it seems like he started with “Marta”, visited the set of “Hannie Caulder” for literally two days, filmed “Kill!” and “The Great Swindle”.
“Hannie Caulder” was the second time Stephen worked with Raquel Welch – the first time, of course, being the science-fiction movie “The Fantastic Voyage.” This is one of my favorite westerns of the 1970’s. Stephen’s role is almost a cameo as he wasn’t even listed as a member of the cast in the credits or on the movie poster. I think it’s gorgeously filmed, and I think it’s one of Raquel Welch’s best roles. It was directed by veteran Western director Burt Kennedy. The story truly places Raquel Welch as one of the first female action stars of cinema, along with blax-sploitation star Pam Grier, in my opinion. The poster’s announce the arrival of “The First Lady Gunfighter!” Welch portrays Hannie Caulder, a woman who loses her husband to a band the three renegade Clemens brothers, portrayed with equal depravity by actors Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin. Hannie endures a horrific rape and loses everything she has when the Clemens brothers set fire to her homestead. Left to die, Hannie attaches herself to a wandering bounty-hunter, the mellow Robert Culp, and learns how to become a gunfighter herself, wearing a poncho which barely manages to cover her most revealing curves. She eventually kills all three brothers in her passion for revenge. Amidst all of this, we see a bearded Christopher Lee show up as a serene gunsmith, British sex-queen Diana Dors as a local town Madame, and Stephen Boyd as a mysterious character called the Preacher, dressed in black, who acts as Hannie’s guardian angel of sorts. With the Preacher’s tacit assistance, Hannie gets the chance to kill off the final Clemens brother. In the end, Hannie rides off into the desert with the Preacher as her companion and the body of the slain Clemens, suggesting that Hannie herself will become a bounty-hunter. Sequel anyone?
The Evening Herald had this to say about Stephen’s lack of prominence in the movie credits; “Irish actor (a good one) Stephen Boyd’s in Raquel Welch’s Hannie Caulder film with Raque’s name and cantilevered statistics emblazoned circus style over everything: longtime star Boyd’s not even billed.”
From Joe Cushnan’s unofficial Boyd biography, “Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood,” Boyd is quoted from the Sunday Express saying this about his role.
“In Hollywood, if an actor plays a tiny part in a film just because he fancies the role, everyone thinks he’s on the skids. I was offered such a part in Hannie Caulder, two days work played a preacher. I said yes and everyone thought I was mad. So I played it under the name Nephets Dyob, which is more or less my name spelled backwards.”
Cushnan goes on to say this about Boyd’s performance; “…he maintained a strong presence on screen in his scenes, despite his character’s silence and he exuded enough earnest menace via his facial expressions to make the audience take notice of him.” I agree. Boyd’s scenes are very cinematic, and his mystery truly makes one want to know who this character is. Stephen Boyd’s Preacher has a sexy, sinister appeal. He is dapperly dressed in black and he doesn’t speak a word. The only communication is a few meaningful glances which he aims in Hannie Caulder’s direction. In the movie- tie in novel by William Terry, The Preacher (or rather Boyd) is aptly described:
“He was handsome, with clear blue eyes and a generous mouth above a strong jawline, but the basic good looks of his features were offset by a rugged toughness, the effect exaggerated by the two day’s stubble that sprouted across his lower face. His all black attire, relieved only by a white shirt, gave him a ministerial effect. But this was immediately erased by the long barreled Baily pistols which he wore, hung at each hip from an ornate gun belt.”
Stephen Boyd as The Preacher in “Hannie Caulder”, 1971
I enjoy seeing Welch and Boyd on-screen together, albeit briefly, from having been co-stars in “The Fantastic Voyage” at the very start of Welch’s career. Welch looks absolutely stunning and voluptuous as always in this role. Welch has since admitted to having a huge crush on Boyd during the filming of “The Fantastic Voyage.” One wonders what the feelings were during this brief meeting about 6 years later. It is also awesome to see Stephen Boyd and Hammer- Dracula star Christopher Lee in the same slice of film, in addition to having Boyd confront his old “Oscar” nemesis Ernest Borgnine.
As to the filming of the project, it took place mostly around Almeria, Spain, which has become quite a filming hot spot. Boyd had been there previously for “Shalako” in 1968, and had worked close to that area way back in 1957 on “The Night Heaven Fell.” Apparently the filming of “Hannie Caulder” was somewhat tumultuous. Raquel Welch was quite the diva, with her entourage rather rudely chasing away Spanish photographers and creating tension on the set, causing one crew member to comment; “Ernie Borgnine’s a better actor in a bathtub than Raquel Welch is out of one.” Ouch! The actors split into two camps – Raquel and her publicity people on one side, and on the other, Borgnine, Elam, Martin and the Director. “It’s like a circus sometimes, but you know, I think, or hope, that we will have a good movie,” said Director Burt Kennedy. Who knows where Robert Culp ended up, other than he was injured by a poison sea urchin during the film project and also battled Welch in an apparent clash of personalities. To top it off, Raquel Welch divorced her husband Patrick Curtis shortly after the filming of this movie was a wrap.