By VINCENT CANBY
"Take a Hard Ride," which opened at three theaters on Tuesday, is a black Western that has something of the ingenuousness of a story being made up by a child as he tells it to his friends. It goes on and on—it lurches, really — in little fits and starts of inspiration from dimly remembered earlier movies.
It's about an honest cowboy (Jim Brown), a cheerfully dishonest gambler (Fred Williamson) and a mute Indian scout (Jim Kelly) and their efforts to transport $86,000 across hundreds of miles of Western wilderness to the families to whom it belongs in Mexico. The trail is fraught with dangers, and busier than Eighth Avenue on a Saturday night. There's a gun waiting behind every bush and lots of incredibly good marksmanship by the stars, and incredibly bad marksmanship by the villains, which is the only way a movie like this keeps going.
The villains include Lee Van Cleef and Barry Sullivan and are mostly white. The film was shot in the Canary Islands by an Italian director who calls himself Anthony M. Dawson, though his name is actually Antonio Margheriti.
Mr. Williamson works hard to achieve a light touch but all his efforts are immediately absorbed by Mr. Brown, whose impassive performance acts as a kind of blotter. The two have a long way to go before they give Paul Newman and Robert Redford any competition.
TAKE A HARD RIDE, directed by Anthony M. Dawson; screenplay by Eric Bercovici and Jerry Ludwig; produced by Harry Bernsen; director of photography, Riccardo Pailotini; music, Jerry Goldsmith; editor, Stanford C. Allen; a Bernsen-Ludwig-Bercovici production, distributed by 20th Century-Fox. Running time: 103 minutes. At the Cinerama Theater, Broadway near 47th Street, RKO 86th Street Twin One Theater, 86th Street near Lexington Avenue and Colosseum Theater, Broadway at 161st Street. This film has been rated PG.
Pike . . . . . Jim Brown
Kiefer . . . . . Lee Van Cleef
Tyree . . . . . Fred Williamson
Catherine . . . . . Catherine Spaak
Kashtok . . . . . Jim Kelly
Morgan . . . . . Dana Andrews
Kane . . . . . Barry Sullivan
Dumper . . . . . Harry Carey Jr.
Skave . . . . . Robert Donner