Warren Oates may not be the star of The Hired Hand, but both he and Verna Bloom outshine director Peter Fonda's quiet performance. A lot of that's down to the writing, with screenwriter Alan Sharp giving both supporting players excellent parts - indeed, Bloom's is one of the best women's roles ever written for a Western - and part of it seems to be down to the gentle generosity of spirit that Fonda imbues his cut of the film with. While never quite as affecting as it could be, and at times over-egging the artistry with not always successful montages or camera techniques in Vilmos Zsigmond's otherwise marvellous cinematography, it's still a satisfying and rewarding character piece that just happens to be set out West
Tartan's 2-disc DVD edition comes with a plethora of extras, including ample deleted scenes that were restored for the NBC television version that eventually supplanted the theatrical version. They're interesting, and highlight Larry Hagman's nice performance as a very diplomatic sheriff, but their deletion does make the film much stronger, placing the emphasis on the interplay of the three central characters and, most crucially, allowing Oates' character to make his own decision towards the film's resolution. It's a shame that screenwriter Alan Sharp isn't among the interviewees on the one-hour documentary on the disc, but perhaps that's because, ever the realist, he always regarded his fine Western scripts as pastiches where everyone else is arguing in favor of the film's realism and revisionism. But most bizarre among the extras are Universal's original trailers and radio spots, marketing it as an all-action revenge Western for the Easy Rider crowd - `Peter Fonda is riding again - back to the woman he loves and the revenge he craves!'