1974's Open Season is one of those films that has sadly fallen thru cracks on home video, as it has yet to get a legit American release, as it floats around on torrent & trading sites passed from collector to collector and has earned quite a cult following. A European production (Euro horror star Helga Line can be seen in the beginning) that was shot in Spain, England, and Italy with some exterior stuff shot in Michigan - a quick view of the old Tiger Stadium can be seen from I-75 and a trip across the Mackinac Bridge is shown in an aerial shot. Directed by Britisher Peter Collinson, who also helmed the excellent 1967 thriller The Penthouse (also missing on DVD). Collinson directed some great films (the original Italian Job from 1969 among others) and unfortunately passed away at the young age of 44 in 1980.
Peter Fonda, John Phillip Law & Richard Lynch play respectively Greg, Ken & Art, a nice bunch of guys on the surface who unfortunately are all pretty psychotic. Once year they head up the mountains for a couple of weeks in a cabin and along the way they always stop to pick up a random man & woman to partake in the old Most Dangerous Game scenario. Although the guys are all past military vets (Vietnam is hinted at), the military side of it is never really brought up as a reason for their behavior and in a prologue its shown that even as teenagers they had an inclination toward violence.
On the current trip they kidnap Martin & Nancy (Alberto de Mendoza & Corneila Sharpe) who as it turns out are having an affair and with Martin unwilling to leave his wife, this ramps up the tension even more between the couple. After arriving at the isolated cabin a real claustrophobic horror show begins as the guys use mind games & psychological terror on the helpless couple climaxing with the hunt.
As they three main character's Fonda, Lynch & Law are all quite good. Fonda seems to be the same character from Dirty Mary & Crazy Larry (also from '74) with just some added psycho creepiness. His constant giggling after each line gets a bit on ones nerves (which may be the purpose) and he really seems to enjoy playing a totally evil persona. Richard Lynch with his scarred gaunt features was one of the most reliable character actors of the 70's (including a great turn in 1973's The Seven Ups) and was a regular on TV from the 80's on. His facial scarring occurred as the result of setting himself on fire while on an LSD trip in 1967. However, its John Phillip Law who's the real standout here as he portrays perfectly the perceived nice guy who slowly turns into a psychotic monster before our eyes. In fact the best part on the entire movie is the slowing dawning realization that these guys are truly insane.
The film has a nice twist ending with the prologue neatly wrapping around full circle to tie into the end. The only thing that is a bit problematic is the re-appearance of top billed William Holden at the end. Since we only see him for a few minutes at the beginning , we know he's going to show up again at some point (and most likely will be a major plot point). An excellent movie that really deserves a long overdue DVD and/or blu release.