Hawmps? (1976)

I grew up watching the movie Hawmps? frequently. I suspect you have never seen the movie. I thought I’d write about it, maybe whet your appetite, maybe not.

Hawmps? is based on a true story. Sort of.hawmps1

The story begins in the 1850s when Congress decides camels might be the key to taming the west. Experimental camel use is mandated. Young Lieutenant Howard Clemmons goes from Washington D.C. to the wild west to test the effectiveness of camels, strong on book knowledge . . . lacking in practicality. Miscommunication almost dooms the project from the start, but the camels eventually earn the respect of the reluctant soldiers. Things seem to be going well. Then a problem arises and the project is scrapped. A race pitting the men on camels against men on horses is proposed. Does the camel prove its supremacy? Will Clemmons’ book learning translate to the wild west? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Here are a few more things that might interest you.

The soundtrack is erratic. Most of the soundtrack is vintage 1970s country music, featuring golden lyrics like: “I just heard a discouraging word, and I want to go home. I wasn’t born to be no hero. I just want to go home.” But then there are the weird moments, like when a band (which looks like an 1850s era band) plays a song in a bar scene that is a 1970s-sounding pop/rock song. And then there are moments when the soundtrack becomes almost classical . . . but then morphs back into the country sound.

Happy violence abounds. You know what I mean. The kind of chaos when thousands of shots are fired, punches are thrown, explosions happen, but no one gets hurt. There is one bar fight, two gun fights, and a jail break.

Politically incorrect actors are present. All the main actors in the movie are Caucasian Americans. Some of those Caucasians play hyper-stereotyped characters (an Arab and several Native Americans).

This dialogue takes place: Trainer: “For the desert, nothing can beat the camel.” Disgruntled soldier who has been thrown off a camel numerous times: “You give me a 2×4 and I’ll beat the camel.” Which raises the point, was 2×4 a common term in the 1850s?

This monologue takes place: A brawl breaks out in a bar. The bartender shoots a shotgun in the air to stop it, but only temporarily, he just wants to set the ground rules:

“All right, you all know the rules. No gun play. No knives. No clobbering with anything biggern’ a chair. All breakage will be paid for on the spot. My whisky stock, winders, and rooms upstairs are off limits. And any man foolish enough to break my bar mirror from St. Louis (pause) will get his head broke off.”

So this raises questions. Does the mirror get broken? Or better yet, who breaks the mirror? You’ll have to watch Hawmps? to find out. . .

Benji makes an appearance. That’s right, Benji the dog. Frank Inn plays a cook in this movie. Mr Inn was one of the greatest animal trainers in film history. He trained many award winning creatures, including Benji. In one scene in this movie Benji walks by, causing the cook to stare incredulously at him. It’s a random weird moment that is only funny if you know who Frank Inn is.

There are colorful bad guys. Slim Pickens plays the loudmouthed, contentious Sergeant Tucker. Jack Elam plays the truly violent and odd Bad Jack Cutter. Cutter delivers one of my favorite lines: “I’m ready. I’m loose. I’m walkin’ death and destruction!”


Bad Jack Cutter with His Arsenal

A mayor falls from a platform onto a dessert table. And then responds with: “I have always sacrificed for my constituents, but this is ridiculous. I may leave public life.”

One of the worst parting lines in cinema history. The closing line of this movie is really weak. It’s not catchy, or clever, or fitting. It just falls flat. The best part is that I think it is supposed to be a joke.

——Begin Edit: 8/16/09———

Thanks to commenter Vicki for cluing me in to the pun/joke in the closing line. You need to be familiar with a certain cigarette advertising campaign to get it. Armed with this knowledge I will retract my comment about the closing line of the film.

——-End Edit: 8/16/09———–

Conclusion. I like Hawmps? because it has nostalgic value. In truth, it’s a pretty terrible film. But that’s all right, it will always have a place in my heart.

I listed Hawmps? on my Facebook profile as one of my favorite movies. You can click movie titles to see who else has listed that movie as a favorite as well. Well, evidently I am the only Hawmps? fan with a Facebook profile. It’s actually kind of cool. I am the only person in the entire world that has publicly declared himself a fan of the film on Facebook.

If you want to borrow the DVD let me know. Of course I own it.



Filed under Humor, Thoughts

4 responses to “Hawmps? (1976)

  1. Over all, I enjoyed your summary of Hawmps? but have to guess, based on your comment about the last line in the movie, that you’re somewhat younger than I am. That line was definitely meant as a pun type joke. For many years (decades) that line was the main line in the advertising for Camel cigarettes.

    Absolutely one of my must watch movies (along with Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Support Your Local Sheriff) AND…I’m on Facebook, too :-)

    • Now that you mention it, I have heard that slogan before (though I do not ever recall actually seeing the advertising). That makes the conclusion of the movie make much more sense. I did not make that connection, thanks for pointing it out =)

  2. My parents REFUSED to take me to see ‘HAWMPS’ there are awfulovies I have watched just for the camels. They are wonderful animals.

  3. Just thoroughly enjoyed above opnions of Hawmps! I happen to live with (14 yrs.) one of the actors on that film as one of the horse soldiers in Slims horse vs. Camel race.
    Also was Jack Elams double, and he’s shared some wonderfully funny stories from his experience. One thing that sticks in his memory is being told “never ride/pass Slim when riding!” It was great fun reading your thoughts and obviously I’m a lifetime fan of Hawmps!

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