By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: They all want gold.
This is a sterile western with some irrelevant offbeat elements thrown in for good measure. The story consists of Mackenna (Gregory Peck) coming upon an old Indian man with a map showing the whereabouts to some gold. Feeling that the map is meaningless he burns it and tries to move on. He becomes entangled with outlaw Colorado (Omar Sharif) who feels that the map was legit, and since Mackenna was the last one to see it, forces him to come along with him and use his memory to show him the location. Ultimately they meet a wide assortment of other characters all searching for the same thing.
The cheap special effects are one of the main drawbacks. They are awful and help bring down the whole movie. The scene involving Peck being tied to the back of a horse and then lead across an old rickety bridge has to rate as the worst as the wide shots clearly shows a miniature bridge with a toy man and toy horse. The climactic sequence involving the cataclysmic destruction of an entire valley is so tacky that it is almost painful to watch. There are also other shots spliced in throughout that were done on a different film stock and this difference in grain is obvious and distracting. Even simple shots of Peck riding his horse are laughable as it becomes obvious that he is not on a real horse, but instead one of those mechanical ones that bop him up and down in perfect rhythm.
Only when the film features its stellar supporting cast does it get interesting. Unfortunately this legendary line up was only given about ten minutes of screen time a piece and then very quickly killed off one by one in ways that are particularly gruesome and demeaning.
Peck is okay in the lead and acts as a sort of stabilizer. This was the film where he starts to look elderly with some gray hair showing and a handle bar stomach. He was also not as agile as his younger costar Sharif.
Julie Newmar as Indian lady Hesh-ke is a stand out and even sexier than she was as Catwoman on the TV-show ‘Batman’. She also displays a real vicious side and this probably rates as her best performance despite the fact that she never says a single word. Camilla Sparv as Inga is almost as sexy and the two share a fun ongoing rivalry.
The film is watchable and has some nice, even exciting, aerial shots. However as a whole it is pretty ordinary. Things added to make it seem unique really end up hurting it. Jose Feliciano’s singing is out of place and the music score overall is bad. Victory Jory’s narrative is unnecessary and a feeble attempt to make the production seem like an epic, which it definitely isn’t and the mystical ending just doesn’t work.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: May 10, 1969
Runtime: 2Hours 8Minutes
Rated M (Brief Nudity)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video