Review: Mackenna’s Gold

Marshal Gregory Peck is the only one who knows the whereabouts of a secret cache of gold (he memorised and destroyed the map), and bandit Omar Sharif (not nearly as fiery as he should be) forces him to take him there, with several other greedy parties (typically sleazy Eli Wallach, blind man Edward G. Robinson, and wussy Brits Anthony Quayle and J. Robert Porter are the only ones given any considerable time) also wanting in, when word spreads. Camilla Sparv is a fetching fellow hostage, who makes goo-goo eyes at Peck, sending horny and jealous Injun woman Julie Newmar into a major hissy fit. Keenan Wynn, a genuinely good character actor (see his fine work in “Kind Lady”), is unfortunately saddled with the dud role of Sharif’s Mexican (!) accomplice, whilst Telly Savalas is a crooked cavalry leader.

Despite one helluva cast (14 Oscar nominations between them, and 3 wins), this 1969 gold-seeking film from director J. Lee Thompson (The original “Cape Fear”, “Firewalker”, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”) is utterly worthless. It looks like it was made for about 10c, including one awful and completely inexplicable avalanche scene. Peck is rock solid under the circumstances, Newmar is lively (if not terribly good) but the rest aren’t given enough to do, most appear in one hugely populated scene together and die a few minutes later.

Boring, bloated, and a waste of time and talent, it was scripted by Carl Foreman (“High Noon”, “Bridge on the River Kwai”), from a Will Henry (“Young Billy Young”) novel. The score by Quincy Jones (“Mirage”, “In Cold Blood”) isn’t bad, but that’s about it for plusses here. George Lucas apparently had one of his earliest assignments documenting the making of this film, even making a few suggestions here and there. One wonders if they were good suggestions or not because the finished product is appalling. Nothing to see here, folks, move along now, move along.

Rating: D


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