Plot: What’s it about?
Fort Humboldt is a remote military outpost that has been struck with a severe wave of diptheria, which means it could be wiped out unless action is taken. In an effort to relieve the men there, a train has been sent there with a load of medical supplies and other rations, which should be enough to overcome the unfortunate situation there. But this train also carries some passengers, including John Deakin (Charles Bronson), a mysterious prisoner who is being transported during this voyage to Fort Humboldt. As the trains chugs along through the Rocky Mountains, a man turns up murdered and the entire trek has been turned into a mystery that will reveal countless layers of intrigue. Of course, the finger would point right toward Deakin, but when more bodies begin to turn up, it is obvious that no one is beyond suspicion. Is Deakin the true killer on board this train, or is the answer much harder to discover than that?
I don’t think Breakheart Pass is a masterpiece by any means, but it is an involved film that provides a high level of entertainment, which is enough for me. A nice cast that includes Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Charles Durning, and Richard Crenna turns in a more than solid overall effort, with some terrific characters to bring to life. Based on the book written by Alistair MacLean, Breakheart Pass offers some solid thrills here, although it does veer away from the book most of the time. But the basic storyline is rock solid and the characters are good also, so the foundation of the film isn’t shaky in the least. This one has a lot of tense, high energy scenes, so you won’t be bored while this disc spins, I assure you. It will be much better if you like westerns, but all fans of interesting dramas will find something to like with this one. I like the twists and turns a lot and while they’re not shock type turns, they will keep you guessing at times. If you’re looking for a more than solid western film that will deliver on all counts, then I suggest you look into Breakheart Pass.
His more recent work might leave a lot to be desired, but Charles Bronson used to work in more than solid films, such as Breakheart Pass. As usual, Bronson isn’t stellar in his performance, but he makes the character work well enough, which proves to be enough. His primary tool is his tough reputation, which is what pulls his work up a few levels here. Bronson might not be a classical level performer, but some roles seem to made for him to play, like the one found in this film. His role is pretty complex here and Bronson comes through in the end, one of his better overall performances. You can also see Bronson in films such as Death Wish, Hard Times, The Mechanic, The Magnificent Seven, Machine Gun Kelly, and The Dirty Dozen. The cast also includes David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski, Frantic), Jill Ireland (Cold Sweat, Hell Drivers), Charles Durning (The Hudsucker Proxy, I.Q.), Ben Johnson (Radio Flyer, Red Dawn), and Richard Crenna (First Blood, Jade).
Video: How does it look?
Breakheart Pass is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This looks about as good as you’d expect from television, which means I was let down by this visual presentation. The print is caked in grain and debris, which never allows the other elements to take off, leaving us with a below average transfer. The colors are decent at times, but usually worn down the source print issues and the same holds true for the contrast. It’s a shame, but this transfer just falls short in all respects, the film deserves better. A full frame edition is included on the flip side, which also suffers from the same problems.
Audio: How does it sound?
A pretty standard mono track, which seems to be decent enough, although a few sequences would sound great in a full surround track. The music sounds pretty clean and shows minimal age related issues, while the sound effects are good, but too limited by the mono format. Still, no real problems surface, it just seems like some of this material is being held back, which is a let down. The dialogue is great though, crisp vocals and no traces of volume problems, terrific work here. This disc also contains a mono track in French, captions in English, and subtitles in French & Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.