MacKenna’s Gold

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Marshal Sam MacKenna (Gregory Peck) seems to be the final surviving person who knows the location of a cache of gold that will make whoever finds it rich beyond their wildest dreams. Using his trusty memories of a map, MacKenna makes his journey toward Canon del Oro, the treacherous area where the gold is present. En route to his destination MacKenna is greeted by Colorado (Omar Sharif), the leader of a gang of Mexican bandits. Colorado decides to capture MacKenna and force him to lead the gang to the location of the gold or else face certain death. So MacKenna continues on down the path, now followed by this group of bandits and their brutal leader. It seems as though these bandits aren’t the only ones interested in the location of this gold, as soon other people begin to nose around the traveling team. Whether it be renegade Indians, regular folks, or even the cavalry themselves everyone wants a piece of this pie. And the tension grows as they near the final stop on their journey, with all of them on edge and filling with greed. If they even find the wealth of gold, will anyone besides MacKenna be alive to enjoy it?

I’d never seen MacKenna’s Gold before this review disc arrived, but now I know that I have been missing out on a terrific adventure movie all this time. While I have several westerns in my movie collection I wouldn’t call myself a fan of genre, so I didn’t know how I would take to this one before I popped it into my player. But after a few scenes had passed I knew I found another western to add to my collection, perhaps one of the best to reside there. This film has an experienced and talented writer/director team, an excellent cast, and a load of all the rootin’ tootin’ action you need for a movie of this nature. Mix in a liberal dose of slowly building tension and you’ve got the recipe for an exciting and very entertaining movie, one that I can easily recommend. But this is at heart a popcorn type movie with little to offer in terms of complex characters or redeeming value. The way I see it however is that it works on the entertainment level and that’s enough for me. I recommend this film to all lovers of adventures and westerns, though the below average supplements on the disc might steer some toward a rental instead of a purchase.

This film was directed by J. Lee Thompson, who has many excellent films lining his resume. While this one looks good and has a nice shine, it lacks the character and plot depth of Thompson’s better films. It still makes for an entertaining movie and all though and Thompson makes sure the camera always catches the best angles of the action. I recommend many of Thompson’s other movies including The Guns Of Navarone, Cape Fear (1962), King Solomon’s Mines, and Return From The Ashes. The screenplay for this movie was written by Carl Foreman and based on the novel by Will Henry. While I think Foreman is a very talented writer this screenplay lacks the depth of his usual work, even though it does make a damn good movie. Foreman also wrote the stories or screenplays for such films as The Guns Of Navarone, Force 10 From Navarone, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and High Noon. This film has a terrific cast, but since the material is more or less superficial at most times they don’t get to show their depth much. The cast includes Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird), Julie Newmar (Slaves Of Babylon), Burgess Meredith (Rocky, Grumpy Old Men), Telly Savalas (Horror Express, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago).

Video: How does it look?

MacKenna’s Gold is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame version included on the disc’s flip side. This film is just over thirty years old and it shows some signs of wear, but the few flecks and dirt marks are bearable. This movie is steeped in natural tones like browns and blacks, but some bright colors seep through and they never bleed. The flesh tones are also natural and free from distortion at all times, which is crucial. The contrast is sharp and true, with no shadow murkiness and very high visible detail levels. I couldn’t see hide nor hair of any compression artifacts or errors either. Another solid transfer for one of Columbia’s classics.

Audio: How does it sound?

This release contains two choices in terms of audio. You can select a Dolby Digital 5.0 or a 2.0 surround track, both of which will provide a solid audio experience. For this review I chose the 5.0 and once the fur started to fly, I was pleased with my decision. This movie has some serious gun slinging happening and when the bullets get streaming the speakers kick into high gear. Since this is a remixed track some of the punch is missing that would be present in a true surround track, but it still makes for an excellent experience. The music sounds terrific in this mix and you’ll never have a problem hearing any of the dialogue, either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

You’ll find some production notes inside the insert booklet and few supplements on the disc itself. Trailers for two other Columbia classics have been included, but sadly no trailer for this movie was loaded on. Brief talent files and a photo of the theatrical poster round out the extras.

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