Film / Mackenna's Gold

A 1969 Western film, directed by J. Lee Thompson and based on the novel of the same name by Heck Allen (billed under the penname of Will Henry), that involves the legend of a lost canyon of gold and the diverse group of people that join forces to go in search of this untold wealth.

Gregory Peck stars as Sam Mackenna, an ex-Marshal of the town of Hadleyburg, who takes the secret of "Canon del Oro" into his hands when a dying old Apache shaman leaves behind a map that details the route to the Apache territory. Mackenna is unexpectedly captured by a Mexican bandit named Colorado (Omar Sharif) and his cutthroat gang of Apaches and outlaws; Colorado has long sought Mackenna's death since he drove him out of the state many years ago. But, when he finds out that only Mackenna knows how to reach the infamous canyon of gold, he has no choice but to keep him alive. Along the way, many infected with "Gold Fever", including renegade soldiers and gentlemen from town, are caught up in the adventure. Also starring Telly Savalas, Camilla Sparv, Julie Newmar, and Ted Cassidy, as well as a stable of Hollywood veterans in supporting roles, including: Keenan Wynn, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Massey (in his last big screen role), Burgess Meredith, Anthony Quayle, Eli Wallach, and Edward G. Robinson (in one of his last movies).

Mackenna's Gold was made during a period when the traditional Hollywood Western was losing popularity. Therefore, unless a Western was a magnificent feat such as The Wild Bunch or Once Upon a Time in the West, or appealed to "modern" sensibilities like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it was quite forgotten. Originally intended as a roadshow picture, Mackenna was filmed at an overall length of three hours, and cut down to just a little over two hours by a nervous studio, who felt these kinds of movies were going out of fashion. Amongst the footage included for this alternate version (currently unavailable) is an entr'acte, intermission, and closing music.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: In the book, Colorado was "Pelon", Inga was "Francelia", and Sergeant Tibbs' first name is Mickey. Even Mackenna's name is different here in the movie; on the back of the DVD cover, it is said that Mackenna's first name is Sam, while it is Glen in the book.
  • Anyone Can Die: Only Mackenna, Inga, and Colorado survive the film.
  • And Starring: "in alphabetical order, the Gentlemen from Hadleyburg..."
  • Berserk Button: Mackenna and Colorado like to push each other's. For Mackenna, it's harming Inga, and for Colorado, it's telling him there's no gold.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Although the Canon del Oro collapses (and thus buries the gold fortune), as Mackenna and Inga ride away at the end, the saddlebag on Mackenna's horse is shown to be full of the large golden nuggets that Sergeant Tibbs had been loading into it.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: When Colorado and Mackenna first encounter each other in the desert, Colorado shoots Mackenna's gun out of his hand.
  • Bookends: The film opens and closes with a shot of Canon del Oro.
  • Cavalry Officer: Sergeant Tibbs and the United States Cavalrymen.
  • Composite Character: Ben Baker and the Older Englishman are Ben Call and Raoul Desplains in the novel.
  • Cool Old Guy: Old Adams.
  • Dark Chick: Hesh-Ke, as was common in many Hollywood adventure films.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: The drunken Pima Squaw is dropped off in Sergeant Tibbs' camp as a distraction so that the rest of the gold hunters can ride by unseen.
  • Disney Villain Death: Hesh-Ke falls off a cliff during a mountainside horseback fight with Inga.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: You have a delicious ensemble cast, which is only made better when the veteran actors playing the townsfolk enter the movie about 45 minutes in. You expect each of them to get a few rather terrific scenes. Nope. About fifteen minutes later, anyone who isn't Mackenna, Colorado, Inga, Hesh-Ke, or Hachita is killed off rather anti-climactically.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk: The men from Hadleyburg.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Evil Is Hammy / Large Ham: Omar Sharif, naturally.
  • Evil Minions: Sanchez and Avila. For the Apaches, Hachita.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Colorado, who addresses Mackenna like an old friend and graciously invites Ben Baker's group to have some breakfast before hinting to Mackenna that he plans to do away with all of them before they reach the canyon. The same with Sergeant Tibbs, who kills his own men but spares Inga as a means of inviting himself into the group for a share of the gold.
  • Five-Man Band: The ones who live to see the gold, at least.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The skinny-dipping scene at the waterhole is pretty suggestive.
  • Gold Fever: The driving force of the plot.
  • Hostage Situation: Mackenna himself is Colorado's hostage throughout the entire movie.
    • Again, the scheme involving the Pima Squaw.
  • Killed Offscreen: Numerous characters fall under this.
  • Kill 'em All: Only three named characters survive the events of the film.
  • The Load: Inga and the townsfolk are this, and Mackenna makes it clear to them they're out of their element. He's proven right when all except Inga are killed in a cavalry ambush or by Apaches a short while later.
  • Only Sane Man: Mackenna considers himself this because of his apparent immunity to Gold Fever.
  • Preacher Man: The Preacher.
    My share (of gold) will build a tabernacle to the Lord. A temple of the true Gospel. Maybe a whole strong of them throughout the territory!
  • The Quiet One: All of the Apaches count as this.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Old Adams' monologue about his trip to Canon del Oro before he was blinded is enough to spark the hunger for Gold Fever in just about anyone.
  • Right Under Their Noses: How the gold hunters get past Sergeant Tibbs and the cavalry.
  • Scenery Porn: Some of the beautiful Arizona scenery during the opening credits. Canon del Oro also counts.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mackenna, Inga, and Colorado when the canyon is collapsing at the end. None of them stops to retrieve any of the gold; they simply rush to their horses and dodge the falling rock as they make their way towards the exit.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Subverted, as it is never quite clear what happened to the hostage squaw that was dropped off in Sergeant Tibbs' camp.
    • Swapped around later as well when, rather than shoot the captive Inga, Sergeant Tibbs kills his two troopers instead.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Hesh-Ke. She makes it pretty clear without words that she wants Inga dead so that she can have Mackenna all to herself.
    • Vice versa, Monkey wants Mackenna dead so that he can have Inga all to himself.
  • Skinny Dipping: Colorado and Hesh-Ke do this at the pond Mackenna shows them. (Newmar was supposed to be topless but wearing a loincloth, but decided at the last minute she should be fully nude. No one on set tried to talk her out of it.)
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Colorado.
  • Theme Song: "Old Turkey Buzzard, flying, flying high..."
  • Those Two Guys: The two Englishmen.
  • Title Drop: The Narrator at the beginning — "then for a while back in 1874, they called it Mackenna's Gold."
  • The Voiceless: Hesh-Ke (a mute).
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: Colorado to Laguna, after the latter reveals that he double-crossed Colorado in disclosing the entire gold huting scheme to Ben Baker. Colorado welcomes him back with a fatal gunshot.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A lot of characters disappear following the cavalry ambush.
  • The Wild West: AND HOW. Apache Indians, United States Cavalry Soldiers, and deadly spirits.
  • With Friends Like These...: Colorado also seems to treat Mackenna like a dear friend, even though it's outright obvious that his intention is to kill him.
    • Although, he and Ben Baker are likely this.