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Film / Mackenna's Gold

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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), which involves the legend of a lost canyon of gold and the diverse group of people who join forces to go in search of this untold wealth.

Gregory Peck stars as Sam Mackenna, 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 unexpectedly finds himself captured by the Mexican bandit 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:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the book, Hachita, only started attacking everyone else in the canyon after Colorado goaded him onto killing anyone not of pure Apache blood there, before Hachtia pointed out that Colorado was only half-Apache himself. In the film, he does so on his own accord (albeit after an attempted betrayal), has apparently been planning this for some time and removed the bullets form Colorado's gun the previous night.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the book, Colorado was "Pelon", Inga was "Francelia", Ben Baker was "Ben Call" and Mackenna's first name was "Glen".
  • Age Lift: Sgt. Tibbs is nineteen in the book but played by a 47-year-old actor.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes with a shot of Canon del Oro.
  • Cavalry Officer: Sergeant Tibbs and the United States Cavalrymen.
  • 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.
    • Hachita, a hulking Apache warrior who appeared to have Colorado in a very bad spot after he revealed he unloaded the bullets in his gun, is killed by Colorado a few moments after revealing this when Colorado stabs him in the back with a single hidden dagger.
  • Evil Minions: Sanchez and Avila. For the Apaches, Hachita.
  • Face Death with Dignity: After the preacher is dismounted he sits there, calmly praying, and doesn't try to outrun the Apaches or beg for his life.
  • 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.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: A Skinny Dipping Hesh-Ke tries to drown a fully-clothed Inga.
  • Gold Fever: The driving force of the plot.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: After Weaver hears that Colorado murdered the judge and Mackenna urges him to leave and get help, he does seem swayed for a moment before Fuller starts accusing Mackenna of just trying to get them killed or get more gold for himself.
  • Hostage Situation:
    • Mackenna himself is Colorado's hostage throughout the entire movie.
    • Again, the scheme involving the Pima Squaw.
  • 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Hesh-Ke's buckskin jacket has a few buttons undone around her chest and goes Skinny Dipping.
  • Near-Death Experience: The whole movie story is this, mainly for Mackenna. Had it not been for an empty bottle he had with him by chance, he likely would have been dead. Had he not examined the map in all details right at once, and had he not burnt it, he would have been soon killed by Colorado. Throughout the whole film Mackenna is at the mercy of Colorado's gang, and many events happened that could result in his instant death and there was little to nothing he could do about it like trying to remain on horseback while being all tied up and crossing a flimsy rope bridge above an abyss. Or provoking Colorado all the time. Or escaping an ambush. Or trying to survive using horses as a living shield on a river. Or climbing a mountain. Or outlasting an armed enemy, while himself barehanded. Or being in the epicentre of an environment disaster. Old turkey buzzard seems to be no joke after all of this.
  • 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.
  • Race Lift: Sgt. Tibbs is half Native-American in the book but entirely Caucasian in the movie.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: After Inga (briefly) leaves the group, Hesh-Ke makes a beckoning sign at Mackenna, pointedly picks up her bedroll, unrolls it, and sits down, staring at Mackenna intensely.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Colorado to Laguna, after the latter reveals that he double-crossed Colorado in disclosing the entire gold hunting scheme to Ben Baker. Colorado welcomes him back with a fatal gunshot.
  • Right Under Their Noses: How the gold hunters get past Sergeant Tibbs and the cavalry.
  • Same Language Dub: Ted Cassidy and a handful of other performers are dubbed by Robert Rietty.
  • Say Your Prayers: Reverend Massey, does this, combined with Face Death with Dignity, as he's wounded and an apache warrior is charging at him.
  • 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 she can have Mackenna all to herself.
    • Vice versa, Monkey wants Mackenna dead so 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..."
  • Title Drop: The Narrator at the beginning — "then for a while back in 1874, they called it Mackenna's Gold."
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Fuller the newspaper editor is the least sympathetic of the townspeople struck by gold fever and implied to be a driving force behind their joining Colorado.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Colorado and Hesh-Ke are siblings in the book, but not in the movie.
  • The Voiceless: Hesh-Ke (a mute).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's not shown if Adams or the Older Englishman survived the cavalry ambush.
  • When She Smiles: Gloomy Hesh-Ke looks a lot less threatening the very few times she smiles throughout the film (always at her former lover Mackenna).
  • The Wild West: AND HOW. Apache Indians, United States Cavalry Soldiers, and deadly spirits.
  • With Friends Like These...: Colorado and Ben Baker seem to be this.
  • Xanatos Gambit: On the part of the old turkey buzzard in the story told by the narrator.
  • Yandere: Hesh-Ke wants Mackenna back badly.