Marshal Sam Mackenna (Gregory Peck) is kidnapped by long-time nemesis John Colorado (Omar Sharif) and his gang who believe the lawman is privy to the location of a spectacularly rich lode of gold in J. Lee Thompson’s misguided attempt at reconciling western legend with encroaching modern western sensibilities, “Mackenna’s Gold”. Part treasure hunt, part cowboys vs. Indians vs. cavalry adventure, part caper, part romantic triangle, the film attempts many guises, but callously emerges as a weak representation of a colossal tall tale unraveled by the incohesive sum of its parts. It’s an epic that feels small, not in an intimate way but in a failure to make any of the characters feel larger than life; the shoddy writing make you feel claustrophobic (quite an accomplishment for a film which mostly takes place in endless panoramic vistas) as you follow the reprehensible group of moral homunculi whose obsessive lust for the legendary Lost Adams Gold becomes an all-encompassing excuse for brutality and cruelty on behalf of the filmmakers. At one point the film introduces a large group of townsfolk who promise to add texture to the enterprise, especially when all are played by actors of talent and reputation- Burgess Meredith, Lee J. Cobb, Eli Wallach, Edward G. Robinson and Anthony Quayle -but they are, for no particular reason, as blithely (and violently) disposed of as quickly as they are needlessly introduced, with only the later addition of an oily cavalry sergeant named Tibbs (no relation that other film authority, nor no reason to call this deficient murderer MISTER) played with uncharacteristically wobbly center of performance by Telly Savalas, as if he couldn’t make head nor tails of the role.
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