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MacKenna's Gold
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2006
In the past I've seen this movie only in 1.33:1 pan and scan. From its opening titles, I knew it was a Super Panavision film, which means to me it was released in 70mm widescreen. The case clearly states that Side A is 2.35:1 and that Side B is 1.33:1 pan and scan, and I bought it hoping finally to see it in all its glory. I've always had a "thing" for the Arizona and southern Utah canyon lands.

Except for the opening credits and end titles, there is no widescreen version on this disc. In fact, contrary to the advertising it's a one-sided disc. I consider this product misrepresentation and a big disappointment. With virtually the entire film presented in close-ups, every flawed and cheesy process shot appears as if under a microscope. You can see every bad matte painting, every poorly blended green screen (or did they use a blue screen?), every transition from full-sized live to miniature. Worst of all, most of the great southwestern scenery is somewhere offscreen beyond the edges of my television.

I'd still really like to see this film in widescreen. Any hope?
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2009
Three stars for the film, NO stars for Sony.
Columbia Pictures released many of its classic films on DVD in double-sided, widescreen & pan-and-scan format. However, after Sony bought out the Columbia film library, it then proceeded to reissue them in SINGLE-SIDE, PAN and SCAN ONLY format WITHOUT CHANGING THE UPC CODE OR FRONT COVER ARTWORK. Mackenna's Gold is only one example of this.

So because online DVD sellers cannot separate the two versions by UPC code (and some list the wrong aspect ratio or none at all), people who buy these titles for the widescreen content are cheated. The only way to tell the difference is looking at the back cover AFTER receiving the DVD (and sometimes that's wrong too) or by playing it. This is deceptive practice at its worst.

If you're a widescreen fan, beware of any Columbia title released by Sony.
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95 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2000
I am not going to categorize and compare this western in the more
appropriate context because it's very special for any Russian male in
my generation (I am 33).
The only Westerns we were allowed to see
were produced by East German studio DEFA with only one star - the
Yugoslav hunk Goiko Mititch. And mostly only one plot - the greedy
prospectors come to take the Indian land and the feathered patriots
put on the warpaint, flex their muscles - they all were very athletic,
unlike the whites who were depicted as the degenerates in every sense
- and gallop to sweep the terrain clean of that capitalist scum.
But
we were grateful even for that substitute, tired of seeing the other
Red Against White flicks - the films about the Russian Civil War
heroes killing the White Guards by hundreds for the sake of Mother
Russia's communist future.
And then "Zoloto Makkeni" was
imported. Why? The message was clear - "Look at these gold-crazed
American bastards! Preachers, journalists, merchants,
bandidos,soldiers, adventurers - all of them are ready to sell their
Momma's for a speck of golden dust! And this time they testify
themselves, not our East German friends." -
But who cared about
all that? The authentic American Western! With the real Indians
instead of East German Olympic Team painted in gouache! The film's
mildly idiotic background commentaries did not make us flinch - they
fit into the didactic tradition we were used to.
And the opening
song! It was translated in Russian and sung in the film by the
Russia's much-adored sweet-voiced drunk Valeri Obodzinskij. In the
restaurants, at a campfires, in a streets the young males were singing
- Vnov, vnov zoloto manit nas! - The gold lures us again and again! -

I was 8-9 year old at that time. Seen the film weekly. The boys in
the playground asked in a whisper: - Do they show something there?
You know...- And I told them: - Oh yeah! The Indian girl...--
They really do! Wow!- Well, speaking about childhood traumas...Once I
took my mother along and seeing the bathing scene she suspected what
was coming and obscured my view with her hand....But seriously, the
remastering crew did a superb job. The sights, the sounds - perfect!
These were the times they were still happy to shoot in mostly natural-
maybe slightly enhanced - colors, without these annoying tints and
shades of today, when they seem to dip the freshly shot rolls of films
in a can of blue paint.
I do not know how I would see the film today
without that cinematic abstinence/communist background. Who can tell?

But I am so fond of it that even being between the jobs - a period
where every dollar counts - I HAD to buy the disc. And I do not
regret..
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2006
I remember catching "MacKenna's Gold" on TV with my dad a couple times, but both times I only made it about an hour into the movie (with commercials) before having to go to bed; I made it to the campfire scene where old Adams describes the legendary secret canyon containing incredible natural gold treasure. I was upset that I couldn't finish the film because the film builds up a great amount of anticipation concerning the secret gold canyon.

Well, in the early 90's I spied a VHS copy of "MacKenna's Gold" and immediately purchased it. I finally got to see the ending and wasn't disappointed.

Brilliant author and Western expert Brian Garfield ("Death Wish") comments on "MacKenna's Gold" in his outstanding book "Western Films" thusly: "it hasn't a single redeeming quality. It has got to be the most expensive star-studded two-hour "B" movie ever made; a gargantuan dud of absolutely stunning dreadfulness."

It hasn't a SINGLE redeeming quality? Okay, let me list a smattering: Outstanding cast, including Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, Ted Cassidy, Julie Newmar, Telly Savalas, Carmilla Sparv and many more, albeit mostly cameos; one of the greatest Western scores of all time, which ranks up there with "How the West Was Won," "Rio Lobo," "Duel at Diablo," "Bandelero!" "Bonanza," "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (to name a handful); an incredible theme song, "Old Turkey Buzzard," sung by Jose Feliciano and written by Quincy Jones; and magnificent locations (Utah, Arizona, Rogue River Oregon) & cinematography.

Plus, although the story has an undeniable comic booky vibe to it (which explains why Mr. Garfield refers to it as a "B" movie), it is played out in a completely serious manner and successfully holds your attention while, once again, creating much anticipation regarding the legendary canyon.

Gregory Peck, who plays Marshal MacKenna, and Carmilla Sparv are definitely the "good guys" in this picture. The film was made at a time (1969) when characters in Westerns tended to be unlikable and amoral (e.g. "The Wild Bunch," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Macho Calahan"), so it's just nice to have some quality people to root for, if you know what I mean.

Omar Sharif plays the head Mexican bandit "Colorado" excellently. It's sort of an atypical role for him, but he performs so fabulously that it seems he was born to play the part. Ted Cassidy, well-known as "Lurch" on TV's "The Addam's Family," plays the intimidating, laconic Indian warrior Hachita. He superbly fits the character (regardless of whether or not he has Indian blood running through his veins). Julie Newmar, although obviously not of Native American heritage, is great as a crazy -- and I mean CRAZY -- squaw. Red-blooded males will be interested to know that she has a nude swimming scene, while fans of "Brokeback Mountain" will likely appreciate Omar Sharif during the same sequence (lol).

Quincy Jones' opening score and the theme song "Old Turkey Buzzard" are so emotionally powerful (especially combined with the magnificent Southwest photography) that sometimes I'll just play the beginning of the film for my enjoyment, which runs a full 6-8 minutes or so (!). I've heard some complain that "Old Turkey Buzzard" is corny, but nothing could be further from the truth. I'll be perfectly honest with you, although open-minded, I've never been much into County/Western music, but "Old Turkey Buzzard" is just simply a POWERFUL composition, regardless of the musical genre. It potently comments on man's temporal nature and the insane & contagious condition of gold fever, i.e. greed, which is what the film is about.

While "MacKenna's Gold" certainly lacks the gritty realism of, say, the contemporaneous "The Wild Bunch," it is indeed a SERIOUS film despite some undeniable cartooney aspects. One could also probably nitpick about the not-quite-successful F/X miniature sequences, but that's not important; what IS important is the film's entertainment value. At the end of the day "MacKenna's Gold" successfully ENTERTAINS. In that sense it's definitely a 4 or 5 Star picture.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2000
Much more exciting than what the bad reviews predicted. The plot is far from being confusing although some of the main stars (Eli Wallach, Edward G.Robinson...) perish too hastily but there is action, beautiful landscapes and an enjoyable performance by Omar Sharif as the bad guy. Filmed in SuperPanavision, the widescreen transfer is simply stunning. Sharp and colourful with a new and effective 5.1 dolby digital remix. Good score by Quincy Jones although Jose Feliciano's theme song is tiresome. As a bonus, you will find a trailor of Lawrence of Arabia which promises to be another great DVD from Columbia.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2013
Here we have yet another case where a widescreen (2.35:1 in this case) movie was cropped to glorious 1.33:1 format to fit your 1950s vacuum tube TV screen (and when was the last time you saw one of *those*?)

1) Lobby Sony Pictures (www.sonypictures.com) to stop this idiocy (cropping off 43% of the original picture), and release it in the original widescreen format.

2) Since the British have less tolerance for this nonsense, get an all-region DVD player and buy the DVD from Amazon UK in the original 2.35:1 format. While the format conversion (PAL - 675 lines @ 50 Hz to NTSC - 525 lines @ 60 Hz) is less than perfect - sometimes producing a bit of "shimmer" in the image, it's not too noticeable at normal viewing distance (~20 ft).

The film itself is probably not Gregory Peck's greatest work, but is at least entertaining, particularly if you can see all of the picture.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
MacKenna's Gold has a great pedigree, reuniting the director, star and producer of The Guns of Navarone (as well as composer Dimitri Tiomkin, here serving as co-producer) with an all-star supporting cast in a Western treasure hunt that was never likely to be an all-time classic but at least promised to be a lot of fun. Unfortunately despite a lot of money being spent, the film is almost entirely exposition for much of the first two thirds and wastes most of the great cast - for example, after going through a lengthy introduction and even more lengthy backstory, the Gentlemen from Hadleyburg (Edward G. Robinson, Anthony Quayle, Eli Wallach, Lee J. Cobb and Raymond Massey among them) don't really get to do anything except promptly disappear from the picture and add a few famous names to the marquee. Aside from Omar Sharif's bizarre casting as a French cowboy called Colorado (Columbia never really did know what to do with him after signing him to a long-term contract), the film's production problems show. It was originally supposed to be a Cinerama roadshow release before they hit budget problems and parts of it feel padded out while others look rushed, as if they're papering over scenes that were cut or, more likely, never filmed, while the finale feels like Valley of Gwangi without the dinosaurs. It has its moments and Old Turkey Buzzard is a great title song, but there aren't really enough of them.

Columbia's original DVD was a 2.35:1 decent widescreen transfer with no extras beyond trailers for Lawrence of Arabia and The Guns of Navarone (the widescreen PAL UK DVD at least had the theatrical trailer, though the making of documentary shot by a young George Lucas was nowhere to be found), but their reissue of the film is only a panned-and-scanned fullframe version.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2003
And it's a good one. The movie doesn't stick strictly by any version of the legend. It varies from the McKenna account as much as it strays from all the others. Still, Edward G. Robinson plays a great Adams. For me the most memorable scene has most of the characters sitting around a camp fire. One of them recognizes Adams as 'The Adams', and they all persuade him to tell the story of how he came to find the gold, how the massacre happened, and how it was lost. A great scene, even if it weren't about the Lost Adams Diggings legend. Adams sat around a lot of camp fires in the 1870s and told that story, probably about the way Edward G. Robinson tells it in the movie.
The final episode is pure fabrication, but spectacular enough to make up for it. This one's a winner and you don't need to care or know about the Adams legend of lost gold to appreciate it.
The McKenna version of the legend actually centers on Jacob Snively, the German or Duchman in Adams' tale. Snively fought at San Jacinto, served as Paymaster General for the Republic of Texas, raided commerce on the Santa Fe Trail as a 'land privateer' for the Republic and drifted west in 1849. The German found his talent by striking gold and starting several gold rushes in Arizona and New Mexico. (Snively was killed by Apaches in 1871) J. Frank Dobie's book combines several conflicting accounts given by Adams. John Brewer's story, (another survivor) varies considerably from the other accounts.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 1999
This western has it all- a burned out marshall with a map in his head that could lead to a lost valley of gold, mexican bandits, Indian spirits, murderous renegades, Apaches with tomahawks, thundering gun battles, Telly Savalas as a treacherous cavalry sergeant, desperate chases, wild river rafting, blinding special effects, earthquakes and Julie Newmar in a nude swimming scene! Favorite scene: Edward G. Robinson tells a group of engrossed adventurers the story of the Lost Adams gold mine and how his eyes were burned out by Apaches for desecrating their secret burial grounds.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 1999
This is one of those odd Hollywood westerns that almost fits into the "science fiction" category. I like everything Gregory Peck has ever done... so I enjoyed the movie. I also liked the music if not the lyrics (Old Turkey Buzzard). The plot doesn't make much sense and could've been better. But this odd movie still qualifies as a classic in my mind.
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