MACKENNA'S GOLD (1969) is tedious western starring Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif. As the story opens, Marshall Sam Mackenna (Peck) is given a map by a dying Indian to a legendary stash of Apache gold. After burning the map, he is captured by the criminal named Colorado (a badly miscast Sharif), who wants Mackenna to lead him to the gold. The remainder of the film involves Mackenna, Colorado, and the rest of their band making their way to the mythical canyon that supposedly houses the treasure.
This, simply put, is not a very good movie. At 127 minutes, it's about 30 minutes longer than the material seems to require and the story just seems to drag on unnecessarily. I knew that I was in for a frustrating film experience when I began checking the elapsed time before the opening credits even finished. These credits are accompanied by a terrible theme song and rambling narration that lasts over seven minutes before the actual story begins . . . not a good sign. The bloated cast includes not only Peck and Sharif, but also Keenan Wynn, Burgess Meredith, Edward G. Robinson, Eli Wallach, and others -- so many that they are reduced to a series of nearly pointless cameo appearances. And the increased resolution of DVD will allow you to marvel at all of the terrible special effects in MACKENNA'S GOLD. Annoying rear projection, obvious miniature work, bad matte paintings -- this film has it all.
This is a decent transfer from Columbia/Tri-Star. The image is slightly soft, but I detected no compression artifacts at all. The color palette seemed a bit off, leaning to a strong brown/orange tint. However, this could be an accurate representation of the film's colors for all I know . . . it looks like a dated transfer, but it may just be a dated film. Still, this is an adequate video transfer with no major problems. Side A presents the film in anamorphically-enhanced widescreen (2.35:1) and side B provides a horribly cropped pan-and-scan version.
This DVD has a very good remixed 5.0 soundtrack. It's exactly what you hope to hear when studios update the sound on older films. Subtle at most times, but atmospheric and involving. Wind, outdoor noises, horse hoofs, and other sounds surround you and place you right in the center of the action. Unlike some updating of old stereo or mono films, this track envelops you without drawing attention to itself. Not that it's perfect -- it does have some distortion, especially at low frequencies. But, overall, this is very impressive remastering. The original stereo soundtrack is also available and sounds fine.
There are no real extras on this DVD, save for the usual cast/crew biographies and a pointless (and nearly illegible) still frame of the original theatrical poster. There are also a couple of trailers from THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (with Peck) and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (with Sharif). But, again, Columbia/Tri-Star has strangely not included the trailer for this movie. When you start to become bored by the story, you can play with your remote and cycle through the impressive collection of subtitles (available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai).
With a cast like this, it was really disappointing that this western wasn't better. When you compare it to other westerns that were being released at the same time (THE WILD BUNCH, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID), its faults become even more glaring. However, it does have a decent transfer (and an impressive remastering of the sound). Any fans of the film will want to pick up this DVD, but I'd warn anyone else to definitely rent before you buy.