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Patrick Schoenmaker

Indiana Jones' Influences
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MacKenna's Gold
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MacKenna's Gold

Released by Columbia Pictures – 1969

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Story by: Heck Allen (novel)
Screenplay by: Carl Foreman
Produced by: Carl Foreman & Dimitri Tiomkin

Gregory Peck .... MacKenna
Omar Sharif .... Colorado
Telly Savalas .... Sgt. Tibbs
Camilla Sparv .... Inga Bergmann
Keenan Wynn .... Sanchez
Julie Newmar .... Hesh-Ke
Ted Cassidy .... Hachita


In recent years, the Western has become an event picture… usually starring Kevin Costner. Like musicals, Westerns were once commonplace on the silver screen, populated with screen legends like John Wayne and Gary Cooper. Nowadays, when Dances With Wolves or Open Range hits the theatres, it is a rare occurrence. Audiences rush to see the ten-gallon hats and revolver-packing gunfighters that used to be a dime a dozen.

Colorado & MacKenna.

In the beginning, Westerns were simplistic stories of the lawman in the white hat against the bandit in the black hat. They progressed in the 1940s and 1950s into epics of United States cavalrymen against the American Indians. In the 1960s, they took a turn into gritty character dramas with Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood leading the way in what has been dubbed "The Man With No Name Trilogy."
The final film in that trilogy,
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, dealt with three men on a quest for gold, but the real thrust of the story was their hatred for one another and the trials along the way that tested their mettle.

Sharif vs. Gregory Peck.

In 1969, the quest for gold in the American West would be explored again on an epic scale in Mackenna’s Gold. The film tells the story of Mackenna, played by Gregory Peck. A U.S. Marshal, Mackenna was once a fortune hunter who spent years searching for a legendary valley of gold protected by the Apache Indians. He never found it and became a lawman that got on the bad side of a bandit named Colorado, played by Omar Sharif.
While searching for Colorado, Mackenna is set upon by a dying Apache Chief who reveals to him the map to the Apache valley of gold. Mackenna burns the map, no longer a believer in the mythic valley. Unfortunately for him, Colorado is a believer and he and his men waylay Mackenna to kill him.
Colorado stays his hand when he learns that Mackenna holds the secret to the location of the Apache valley. Biding his time, Mackenna is held hostage along with actress Camilla Sparv, as Colorado forces him to lead them to the valley he no longer believes in.

Entering the valley.

As if predicting the coming of the Indiana Jones series, the plot of Mackenna’s Gold is the stuff of Indy fans dreams. What if Donovan had held Indy hostage on the entire Grail Quest? That is the gist of this movie.
In their journey, the party of adventurers must find landmarks, fight off the natives, suffer at the hands of betrayal, and ultimately defeat the power of their own greed. Like Indy, Mackenna is a man who once believed and no longer does, but the hunt draws him back into the quest until he is himself consumed with discovering the answer to the mystery.

In the climax of the film, at the heart of the quest, Mackenna realizes the danger before the rest, just as Indy does in the climax of Raiders and Last Crusade. Even Camilla Sparv’s character goes through a brief "Elsa moment" towards the apex of the story. Just like Indiana Jones, Mackenna realizes that life is more important than fortune and glory as the dreams of money and power literally come crashing down around the heroes in a sequence that puts the destruction of the Grail Temple to shame.

Climax of the flm.

This is an amazing gem of a film for adventure fans. This writer would never have thought to look into the Western genre for adventure stories akin to Indy. Thank the maker this writer is just a film junkie in general because there is so much here to appreciate. Indy and adventure fans will note that Eduardo Ciannelli, who played the Mola Ram "Guru" character in Gunga Din, plays the Apache Chief in the opening of this movie.

The film is dated only by its voice-over narration, some rather unconventional editing indicative of the period, and the somewhat off-putting folk song that opens the film. Forgive the film these fallacies and focus on the story itself and you will find an adventure worthy of being called one of the grandfather’s of the Indiana Jones series. (MF)


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