Mackenna's Gold (1969) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is an old-fashioned Hollywood Western, starrin' that ornery rootin'-tootin sidewinder, Omar Sharif, who established his place alongside Dicaprio and Nimoy as one of the all-time least likely members of a Western cast.

It features cameos from just about every character actor in history: Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Massey, Edward G Robinson, Eli Wallach, The Penguin, Kojak, Lurch, etc.

I learned many valuable historical and cultural lessons from this movie:
  • Apaches were some seriously tall indians. Julie Newmar is about six feet tall, and Ted Cassidy (Lurch) is something like six feet eight.
  • The frontier women were never too busy to have their make-up perfect and their hair washed and under control, even under torture or after weeks of riding in the desert without water.
  • The Apaches always kept their vests and loincloths perfectly ironed and tailored.
  • A man can scale about 1000 feet of sheer canyon wall in about two or three minutes, without a rope or piton, wearing high-heeled cowboy boots, while shooting his gun with one of his hands.


Omar Sharif was naked, but unrevealingly so

Julie Newmar did a prolonged skinny dip in which her buns were clearly seen above water, and her breasts offered a pretty good peek. Even more appears in the underwater scenes.

The plot: various buccaroos seek a hidden canyon where the walls are lined with gold. It is said that the Apache gods guard the canyon. According to legend, the entrance to said canyon can only be seen when the moon is in the seventh house, and the shadow of .... well, you get the idea.

When they get in the canyon, the gold seekers all start killing each other in order to get 100% of the gold, even though there are only about a half-dozen survivors and as many horses to carry the gold away, yet there is roughly enough gold to pave Russia - possibly more gold than actually exists in all the known world. And that's just the stuff you can pick up without digging any mines! So you'd think that sharing it might have been somewhat more sensible.

Anyway, when there are only three of the fortune hunters left, the aforementioned ancient Apache gods finally enter the fray, and cause the canyon to collapse, as pictured with miniatures that are obviously miniatures, many of which appear to be liquid rather than solid! Omar Sharif never did get any gold, but he did manage to bid and make a grand slam without a trump fit, and therefore gained plenty of master points. No question about it, he absolutely schooled the other desperadoes in their nightly bridge games.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • 2.35 widescreen anamorphic. The print looks great for a 1969 movie, nice colors, good contrast.

  • no significant extras

I suppose the most memorable element of this movie, except for Jose Feliciano singing the haunting yet hummable "Vulture Song", was the famous Julie Newmar skinny dip, and that's what we came to see, isn't it? I do recommend renting and watching the movie, because the skinny dip takes place mostly under water, and underwater scenes don't make for especially good captures. And it is Julie Newmar, after all, who didn't get naked in public that often, and who truly did have a stupefyin' body.

The movie itself is kinda sorta watchable if you ignore all the unrealistic Hollywood baloney, keep the FF handy, and get ready for a few laughs at the expense of Omar Sharif and some of the other performers.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: 2.5 stars. Apollo 70, Maltin 2.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.2, Apollo users 65/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. It isn't really any good, but it is so goofy, and so Old Hollywood, that you'll probably watch it with some fascination. It's the Road House of Westerns, fun to watch even though you know it's silly.

Return to the Movie House home page