In MacKenna’s Gold, Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif lead the audience, which has been forewarned with numerous signals that the filmmakers are up to no good, into the box canyon of the big budget Western.
Vincent Canby’s blistering review, ten times more entertaining that the film itself, begins:
“MACKENNA’S GOLD,” a Western of truly stunning absurdity, is the work of J. Lee Thompson, a thriving example of that old Hollywood maxim about how to succeed by failing big.
But if you are in the mood for a film which feels like it is five hours long, and includes Julie Newmar swimming naked in a black Apache wig, then you’ve struck MacKenna’s Gold.
Omar Sharif proves he is a really bad man by snickering at Gregory Peck who is proves he is a good man by keeping his clothes on while he swims, and by resisting the underwater embraces of the aforementioned Newmar.
Blacklisted screenwriter Carl Foreman (High Noon, Bridge on the River Kwai) celebrates the end of his Hollywood exile by constructing a narrative based solely on hokum. Director J. Lee Thompson matched him step for step, and filmed it in 70 mm Panavision.
Quincey Jones had already been nominated for three Oscars (Banning, In Cold Blood, For The Love Of Ivy) when he wrote this score.
Strange but true: Impressionable film student George Lucas was assigned to make a behind the scenes documentary. Read about the film he made – 6-18-67 – proof that refusing to do what you’re told is a trademark behavior of future movie moguls.
Strange but true: Indiana Jones scholars cite Mackenna’s Gold as one of the long long list of movies Lucas and Steven Spielberg cannibalized in the making of that series.
MacKenna’s Gold was partially shot in Oregon, near Medford. For this reason, it has long been cited as an Oregon Film.