Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Breakheart Pass (1975)
After journeyman performances in several earlier blockbusters, Charles Bronson became the top action figure of the late 60's and early 70's setting the style for several actors who followed, including Eastwood, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone.
While most of Bronson’s movies were in contemporary settings, this one was a period movie with a story set during the western expansion of the 1870’s.
But it’s not just a typical western; it has a story by Alastair MacLean (Guns of Navarone) written and adapted by him for the film that grafts a thriller plot onto the standard oater story with fairly good if incredible results.
It seems that Bronson is aboard a military train full of people out to Utah’s remote Fort Humboldt which they have been told has a cholera epidemic. The train is full of medical supplies and other people the governor (Richard Crenna) has selected to help with the epidemic.
Bronson is actually prisoner of Sheriff Ben Johnson, who is bringing him in for the reward as he is wanted for murder and is also a doctor.
Several other familiar faces play characters including Jill Ireland, Charles Durning, Ed Lauter, and David Huddleston. Watch for pro boxing light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore in a brief fight scene with Bronson.
Remember, this is a thriller, so the first thing that happens once the train starts heading for the remote outpost is that people start getting killed or disappearing. So we have a train full of soldiers in uniform and people are getting killed and everybody is beginning to panic. Suspicion immediately falls on Bronson but since he is a doctor, they have to give him run of the show because he can inspect the corpses and indicate manner of death as well as treat illnesses that invariably arise when lots of people are gathered. Bronson is also investigating and finds some surprising things and that the freight is not what the manifest claims it to be either.
If you’ve seen one of these train thrillers before you know the typical developments where the cars get detached and go careening off on their own killing a bunch of passengers, and the other similar perils that arise up to and including an Indian attack and did I forget to mention the outlaws intent on robbing the train? Well, all these elements are brought into play and the actors play their parts well, even though the action is over the top. But that’s why we watch action films, isn’t it?
With the mystery and action grafted on the usual western plot Breakheart Pass becomes a totally original film that has no real competition therefore it is a must see.
The MGM DVD is presented in color in 1.85:1 theatrical format enhanced for 16x9 televisions with a running time of 95 minutes. The color cinematography is by Lucien Ballard, one of the best of his time.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV