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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My 'fellow man' is about to hang me!
Breakheart Pass is directed by Tom Gries and adapted to screenplay by Alistair MacLean from his own novel. It stars Charles Bronson, Ben Johnson, Richard Crenna, Jill Ireland, Charles Durning and Ed Lauter. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Lucien Ballard.

A train apparently loaded with medical supplies is heading through the mountains towards...
Published 24 months ago by Spike Owen

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A Dated But Decent Watch
Alistair Maclean brings his complex double-crossing plots to the wild west. Charles Bronson heads a cast of familiar American character actors in this steam-locomotive driven adventure. Trains always provide great scope for movie-making as the story is kept on the move both in geography and narration. Scenes and scenarios can constantly change, enabling unexpected...
Published 19 days ago by Seatinthestalls


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My 'fellow man' is about to hang me!, 6 Jun. 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Breakheart Pass is directed by Tom Gries and adapted to screenplay by Alistair MacLean from his own novel. It stars Charles Bronson, Ben Johnson, Richard Crenna, Jill Ireland, Charles Durning and Ed Lauter. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Lucien Ballard.

A train apparently loaded with medical supplies is heading through the mountains towards plagued Fort Humboldt. On board is a small U.S. Army unit and an assortment of passengers, all of whom are about to be in the middle of murder, mystery and dastardly plotting.

Not exactly loved by the critics of the time, but liked well enough by the paying public, Breakheart Pass is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. True enough to say it's a blend of Murder On The Orient Express and Ten Little Indians, only with a gorgeous Western backdrop, but so what? Just exactly what is wrong with that anyway? The plot is a little too tricky for its own good and characterisations are not rich in detail, but there's so much else to enjoy regardless.

It's a fine cast playing a number of desperate/cunning/dubious characters, with Bronson leading from the front at a time when he was hot at the box office. The reasoning behind all the murders, as passengers start getting bumped off one by one, keeps the mystery element strong, while Gries (Will Penny) directs without fuss and filler. The action sequences are impressive (the train roof fight is as great as you have heard it is), with stunt coordinator Yakima Canutt (in his final assignment) once again excelling.

Elsewhere, Jerry Goldsmith's score is wonderfully robust and chest thumping, a real triumph from the great man. Ballard (also Will Penny/The Wild Bunch) beautifully captures the snowbound Lewiston locale whilst ensuring the gorgeous Camas Prairie Railroad is a must see for locomotive enthusiasts. All told it's a very entertaining hybrid picture that is well constructed, technically smart and pulsing with good honest intentions. 7/10
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Don't buy bread - buy dynamite!", 4 July 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Following the unlikely alliance of an opportunistic American (Lou Castel) and a Mexican bandit (Gian Maria Volonte) who sells arms to the rebels, the first half hour or so of Damiano Damiani's cult classic is more than a bit ropey. The director has difficulty establishing the relationship between the two leads and resorts to a succession of shoot-em-ups. Thankfully, these are better handled than the drawn out opening attack on the train carrying Castel's enigmatic gringo, in which too many of the ideas are in the script and too few in the execution.

If the first half is the usual running with the rebels territory, the film becomes more complex as it progresses. It is clear from the beginning that the gringo is working to his own agenda, and throughout the course of the film he steers the group towards it. Not interested in women, he professes to be interested only in money, yet at one point kills a rebel paymaster and throws away his cash. Yet even after his objective and the bandito's part in it become clear, the film manages to take the characters even further in an intriguing epilogue.

Both may be mercenary, but finally choose their own executioners, although in very different ways. Castel inadvertently because, despite ruthlessly killing those on both sides to achieve his end, he is ultimately not ruthless enough, Volonte voluntarily, passing judgement on himself when he realises the consequences of his actions.

Castel is a fairly anonymous lead as the 'ugly American', a potential flaw which the director manages to turn to the film's advantage. A moral void, he has no ideals and no scruples but is instead a remorseless pragmatist. The real undercurrents in their relationship are brought out by Volonte; his bandito, first seen literally banging his own drum, manages to avoid caricature. His growing politicisation is convincing, as is his spellbound look of (largely sexual) confusion at the gringo during a confrontation with a landowner. The audience's sympathies are never directly engaged, our involvement with the character more covert and accidental en route.

Hailed as the best of the political spaghetti westerns, A Bullet For the General doesn't quite live up to the epithet but is still a remarkable example of the genre. Co-writer Franco Solinas also wrote Battle of Algiers and Quiemada, and his revolutionary fervour is very visible in the film's parallels with America's covert overseas operations and the presence of a militant priest throwing hand grenades in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (a less wired than usual Klaus Kinski as Volante's half-mad half-brother). The film even ends with a call to arms - "Don't buy bread, buy dynamite!"

Blue Underground's region-free US Blu-ray release beats their earlier DVD release by offering both the uncut Italian 118-minute version (subtitled) and 115-minute US version (dubbed) in mostly very decent widescreen transfers with only a few minor niggles. There's also a brief interview with Damiano Damiani, stills and poster gallery, international trailer and US trailer and, on a separate DVD disc, a 113-minute documentary on the film's sometimes volatile star, Gian Maria Volonte: Un Attore Contro.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Since Amazon have lumped the reviews together - Breakheart Pass AND A Bullet for the General, 12 Dec. 2007
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
For some inane reason, Amazon have bundled the reviews for Bullet for the General with the reviews for the not even remotely similar Breakheart Pass. Since bboth are four-star movies, I've combined the reviews for both, but please bear in mind these films are released separately by different distributors and are not released as a double-bill.

BREAKHEART PASS REVIEW

Anyone who's ever had to slog through his soul-destroying ITC or Cannon-years output will find it hard to imagine that there was ever a time when Charles Bronson was a half-decent actor who not only made films that were actually released in cinemas, but good ones at that. Breakheart Pass is probably the best of the last burst of quality output in the actor's oeuvre that also saw The Streetfighter (aka Hard Times) and the whimsical From Noon Till Three; for that matter, the last good Alistair MacLean screen outing before what seems like an eternity of formulaic made-for-TV efforts with C-list casts.

The plot has all the MacLean staples - sabotage, secret identities, wolves in sheep's clothing and a plot where no-one and nothing is what they appear to be. The only novelty is the location, a train rushing through the old West to bring medical supplies to a cholera-infected fort through strikingly snowbound mountain countryside beautifully captured through cinematographer Lucien Ballard's lens. But the fact that so much of the film is simply one of the author's beloved WW2 plots with outlaws and Indians instead of Nazis doesn't matter: it's the telling that counts, and with a tight script and strong direction from Tom Gries that is equally adept at the mystery (more a 'what the heck's going on?' than 'who's behind it all?') as action (most notably a good rooftop punch-up and a spectacular wreck) it's never a dull ride.

Bronson, still making an effort in those days, comes over well, while the strong supporting cast (including John Ford and Sam Peckinpah regular Ben Johnson, as well as Richard Crenna, Charles Durning and Ed Lauter) add a pleasing layer of professionalism and credibility. Even Jill Ireland, never the most interesting of leading ladies, acquits herself well here.

Everyone here has done better work (check out Gries extraordinarily affecting Will Penny or Ballard's work on The Wild Bunch), and it's not a life-changing experience, but that's not the point. This is an audience picture that sets out to entertain you for an hour-and-a-half, and succeeds admirably. And Jerry Goldsmith's terrific and exhilaratingly exciting score - his best in the genre - is the icing on the cake.

While MGM/UA's DVD release was a decent transfer with the original trailer included, unfortunately, Kino-Lorber's Region A-locked Blu-ray isn't as much of an upgrade as you could realistically hope for and doesn't do it justice. While there's an improvement in detail on medium shots and close-ups, there's not as much detail as their could be in the long shots and the color is rather lifefless at times, with unconvincing fleshtones giving away some lazy color grading in the mastering. The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.

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.
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A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL REVIEW

Following the unlikely alliance of an opportunistic American (Lou Castel) and a Mexican bandit (Gian Maria Volonte) who sells arms to the rebels, the first half hour or so of Damiano Damiani's cult classic is more than a bit ropey. The director has difficulty establishing the relationship between the two leads and resorts to a succession of shoot-em-ups. Thankfully, these are better handled than the drawn out opening attack on the train carrying Castel's enigmatic gringo, in which too many of the ideas are in the script and too few in the execution.

If the first half is the usual running with the rebels territory, the film becomes more complex as it progresses. It is clear from the beginning that the gringo is working to his own agenda, and throughout the course of the film he steers the group towards it. Not interested in women, he professes to be interested only in money, yet at one point kills a rebel paymaster and throws away his cash. Yet even after his objective and the bandito's part in it become clear, the film manages to take the characters even further in an intriguing epilogue.

Both may be mercenary, but finally choose their own executioners, although in very different ways. Castel inadvertently because, despite ruthlessly killing those on both sides to achieve his end, he is ultimately not ruthless enough, Volonte voluntarily, passing judgement on himself when he realises the consequences of his actions.

Castel is a fairly anonymous lead as the 'ugly American', a potential flaw which the director manages to turn to the film's advantage. A moral void, he has no ideals and no scruples but is instead a remorseless pragmatist. The real undercurrents in their relationship are brought out by Volonte; his bandito, first seen literally banging his own drum, manages to avoid caricature. His growing politicisation is convincing, as is his spellbound look of (largely sexual) confusion at the gringo during a confrontation with a landowner. The audience's sympathies are never directly engaged, our involvement with the character more covert and accidental en route.

Hailed as the best of the political spaghetti westerns, A Bullet For the General doesn't quite live up to the epithet but is still a remarkable example of the genre. Co-writer Franco Solinas also wrote Battle of Algiers and Quiemada, and his revolutionary fervour is very visible in the film's parallels with America's covert overseas operations and the presence of a militant priest throwing hand grenades in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (a less wired than usual Klaus Kinski as Volante's half-mad half-brother). The film even ends with a call to arms - "Don't buy bread, buy dynamite!"

Blue Underground's region-free US Blu-ray release beats their earlier DVD release by offering both the uncut Italian 118-minute version (subtitled) and 115-minute US version (dubbed) in mostly very decent widescreen transfers with only a few minor niggles. There's also a brief interview with Damiano Damiani, stills and poster gallery, international trailer and US trailer and, on a separate DVD disc, a 113-minute documentary on the film's sometimes volatile star, Gian Maria Volonte: Un Attore Contro.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy bread, buy dynamite! or eggs via the internet!, 27 July 2012
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Despite watching Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy countless times over the years I never considered giving any of the other spahghetti westerns out there a go until now. And after being a little disappointed with the "Sabata" movies I almost stopped right there, but a friend mentioned that this was worth a look, and they weren't wrong!

A Buller For The General definitely has the same "spirit" as Leone's work, and you'll recognise quite a few of the extra's in it too! Including a cameo by the same kid who helped Clint Eastwood in "For A Few Dollars More".

Gian Maria Volente shares the lead with Lou Castel and both have good presence and form an unlikely duo. Volente is at his cackling best, but plays a more sympathetic character than usual. It's a shame Klaus Kinski doesn't get more of a chance to develop his character and isn't on screen enough at all.

The plot takes a little while to get going, drifting from one gunfight to another for a while, and the encounter at the General's camp could have more of an impact, but overall it's a decent story.

As for the DVD itself, the quality of the picture is pretty good given the age of the source material and I didn't notice any problems there - likewise the soundtrack is decent enough.

Overall I'd give this 8/10 - If you like spaghetti westerns then I reckon this is a must!
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacLean takes a shot at a western, 28 April 2003
By 
Darren Harrison "DVD collector and reviewer" (Washington D.C.) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Breakheart Pass [DVD] (DVD)
Novelist Alistair MacLean, whose normal area of expertise is World War II thrillers such as "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Guns of Navarone", took a break from his wartime suspense novels to write an American western.
Here Charles Bronson plays a mysterious man held captive on board a train rolling through the bleak winter wilderness towards Breakheart Pass. Accused of a crime, all is not as it seems for Bronson's character Deacon, is he really a criminal or an undercover agent? With gun runners, government agents, deceitful officials and Indians, this action thriller really thrills and one could do worse than watch this on a rainy afternoon.
Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why, 28 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Breakheart Pass [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this to get a picture of the rail bridge and cutting pass steam and haze as it climbs, apart from that Charles Bronson was one of the very best of actors and this also has Jill Ireland a many well known. Beautiful structures and well defined film, by the best of camera. A good copy to keep as a memento.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie! but this R1 blu ray disc wont ..., 11 Sept. 2014
By 
Douglas Palmer "douglaspalmer" (Oslo,Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Breakheart Pass [Blu-ray] [1975] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
Great Movie! but this R1 blu ray disc wont play on my R2 player so watch out !!.Luckily i have it on DVD.Cant hide the fact though that i was looking to se it on blueray.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining film of an Alistair MacLean novel, 6 May 2013
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Breakheart Pass [DVD] (DVD)
This is a western with a difference. The story centres on a train travelling from the town of Myrtle to an army fort at Humboldt. The train is ostensibly carrying urgently needed medical supplies to the Fort to counter an outbreak of diphtheria. In reality however it is carrying a whole load of munitions for the local tribe of Indians who are assisting a wanted criminal Levi Calhoun (Robert Tessier). On the train are Governor Richard Fairchild (Richard Crenna) and his fiancé Marica (Jill Ireland), a local law officer, Marshal Pearce (Ben Johnson), a medic, Dr Molyneux (David Huddleston), a priest, Rev. Peabody (Bill McKinney) and a gambler who seems to be a wanted man, John Deakin (Charles Bronson). As the train makes its way to the fort, there are various incidents that cast suspicion on the whole venture, including the death of the doctor and the priest. It emerges that Deakin is not who he seems to be and the question arises as to who is responsible for the deaths aboard the train and will it ever reach the Fort. This film was made in 1975 based on an Alistair MacLean and was directed by Tom Gries.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Dated But Decent Watch, 10 May 2015
This review is from: Breakheart Pass [DVD] (DVD)
Alistair Maclean brings his complex double-crossing plots to the wild west. Charles Bronson heads a cast of familiar American character actors in this steam-locomotive driven adventure. Trains always provide great scope for movie-making as the story is kept on the move both in geography and narration. Scenes and scenarios can constantly change, enabling unexpected variables to develop. Filming of the great outdoors is excellent. The plot is generally well-paced, but from time to time it does get a wee bit clunky. There's wow & flutter a-plenty in the otherwise decent music score by Jerry Goldsmith, and editing is sometimes choppy as well. It's a mid 1970's work and really does look its age. If I hadn't read the blurb, I would've sworn it was from Michael Winner's directing.

Still worth a watch at the right price, but it ain't a patch on "Von Ryan's Express", "Northwest Frontier" or "The Train". Mine was the MGM video (2004). Sourced new elsewhere. Runtime is given as 91mins, Widescreen format, colour and `PG` viewer rating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breakheart Pass, 24 Dec. 2012
By 
Mr. B. E. Morrison (Stockport, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Breakheart Pass [DVD] (DVD)
I have always loved this film. I'ts typical Alistair MacLean 'one man against the world'. But it's easy viewing and great fun.
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