John Wayne had a tremendous hit in 1969 with True Grit (and won an Oscar for it along the way), but his other 1969 release wasn’t as well received - Andrew V. McLaglen’s The Undefeated. It’s a rather mediocre antebellum western joining ex-Yanks and Rebs in parallel stories that eventually collide with less than the expected fireworks. Rock Hudson co-stars with the Duke for the first and only time in a film that contains quite a few members of Wayne’s stock company of friends playing alongside him. The film, however, works only in fits and starts but ultimately doesn’t amount to much.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/03/2013
After the Civil War ends, Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson) takes what’s left of his Confederate regiment with their families and heads for Mexico where they plan to fight alongside Emperor Maximilian and make homes there. Union Colonel John Henry Thomas (John Wayne) has had enough of fighting and with his friends rounds up 3,000 wild horses and plans on selling them to the U.S. Cavalry. But when crooked Army agents try to swindle Thomas out of his herd’s worth, he accepts an offer to take them to Mexico where Emperor Maximilian will pay top dollar for them. Along the way, the ex-soldiers from each side meet up and eventually bond over the hostile banditos and Mexican militia they must continually face. But when Juarez-loyal General Rojas (Antonio Aguilar) tricks Langdon and company into thinking he’s representing Maximilian, only Thomas and his band can save them.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
The script by James Lee Barrett offers alternating stories of the Rebs and Yanks making the viewer greatly anticipate their eventual meeting, but when it happens, it’s but one of a series of anticlimaxes which routinely kill any momentum the director is trying to build in the movie. There’s the expected all-out friendly brawl where a simple fight between a man from each side (including football star Merlin Olsen for the Rebs) gets out of hand (even Wayne and Hudson each take a poke at one another) and the routine story of a boy and girl from opposite sides discovering love for the first time (once again featuring a pro footballer delving into acting – Roman Gabriel), but the film’s best scene is the stand-off against the Mexican banditos where even outnumbered, Thomas’ superior military savvy saves the day. Elsewhere, though, scenes that appear to be leading to something cataclysmic peter out into disappointing anticlimaxes. Throughout director Andrew McLaglen makes certain the camera picks up the individuals and the panoramas (the overhead shots of those thousands of horses galloping across the desert are quite stunning), but his hands are tied with the only average script.
John Wayne plays a very familiar part for him, an ex-Army colonel continuing to head a group of men in civilian pursuits, and he does his usual professional job. Rock Hudson’s Southern accent is as wide as the Mississippi and not especially convincing, but there is friendly camaraderie between the two stars that makes their scenes together fitfully enjoyable. Ben Johnson gives a solid performance as Thomas’ right-hand man. Jan-Michael Vincent has a few notable scenes as the Reb who longs for but ultimately loses Langdon’s daughter (Melissa Newman), but none of the film’s female characters - Lee Meriwether as Langdon’s wife, Marian McCargo as his sister-in-law, or Newman – makes much of an impression. Neither of the former Los Angeles Rams stars-turned-actors offer much in the way of emoting though Merlin Olsen as the gentle giant who enjoys playing games with the kids is kind of sweet. Wayne’s repertory company Harry Carey Jr., Dub Taylor, Royal Dano, John Agar, John Hamilton, Guy Raymond, and others do their customary fine jobs making much of little.
The Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a reference quality transfer all the way from the super sharp opening titles straight through to the end. Sharpness is superb. Color values are exemplary including realistic and appealing flesh tones. Black levels are first rate. No age-related problems of any kind present themselves during the presentation. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The disc offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and 5.1 sound mixes. The 5.1 mix has a very fine front soundstage where Hugo Montenegro’s driving music has been located. Very little has been done with the rear channels apart from an occasional stampeding horse or gunshot, but those thundering hooves certainly get some play in the LFE channel. The dialogue which has been well recorded has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailers (9:04, SD): trailers are available in English, Spanish, or Portuguese, either individually or in montage.
Special Features Rating: 1/5
The Undefeated is not one of John Wayne’s more distinguished westerns. It has some action and fun, but it’s one of those films that’s fairly easy to forget once the screening is over. The high definition picture and sound, though, leave little to be desired.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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