THE UNDEFEATED—-big, long, tired 1969 western has Yankee colonel John Wayne and his men leaving the army after the Civil War and heading out on a horse roundup for Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico. En route, the drive meets up with Reb colonel Rock Hudson and his wagon train of Southerners fleeing across the border. The Yankee drovers save the Rebel pilgrims from a bandito ambush, and bonds between the former foes harden as shady deals are pulled by both the Mexican government and the Juaristas attempting to overthrow it.
Lot’s of action, lot’s of joking, lot’s of familiar faces, and especially lot’s of dust, kicked up by the over 3,000 horses used in the production. This mob of ponies is the most impressive thing on view here, and with all the commotion, it’s the main takeaway from the 119 minutes, competently directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
Wayne and Hudson look good and play well off each other, Hugo Montenegro gives it a robust score, sound effects ka-blam nicely, but all the horsepower doesn’t get the film moving like it should, because the script isn’t well developed, and the climax comes off as ‘That’s all?’ Best line has Duke’s reply to Marian McCargo’s asking why he blasted the bandit leader: “Conversation kinda dried up, ma’am.”
Shot in Mexico, near Durango, and in Louisiana, costing $7,115,000, it somewhat under-performed in the States, ranking 21st for the year, but with foreign bookings added in it finally returned $14,000,000. Hudson did credit Wayne with insisting on his hiring, as Rock’s career was in the dumps, and that this credit helped salvage it. He didn’t care for the finished product (nor did Wayne) but they enjoyed working together. Critics dissed it, and it came off tepid and old hat following the big success of True Grit a few months earlier, as well as the hip hit Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, let alone the mold-shattering brilliance of The Wild Bunch.
Saddling up: Roman Gabriel, Melissa Newman, Ben Johnson, Edward Faulkner, Bruce Cabot, Antonio Aguilar, Lee Meriwether, Merlin Olsen, Dub Taylor, Jan-Michael Vincent, Harry Carey Jr., James Dobson, Carlos Rivas, Don Collier, John Hamilton, Royal Dano, Paul Fix, John Agar, Gregg Palmer, Henry Beckman, Robert Donner and Pedro Armendariz, Jr.