Classic Movie Themes: Mackenna's Gold
Mackenna's Gold is a perfect example of the Western at its most decadent. Made at a time when the genre was becoming increasingly tired and facing strong competition from the Italian market, Hollywood decided that the way to renew public interest was to turn everything up to eleven and turn the Western into a multimillion dollar spectacle. The movie cost Columbia Pictures $14 million in 1969 and boasted an all-star cast, as well as action and special effects. However, it was not a smooth production and the studio seemed to get cold feet prior to its release. The Three hour running time was reduced to one hundred and twenty-eight minutes, leaving the final cut feeling somewhat uneven. Overall, the public were indifferent and the box office takings were low.
Despite the movies flaws there is still much to like about Mackenna's Gold, although one’s enjoyment is frequently linked to the preposterous nature of the screenplay and the varying quality of the visual effects. One such aspect is the rather cool and groovy soundtrack by Quincy Jones. It has all his usual hallmarks such as crescendo's and tone colour shifts. Even within the confines of the Western idiom he manages to include a hint of his jazz and blues roots. The movie also features Jose Feliciano singing "Ole Turkey Buzzard", a song that re-occurs throughout the film. The cautionary lyrics regarding men killing each other in their lust for gold, mirror the on-screen story and change as the narrative progresses. It's catchy nature and somewhat incongruous inclusion in the movie’s score has earned it a somewhat cult reputation.