The Hallelujah Trail (1965)

Laughing Gravy
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Laughing Gravy
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Joined: September 1st, 2005, 4:44 am

May 27th, 2018, 5:30 pm #1



The Hallelujah Trail
(1965, dir. John Sturges)
United Artists / 155 min. / Color / Ultra Panavision / 2.35:1
Olive Blu-ray $29.95, DVD $24.95

Heading towards a brutally cold and snowy winter in 1868, the city of Denver has contracted for 40 wagons of whiskey for the thirsty citizens and miners, but the Indians have gotten wind of it and aim to peel off some for their very own, a gaggle of Temperance Women have vowed to stop it, the miners have formed a citizens’ militia to get it through, and the Irish teamsters driving the wagons are on strike. The U.S. Cavalry rides in to keep everybody from killing each other in a very broad slapstick roadshow comedy from those bygone days of yesteryear, the 1960s, when movies were oft-times wide, overblown, and long.

I hadn’t seen this coming – a comic version of How the West was Won (or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with horses) and while I like Cinerama movies as much as the next guy, what was laid out as a perfectly acceptable Operation Petticoat-level comedy (affable as heck but without a lot of belly laughs) somehow got waylaid into a huge 2-3/4 hour monster of a film that mostly seems to consist of Burt Lancaster (as the Cavalry master) and Martin Landau (as an Indian brave) making funny faces at the comic melee around them. Lee Remick is hideously miscast as the temperance lady, Jim Hutton and Pamela Tiffin are the young lovers, Brian Keith is his crusty best as the Whiskey Baron, Donald Pleasance is the not-funny-at-all comic relief oracle who foresees the terrible winter, and Dub Taylor is… well, Dub Taylor. What you want, him playing Lady Macbeth?

All that said, the film is, as remarked, affable as heck – the characters are appealing and the setup is quite humorous and the narration (by an unbilled John Dehner, can’t miss that voice) is hilariously deadpan (it’s the best part of the picture). The big problem is that the film’s climax – all the interested parties marching to Denver meet up in a battle to the death in a sandstorm and can’t make out head nor tail of each other – comes just before the Intermission, and we still have half a movie to go! Anybody thinking the movie was over and leaving at halftime saw all the good stuff.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Col. Lancaster: “Give a woman an acorn and the next thing you know you're up to your rump in oak trees!”

Sturges directed large-scale 1960s films that worked, notably The Great Escape, but this one is for people with a lot of patience and an affinity for big stars making funny faces (and you know us, we’re not above that sort of thing). The film is beautifully photographed (by Robert Surtees, of Ben-Hur fame) and the score by Elmer Bernstein is terrific. One just wishes that there wasn’t so much of it.

The Blu-ray is rather pedestrian, alas, nothing to show off how good your system is (Olive Films warned us that “The Hallelujah Trail is sourced from the best available elements”). It has the trailer and subtitles but no other extras.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
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Frank Hale
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Joined: October 7th, 2005, 2:02 am

May 27th, 2018, 10:30 pm #2

I never saw this film because it has such an abysmal reputation as yet another 60's, bloated clunker, a genre that I absolutely hate. Your review seems a bit more charitable.

What a time. For every "Yours, Mine and Ours" and "Dr. Zhivago" we had a "10th Victim" and "Blow-Up".

My forthcoming book will link all this directly to the Vietnam War. Should be a best-seller.


John Sturges is, on the whole, one of my favorite directors, but his pix are very up and down. If Paul were still here I'm sure he would weigh in.
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Laughing Gravy
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May 27th, 2018, 11:27 pm #3

Don’t forget, I’m part of Generation F-Troop.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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CliffClaven
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May 28th, 2018, 9:50 pm #4

Frank Hale wrote:My forthcoming book will link all this directly to the Vietnam War. Should be a best-seller.
Back in the day, the E network would run documentaries on the rise and fall of such shows as "Three's Company" and "Gilligan's Island". These and other 60s shows were not only apolitical but aggressively out of touch.

The E documentaries would throw in a little stock footage of the Vietnam War, civil rights marches and campus unrest, with a narrator intoning "It was the sixties, and America needed to laugh". Being out of touch was thus made intentional and patriotic.
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Frank Hale
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Frank Hale
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May 28th, 2018, 10:00 pm #5

Instead of mind-blowing-ly stupid.

I draw your attention to the current political situation.
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Laughing Gravy
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May 29th, 2018, 1:29 am #6

There have always been stupid comedies on TV, though, no matter what the political climate. People DO need to laugh. I feel no more need to watch the rebooted pro-Trump Roseanne than I needed to watch the comedies that made fun of President Geo. W. Bush. I go out of my way to not watch Saturday Night Live because I know too many people who consider themselves "well-informed politically" because they watch it. One of the reasons I've been watching The Beverly Hillbillies, Newhart, Gomer Pyle USMC and Perry Mason is to get away from the news and the 2018 world.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The Batman
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The Batman
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June 4th, 2018, 7:11 pm #7

Frank Hale wrote:If Paul were still here I'm sure he would weigh in.
Whatever happened to Mr P?


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The Batman
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The Batman
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June 4th, 2018, 7:12 pm #8

CliffClaven wrote:shows as "Three's Company" and "Gilligan's Island".

These and other 60s shows were not only apolitical but aggressively out of touch.
THREE'S COMPANY is, of course, a late 70s television sitcom.

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Fantomas
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Fantomas
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Joined: April 21st, 2007, 2:20 am

June 4th, 2018, 7:51 pm #9

Speaking of wanting to "get away from the news and the 2018 world," has anyone done it as totally and aggressively as this guy?

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/styl ... ittle.html
"For life is short, but death is long."
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Frank Hale
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Frank Hale
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June 4th, 2018, 9:09 pm #10

The answer is "yes", because I remember some article in Time magazine (?) maybe 30 years ago about a similar guy who declared he would not deal with anything that wasn't in existence in the 19th century. His clothing, haircut, and reading material matched his outlook.

Unfortunately for that viewpoint, we live in a democracy, and tuning out is not a solution to the current situation. People need at least to cast informed votes, or politics may intrude upon their lives in ways they may not have wished for, or anticipated.

There was a poll here at one point evaluating Obama's presidency, and at least 7 people said he was a failure. Hope they're happier now.

Edit:

And, btw, Mr. Fantomas, having thought about it, I think this is the last time I will try to help you out.

You post leading questions, but never follow up with your own real opinions.

You're a bright guy, but enough, already.
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