The Undefeated (1969)
Review by Dindrane

Written by James Lee Barrett, based on a story by Stanley L. Hough, which was in turn based on the novel by Lewis B. Patten
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Lee Meriwether, Ben Johnson, Tony Aguilar, and Jan-Michael Vincent

Released by: Fox
Region: 1
Rating: G
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Buy it

After the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers often made their way West to start over in a new life and to escape deprivation and despair. Two of these men, previously on opposite sides of the conflict now find themselves and their men united, fighting for their lives--and the horses they hope to sell and others hope to steal--against Mexican troops eager to kill them all.

John Wayne plays the former Union general, and Rock Hudson is his Confederate counterpart. Both men bring life and interest to these roles that could easily be made stereotypical or just plain two-dimensional. Lee Meriwether is simply radiant, making of herself more than just a love interest, and the assorted boys in blue or grey play their parts with a perfect mixture of resentment and eventually grudging respect, even friendship. The Confederates are predictably written less than sympathetically, but thatís to be expected these days, and the movie doesnít quite overcome this unfairness and imbalance between the leads.

Some of the themes in this film are quite interesting. The obvious theme of the necessity to mend differences with our enemies is a timeless, and timely, one, but so is the idea of friendship and the love of one man for his people. The idea of a good leader and what one must do to be a good leader is very complex and handled well in this film. It also makes an excellent point that oneís enemies are not always what we think they are, and that the "right" in war is never as one-sided as we would like to believe.

The audio and video quality are both good here, surprisingly good in fact. The colors are much brighter and richer than you would expect from a film over thirty years old, and the sound, even in the midst of battle and galloping horses, is quite clear. My only minor quibble is that the gunshots seem almost realistically loud--almost too loud for a home cinema experience.

This disc is devoid of features, which is a shame for a beloved John Wayne film. It would have been pretty easy to get some collector or Civil War buff to talk about the guns, the horses, the Mexicans, the territory...something. Or even a commentary...Meriwether, Aguilar, and of course Vincent are still around--as, so it appears, is director McLaglen. Their thoughts and recollections on the film would have been priceless, but alas, there is naught.

Incidentally, fans of horses will adore this film. The herd of horses appears almost from the first frame, and they continue to be important and in many shots for the rest of the film. The horses ridden by the main characters are obviously intelligent and spirited, and horse fans will appreciate how they were treated with respect, even this at this stage in American film history.

Overall, if you are interested in the Civil War or the Old West, then you will adore this film. It does not concern the Civil War directly, but rather the fall-out, when Southerners had lost their families and their homes to carpetbaggers, greedy Union troops, and thieves. Fans of good, tense stories with a bit of battle thrown in will also appreciate this one. Get it and remember what life was once like so that we donít take our hard-won luxuries for granted.

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