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"The Undefeated" is one of the finest of John Wayne's later westerns,
"True Grit" excepted and taking into consideration that "Big Jake" is
nothing to slouch at.
"The Undefeated" is the Duke's biggest large-scale epic since "The Alamo" a decade earlier. The battle scenes and the shots of the horse drive are stirring and impressive.
Another thing that separates this film from other post-1965 Wayne westerns (except for "The Cowboys") is the dialog. It's sharp, crisp, witty and often fun.
Here's a good example of that sharp, witty & pointed dialogue: Duke and co-star Rock Hudson had just returned to their camp after being forced to kill a Mexican bandit leader, who, with his gang wanted Rock & Duke's valuables, their horses and their women. When one of the women asks the Duke why he had to kill him, he replied matter of factly, "The conversation sorta dried up." Classic stuff!
And Hugo Montenegro's memorable score is terrific - the best work I personally have heard from him. It helps perpetuate the whole notion that this is indeed an epic western.
I'm amused at some of the wanna-be Rex Reed's here, the "I am a critic so I can't really, actually, truthfully admit that I loved something like this" with their "ho hum, it's passable, I guess"; and their "it's an okay time killer if you've got nothing better to do." How too, too cool. Give me a break, you elitist wanna-be's!
"The Undefeated" is long on length and even longer on entertainment. This is a grand western.
The Civil War is over and it's been pretty costly to both sides. John
Wayne has lost nearly every man who volunteered to serve with him and
is broke. Rock Hudson who was also a Colonel on the other side went
broke financing a regiment of his own and the Yankee carpetbaggers are
ready to take over his plantation.
Wayne leads the remainder of his men to capture and tame wild horses to sell. Hudson gets an offer from Emperor Maximilian of Mexico to bring his people and resettle there. He needs all the help he can get to prop up his unpopular government. Hudson is certainly bringing a better quality of Anglo than Burt Lancaster did in Vera Cruz.
When Wayne feels a rip off coming from some middlemen horsetraders, he settles it in the usual Duke fashion and heads to Mexico himself. There the parties of Wayne and Hudson meet and their stories are entwined from then on.
With Wayne and Hudson co-starring, The Undefeated was led by two men who between them were number one at the box office for about a dozen years combined. Wayne was coming off his Oscar winning performance in True Grit. This film was definitely guaranteed an audience.
The story is both men are decent fellows and born leaders. Each is trying to pick up the pieces of civilian life and each is the leader of a party looking to them for leadership. A healthy and mutual respect develops between them despite previous political differences.
Wayne gets a whole load of players who worked with him before for this part. As he grew older he liked to have familiar faces around him. He had the star clout to insure it as well. Ben Johnson, Bruce Cabot, Edward Faulkner, Harry Carey, Jr., are some of the Wayne film veterans here.
Dub Taylor in his only film with the Duke does a very entertaining job as McCartney the cook. Dub did so many westerns when he wasn't doing hillbillies it's amazing that his and Wayne's path crossed only once.
This was also an early film for Jan Michael Vincent who went on to a star career of his own. Two members of the Los Angeles Rams, Roman Gabriel and Merlin Olsen were in this as well. Gabriel played a surrogate son to Wayne and rival for the hand of Melissa Newman to Vincent. Merlin Olsen is also here as a Confederate aide to Hudson. Gabriel decided movies wasn't his thing, but Olsen certainly had a substantial career after football.
The Undefeated has a nice, easy and charming flow to it, just like The Comancheros. Wayne and Hudson work well together in their only joint outing. Less action than you normally have in a Wayne film, but it's mixed in well with some good comic moments.
As Duke said parodying one of his one lines from a previous hit film of his, "Let's Take 'Em to Mexico." You'll like the ride.
The Undefeated is a pretty good Western flick. It's light-hearted (for the
most part), solid entertainment. John Wayne plays a Yankee soldier who forms
an unlikely friendship with a Confederate, played by Rock Hudson, very
shortly after the end of the Civil War. The two are both leading men south
of the border for various reasons, and as the film progresses, the two help
each other, rescue each other, and share a few drinks a number of
That's why it's light-hearted, there's a lot of smiles from both lead actors, all the supporting cast and, I dare say, the majority of the audience. There are very few unlikeable parts to this movie. That's not to say it's outrageously good; some of the supporting cast look amateurish at times, and the music occasionally stifles the action on screen, but aside from that, it's fine. John Wayne and Rock Hudson were two of those rare actor types who can't put in a bad performance if they try, but I don't think I need to tell you that.
It's a good package. Perfect for evening viewing, I'd recommend, as I just spent a very profitable evening in front of it. Some short but sweet action scenes, some just plain sweet romance subplots and a good and happy ending makes for one satisfied viewer. Far from perfect but great all the same. *** / *****
Saw this film around 30 years ago. At that time I thought it just a fairly formulaic star vehicle, bringing together the grizzled, typical Wayne cowboy character with someone who was a newer and - at the time -a really big name in Rock Hudson. Seeing it anew in 2007, I realise my earlier estimate was too dismissive by far. It has a good plot with many original aspects, well described already on the web-site by earlier reviewers, especially the linkage of US civil war with events happening at the same time in Mexico. Not being a huge fan, ordinarily, of either of the main stars, it has to be said they both turn in good performances and are fully believable as leaders whom other men would naturally follow, and who inspire fierce loyalties. The dialogue has a few unexpectedly good lines and is generally above average standard. The stars play it light-heartedly, and this gives the film warmth, colour and humour. Some aspects of the film, admittedly, conform to the hackneyed Wayne cowboy film recipe, such as the free-for-all fist fight, but in general the film stands up well nearly 40 years after it was made, and it has held on to a much more modern feel than other Wayne westerns. The musical score just about carries enough grandeur to match the action and the occasionally majestic cinematography, especially the scenes involving the drive across country of a few thousand horses. Any film-lover who enjoys the more upmarket western should give this film a try. The nearly two hours pass quickly, and it's a film to make you think (about the nature of war against your fellow countrymen, about loyalty, friendship and heroism) and escapist enough to make you smile.
This moving western has Yankee colonel Henry Thomas (John Wayne)
joining forces with Confederate official named Langdon (Rock Hudson),
during the post-Civil War and in Mexican territory . Wayne tries to
sell wild horses to the French military in Mexico and Hudson leading a
wagon train to Durango . Both colonels battling it out toe to toe and
side by side across 2000 miles of thundering adventure . They feared no
one , Juarista rebels , cut-throat bandits, the armies of Maximilian,
as they challenged an angry land and each other . The two big men with
reckless courage clash and nothing can match them ,the big men ride and
nothing can stop them . Through a thousand dangers and a thousand
thrills they fight their glorious way to destiny , conquering desert ,
risks , savage outlaws , and enemy soldiers.
This agreeable Western packs adventures , silly romance , action , shootouts and historical events about American Civil War and Mexican war between Emperor Maxilimilian and Juaristas . Casting is frankly good, the legendary John Wayne , Rock Hudson . Before filming began, John Wayne had to lose most of the weight he had put on in order to play Rooster Cogburn in True grit (1969). According to director Andrew V. McLaglen, his first choice for the role of Colonel James Langdon was James Arness, who was willing to do it but backed out just before shooting began ; Rock Hudson was brought in as his replacement . John Wayne became good friends during the shoot with Rock Hudson and even joked that he'd rather have been born with Hudson's movie star face than his own. Magnificent plethora of secondaries , as usual John Ford's actors , Ben Johnson, Bruce Cabot, John Agar, Harry Carey Jr , among others . Furthermore , ordinary cameraman William H Clothier (Cheyemne Autumm , Man who shot Liberty Valance , Horse soldiers) who creates a luminous and colorful cinematography . Lively and evocative musical score by Hugo Montenegro . The motion picture was well directed by Andrew V. McLagen , a known Ford's disciple . He's a Western expert (McLintock, Shenandoah, Bandolero, Chisum , Cahill , Way west) and warlike genre craftsman (Return to Kai, Wild Geese , Sea Wolves). Rating : acceptable and passable. The movie will appeal to Wayne and Hudson die-hard fans.
John Wayne and Rock Hudson play off each other with confidence and style in this fine movie western.
THE UNDEFEATED endlessly frames its two super-popular movie stars from low camera angles and often adds perfect blue skies above and picturesque western vistas in deep focus behind. Both in full command of the camera, regal, standing straight and tall -- here John Wayne and Rock Hudson live forever larger than life. THE UNDEFEATED is pure hero worship eye candy!
Although the story is rather flawed, everything else is A+. The music is among the best of bold western movie scores. The direction as noted above is respectful to the picture's two great American icons. It is not perfect, but THE UNDEFEATED is an exceptionally fun movie to watch.
The Civil War is over but certain Confederate units refuse to call it
Colonel John Henry Thomas (played by The Duke)and his gang encounters one
such band of rebels at the start of this film. Then there is the unit led
Colonel James Langdon played by Rock Hudson. They accept the fact the war
over but decide rather than live under the stars and stripes head out lock
stock and barrel for Mexico women and children included. Wayne and his men
bid farewell to the Army and set out to make a buck or two rounding up and
selling wild horses. Wayne and his men cross paths along the way with
and his refugees which make up the bulk of the story.
It's a little easy to understand Thomas and his men but not so easy to understand the Langdon group. When they encounter trouble it's almost hard as a viewer to have any pity for them.
Wayne gets support from a number of actors who co-starred with him in several of his films. Veteran character actor Dub Taylor is along as a nasty Chuck Wagon driver. Former Los Angeles Rams Quarterback Roman Gabriel is cast as a native American who served for Wayne during the war and is now his main man when it comes to tracking, scouting etc. Gabriels Ram teammate Merlin Olsen is also featured as a Confederate soldier who hates to fist fight but is called upon to do so. Decent western John Wayne film all in all. The Confederates may have lost the war but in this film they certainly ate better than the Yankees do.
"The Undefeated" (1969) teams up John Wayne and Rock Hudson as ex-Union
and Confederate officers after the Civil War in Mexico. Langdon
(Hudson) wants to relocate his family & friends whereas Thomas (Wayne)
wants to make money selling horses to Emperor Maximilian. The problem
is that Benito Juarez and his followers are at war with Maximilian and
this causes unforeseen problems for the Americans, who have no choice
but to team-up.
The set-up of story is great and loosely based on Joseph Orville "Jo" Shelby and his Missouri raiders and their families who really did seek to relocate to Maximilian's Mexico, but had to return after the victory of Juarez' forces. The movie starts with a Civil War battle and the announcement that Lee has surrendered and the war is over, which segues into Langdon and Thomas and their people going to Mexico for completely different reasons; and then they meet. This is great, but the filmmakers add some goofiness, like an over-the-top, fun-spirited brawl between the Confederates and Federals at a 4th of July party in the wilderness. These types of scenes were fairly common in Wayne Westerns at the time and I always thought they detracted from these movies. There's a way to mix realistic comedy into a movie and a way not to and this isn't the way. Besides, how can a serious brouhaha be fun? When you punch people in the face in real life they get bloody noses and missing teeth; here they just laugh it off.
Another problem is NFL quarterback Roman Gabriel as a full-blooded Native American and adopted son of Thomas. No matter how you slice it, he looks like a white dude with a mop of black hair. To add insult to injury, Langdon's cute daughter (Melissa Newman) falls head-over-heals in love with him and the way it happens simply isn't realistic. Would a genuine Southern belle really swoon over a full-blooded Indian who visits their encampment? Would no one notice that the two have wandered off to make-out, in plain view of the others? Would Col. Langdon really not mind that his daughter is sucking face with a full-blooded Native? In our day and age it's no big deal and most people could care less, but it's still an issue in some circles; how much more so back then, particularly with a proud Southern Colonel and his people?
If you can overlook these flaws, however, this is a very worthwhile Western with quality drama, action, characters and locations (shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Durango, Mexico). The cast is also notable. Besides the two stars, you also get Lee Meriwether, Marian McCargo, Jan-Michael Vincent (in a too-small role), Merlin Olsen, Ben Johnson and various Wayne Western staples.
This is a likable Western because the people are so likable. For instance, the way one group is unselfishly willing to let go of something of great worth on behalf of another group blows the mind, but it reveals their nobility and the fact that they value human beings more than they do monetary gain, but only because they've found them worthy. It also reveals respect and the willingness to forgive & heal after the nation's most bloody war.
The film runs 119 minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The title of "The Undefeated" refers to those Confederates who refused
to accept defeat in the American Civil War and migrated to Mexico
rather than live under the Union. The film is loosely based on a true
story, although the details are very much fictionalised. A group of
Confederate soldiers, led by Colonel James Langdon, make their way with
their families across Texas, hoping to cross the Rio Grande and to join
Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, who has offered them land where they can
make a new life. Langdon was once a wealthy plantation owner, but has
been ruined financially by the war, and before leaving sets fire to his
mansion rather than see it fall into the hands of Northerners.
On the journey, Langdon meets an old Civil War antagonist, Colonel John Henry Thomas, who is leading a group of his former soldiers on an expedition to capture a herd of wild horses, which he is hoping to sell to the US government. Upon learning, however, that the Mexican government are willing to pay a better price, Thomas and his men also turn south with their captive herd. The film tells the story of what happens when the two groups of Americans, former enemies, are forced to work together to fight off attacks from bandits and from the Juaristas, republican opponents of Maximilian's government.
A number of Westerns from this period had a Mexican-related theme and generally involve Americans becoming embroiled in either the Mexican civil war of the 1860s or the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s; others include "The Wild Bunch", "Two Mules for Sister Sara" and "The Professionals", with "Veracruz" being an earlier example from the fifties. The makers of "The Undefeated", however, were less concerned with the intricacies of Mexican politics than they were with putting across a message of American patriotism. Although the Confederates and Unionists have recently been fighting one another, they learn to respect one another and to unite against a common foe. Thomas and his men not only help the Confederates fight the bandits, they also give up their horses to ransom them when they are being held hostage by a Juarista general.
The old divisions- North versus South, blue versus grey, abolitionists versus advocates of slavery- no longer matter; the reconciliation between the two groups takes place, very symbolically, at a Fourth of July party. What matters is that former Confederates and former Unionists are all now Americans, united against the world. Even non-whites are included; a romance develops between Thomas's adopted Indian son Blue Boy and Langdon's daughter. The implied message for the Americans of 1969 is that they must learn to overcome their own divisions- conservative versus liberal, young versus old, black versus white, pro-Vietnam war versus pacifists- in a similar way.
This message of inclusive patriotism would have been dear to the heart of one of the film's two big stars, John Wayne, who plays Thomas. The following year Wayne was to make another Western, "Rio Lobo", about Northerners and Southerners learning to live together after the Civil War. It is a potentially interesting theme, but not one which this film makes the most of. Rock Hudson's performance as a Southern gentleman has been criticised, but for me he was not the problem with the film. I will leave comment on his accent to those who are more familiar with the dialects of the Deep South than I am, but I found his portrayal of a proud and honourable aristocrat a convincing one. John Wayne, however, had already shown in "The Green Berets" the year before that he was really too old to go on playing a front-line soldier, and he is no more credible here. The film also contains a few other implausible elements. There may have been men in the 1860s who would have had no objection to their daughter entering into a racially mixed marriage, but I doubt if a die-hard Confederate aristocrat like Langdon would have been one of them. The film ends with both Langdon and Thomas on surprisingly good terms with the Juarista General Rojas, even though he has shown himself to be both ruthless and treacherous and has threatened to shoot the Confederates in cold blood if his ransom demands are not met. The film is also overlong and its pace, particularly during the second half, tends to flag.
The late sixties and early seventies saw the last great hurrah of the Western before its decline in the late seventies and eighties, but "The Undefeated" cannot compare in quality with some of the other offerings from the period, such as "The Wild Bunch", or Wayne's other film from 1969, "True Grit", or even with "Chisum", another collaboration between Wayne and director Andrew V. McLaglen from the following year. It is marginally better than the non-Western "The Green Berets", but to say that about a film is no very great praise. 5/10
The Undefeated is directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and adapted for the
screen by James Lee Barrett from a story by Stanley L. Hough. It stars
John Wayne & Rock Hudson, features a musical score by Hugo Montenegro
and William H. Clothier provides the South Western cinematography.
Much yee-hawing and lots of patriotic fervour, The Undefeated is a fun and undemanding way for the Western fan to spend a couple of hours. Plot basically revolves around some post Civil War rivalries between Union and Confederate leaders played by Wayne and Hudson respectively. Both men and the groups they have under their control, get mixed up in the Maximillian/Juarez revolution in Mexico. Cue moral quandaries, big decisions and life affirming human interests; as McLaglen (aided by Wayne apparently) directs unfussy without pushing the envelope of Western directing. True enough at times the tone is uneven, it's hard to tell if it's meant to be light hearted or serious during some passages (kind of why John Ford was a genre master since he could achieve it comfortably), and some casting decisions are rather baffling (hello Roman Gabriel); but it's all very spirited, especially Hudson, to round it out as a solid genre offering from the late 1960s. 6.5/10
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