Tom Gries (director)
14 May 2018 (released)
BREAKHEART PASS (1975) is part action western part murder mystery and is based on a novel by Scottish writer Alistair MacLean (The Guns of Navarone). It stars Charles Bronson as an apparent murderer and criminal but he is not who he pretends to be…
In fact, hardly anyone in this riveting adenture is what they claim to be! A special train leaves for California to deliver medicine, weapons and soldiers to the frontier outpost of Fort Humboldt where a diphtheria outbreak has disabled most of the cavalry. Only one luxurious wagon of the train is reserved for civilians and among the passengers are Governor Fairchild (Richard Crenna) and his fiancée Marica (Jill Ireland aka Mrs. Bronson), whose father is the commander of Fort Humboldt. Along the way, the train stops only once in a tiny place called Myrtle City to take US Marshall Pearce (Ben Johnson) and his convict John Deakin (C. Bronson) - an alleged murderer – aboard. Deakin is meant to be hanged in the Fort. But as the train rolls over snow-drenched mountain passes and bridges bridge constructions of dizzying heights, more and more of the escort soldiers appear… and the locomotive driver mysteriously loses his life.
All along Marica can sense that Deakin is not the beastly criminal Marshall Pearce makes him out to be. Her female instincts prove right: Deakin turns out to be a secret agent working for the US Security Service and soon he discovers the truth: there is no diphtheria outbreak at Fort Humboldt, and the weapons on the train are meant for an Indian tribe who, in exchange for the ammunition and dynamite (hidden in wooden boxes labelled ‘Medical Supplies’), grant notorious bandit Levi Calhoun (Robert Tessier) and his gang permission to dig for gold gold in their territory. Even dodgy Governor Fairchild and his men, including O’Brien (Charles Dunning) are in on the nasty plan… in fact even the train’s cook are in on the plan! When Deakon discovers the corpse of Dr. Molyneux in the food supply carriage he knows he needs to take action, but who can he trust? It seems the only person trustworthy enough is Major Claremont (Ed Lauter) who long suspected something’s dodgy is up thanks to Fairchild’s erratic and strange behaviour. But before Deakin and Claremont can take action the first major disaster strikes when the some of the carriages transporting the soldiers are separated from the front of the train and begin to roll backward before they derail and the wagons plunge down a steep hill, killing everyone inside.
At the Breakheart Pass things come to an explosive climax as the Indians, lead by Chief White Hand (Eddie Little Sky) attack the train to claim their promised rifles while Calhoun’s outlaws are approaching as well. Deakin and Major Claremont (are desperately trying to prevent a catastrophe and save their lives... and that of the innocent Marica who has barricaded herself in one of the carriages.
The action scenes are breathtaking and so is the cinematography of Lucien Ballard. Jerry Goldsmith's dramatic score adds to the tension. As bonus material, there is unfortunately only the trailer and an interview with film critic Kim Newman which is dominated by tangents.