BREAKHEART PASS (1975)
Dir: Tom Gries - Cast: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Richard Crenna, Ben Johnson, Charles Durning, Ed Lauter, Bill McKinney, David Huddleson, Roy Jenson, Eddie Little Sky, Robert Tessier, Archie Moore
In 1870 a diphtheria epidemic has broken out in the army outpost of Fort Humboldt. A train is on its way to the fort with medical supplies and troops to replace the soldiers who have fallen victim to the disease. Also on board are the Governor and his niece plus a sheriff and his prisoner, a man called Deacon (Charlie), who was arrested for cheating at the card table and identified as a fugitive with the help of a newspaper. As the train approaches its destiny, it becomes clear that things are not what they seem ...
The setting occasionally has a claustrophobic effect but we also get a series of beautiful images of the steam train moving into the snow-capped mountains and there’s a spectacular man to man fight on top of the train between Chuck and former boxing champion Archie Moore. It was the last movie for legendary stunt coordinator Yakima Canutt and his son Joe was one of the stuntmen. MacLean’s writings offer no more than cardboard characters in a throwaway plot, but the tension is nicely sustained while we move from corpse to corpse and Charlie is turned from a villain into the detective investigating the case. When the train eventually reaches its destiny - not Fort Humboldt but Breakheart Pass - and the passengers disembark, there’s a violent conclusion in the open to give us some real western atmosphere.
Cardboard characters and a throwaway plot, but a good Chuck and some exciting action moments make this an above average star vehicle.