Directed by J. Lee Thompson, U.S., (1969), 127 minutes

Legends have persisted for hundreds of years of a mine in Arizona that contained vast amounts of metals, was very ancient, and was kept by the Apaches as their secret source of gold. According to the tale, Apaches claimed the gold as their property and kept the canyon a secret, killing any prospectors who might enter. Based on books by Texas historian J. Frank Dobbs and Will Henry that recount the legend of the Lost Adams gold mine, Mackenna’s Gold tells the story of Ed Adams, an adventurer who claims that he found gold in 1864 but whose camp was attacked by the Apaches and was blinded for life. It is an exciting and imaginative film made at the end of the Western era with its elements of lost treasure lore, secret canyons, and a lost gold mine, although its special effects are severely dated.

Shot around the Grand Canyon and the area north of Flagstaff and west of the Hopi Mesas in Northern Arizona, the film reunites actor Gregory Peck, producer and screenwriter Carl Foreman, and director J. Lee Thompson, the same group that had made The Guns of Navarone in 1961. Narrated by Victor Jory, Mackenna’s Gold has a stellar cast that includes Peck, Omar Sharif, Telly Savalas and such prominent names as Keenan Wynn, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Edward G. Robinson, and Raymond Massey. Omar Sharif, an unlikely looking outlaw, plays the villain, a bandit named Colorado who captures Mackenna (Peck), a local marshal who saw a map to the secret canyon given to him by an old Apache warrior.

Though Mackenna burned the map, the fact that he has committed it to memory is enough to prevent him from being killed by the ruthless Colorado who makes a deal with Mackenna. In exchange for leading Colorado to the gold, Mackenna will get back his guns and his freedom – as well as lovely co-hostage (Camilla Sparv). Along the way, the group is pursued by both the Cavalry and Apache warriors and are joined – or attacked – by a variety of thieves and desperados, each interested in a share of the gold. With his hands tied, Marshal Mackenna crosses a precarious rope bridge across a narrow, but very deep canyon with Colorado and his gang which includes Hesh-Ke (Julie Newmar), a jealous Apache squaw who was once involved with Mackenna, and Hachita (Ted Cassidy), an Apache warrior.

When they emerge, they are on the north side of what is most likely the Little Colorado River Gorge, an area that today is off-limits and roadless with much of it lying in the Navajo Reservation. Somewhere beyond this crossing, Mackenna and Colorado look for the secret canyon with its rich vein of gold, spotting ruins high on a cliff which might have been part of an ancient mining operation. Though the film has first-rate acting, a compelling story, and gorgeous photography, it recycles most of the clichés of the genre: shrieking semi-human Apaches bent on wanton killing and macho men either protecting weak women or fighting off aggressive ones and is marred by a dreadful decision to dynamite some of the most beautiful rock formations in the West as an example of retribution by the Apache gods.