17 May 2018



I love a nice Western, and this one has the added bonus of having Charles Bronson in it, a particular favourite actor of mine. It's billed as an 'action-packed murder mystery western' and it's jam-packed with villains and Indians and guns and more shooting than you could shake a stick at, but why on earth would you bother to shake a stick when you've got guns? Guns trump sticks every time.

The film is set entirely on a train. It's hurtling through the Rocky Mountains in Ye Olde Frontier Times on its way to a place called Fort Humboldt, where there's apparently a diptheria outbreak and a terrible shortage of soldiers and medical supplies. Oh my, that does sound terrible.

The train is bringing both reinforcement soldiers and medicines to the beleaguered Fort at as fast a speed as an old steam train can manage, but there are some highly suspicious goings-on aboard the locomotive that make you wonder if said locomotive is labouring under some kind of awful curse...

Charles Bronson plays John Deakin, a mysterious kind of prisoner-in-transit whom US Marshal Pearce is transporting to Fort Humboldt, where he'll be most likely to hang for his offences of arson and cheating at cards. Well, the arson is pretty indefensible, I suppose, but you wouldn't hang a guy just for being a card-sharp, now would you?

When an unknown assassin suddenly starts killing the inhabitants of the train for some reason, Deakin's supposed 'medical knowledge' allows him to wander around the train at will, inspecting corpses and saying what they died from like a proper Quincy ME. 

You know, the coroner guy in that TV series played by Jack Klugman? Which is an interesting coincidence as Charles Bronson and Jack Klugman once shared an apartment together in New York City, back when they were both aspiring theatre actors. Now don't say I never teach ye anything.

Any-hoo, the funny thing is that no-one on board the 'train of death', except for Deakin himself, seems terribly interested in finding out who killed these folks and why, from the US Marshal himself to the smarmy-ass Governor Fairchild. He's the splendidly waistcoated-and-watch-chained politician who's travelling to Fort Humboldt with his beautiful fiancée Marica Scoville, the daughter of the commander at Fort Humboldt.

None of them seem particularly bothered about the fact that they're heading straight for Diptheria Town either. You'd think that they'd be a little more freaked out about that, wouldn't you? You'd especially think that a bigshot Governor like Governor Fairchild wouldn't want to alight from a train into a place where they had the plague, would you? But no, the passengers don't seem to be remotely bothered about all that. Which is strange...

Just what exactly is going on in this gosh-darned train? One of the passengers must be the killer, and we're pretty sure it's not Deakin as he's the one going around inspecting the corpses and saying what they died from. Or, does he know what they died from because he killed them himself? Just who is he exactly, and is this train really carrying troops and medical supplies to Fort Humboldt, or is that just a bigger fairytale than THE GINGERBREAD MAN...?

Charles Bronson's then wife, the stunningly good-looking Jill Ireland, plays Marica, the betrothed of the slimy, slippery-as-f**k Governor Fairchild. She's much younger than he is and much too good for him, even if she's not the sharpest tool in the box. She's much more moralistic than he is, although maybe that's because she's quite naïve and there's much she still has to learn about the world she lives in.

She also disagrees with the harsh treatment meted out to John Deakin on the train as a prisoner-in-transit, but I don't think it was particularly harsh at all. He gets to sit on his arse in the corner of a nice heated luxury train car swilling vodka, and once the murders start, he's pretty much got the run of the place.

There's clearly a spark between Deakin and Marica, a growing attraction, but nothing much happens between them in this film. They don't even kiss, never mind have sex. He doesn't even slap her face or shake her and call her a 'stupid little fool' in a hissy voice that comes from out of the corner of his mouth. I was disappointed that nothing really happens between them at all, although we are left with a glimmer of hope for the future.

I do think that the film actually suffers from the lack of sex in it. In a film about dirty, dusty, horny and lusty Frontier men, you'd expect at the very least to espy a positive plethora of prostitutes on the prowl for the possibility of paying prey. I suddenly need to pee...

When the Simpson family went to visit the Wild West village in the episode of THE SIMPSONS about Grampa's kidney, there'd been no-one but prostitutes living in the town when it was a thriving cluster of buildings and horses in Frontier times. Well, there would've had to be a few johns too, of course. But mainly it was 'sex-folks,' lol.

And what kind of a Western is it, anyway, where a man can't walk into a saloon, drink a shot of whiskey, put down a couple-a bucks on the counter and then walk upstairs arm-in-arm with the prettiest girl in the madam's coterie of pretty girls? Don't underestimate the value of prostitutes in dangly earrings and tight-waisted, low-cut dresses to the Western genre.

She'd take off your boots while you sat on the bed and show you a good time without a word of complaint about your whiskey-breath or the fact that you hadn't shaved or bathed in weeks because, well, it was the Wild West and showers were in powerful short supply, dagnammit.

But if she liked you, she'd ask you to look her up if ever you were passing through town again and, if she was pretty, you'd promise her the sun, moon and stars before riding outta town and away from her forever. Another town, another prostitute. Sometimes it was tough being a prostitute in them there Frontier times...

But, anyway, no, there's only one prostitute in BREAKHEART PASS and it's only for a minute at the start of the film and, even then, you don't see any sex or anything. Some well-done Frontier sex would have elevated this film from the level of a run-of-the-mill action film to something, well, a little more memorable.

There's plenty of punching and shooting in it though, much of it done by Charles Bronson as John Deakin, who morphs in the film from being 'not a man of violence' to being the kind of bloke who fights on top of trains as the train is chugging away through a snow-covered landscape high in the mountains.

It's so high, in fact, that if you look down and see how high up you actually are, you'd wee yourself for realsies. The mountain scenery is stunning to look at, but the railway lines seem awfully precarious, perched way up there on those wooden trestle-y things. How the hell did they ever take the weight of the trains, for one thing, those little matchstick thingies?

You wouldn't catch me up there anyway. 'Twould bring on my vertigo, so it would. It doesn't bother the macho John Deakin though, as he grapples for his life atop the snow-covered roof of the moving train. Now if only he were as proactive with the lovely, albeit slightly dim, Marica, he'd surely have come up with a much nicer- and altogether warmer- way to pass the journey...



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


You can contact Sandra at:



No comments:

Post a comment