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The Hallelujah Trail is a 1965 Western spoof directed by John Sturges and starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, Brian Keith, Donald Pleasence, and Martin Landau, amongst others.

Plot synopsis

The film is presented in a pseudo-documentary style, with a serious, tongue-in-cheek narrator (John Dehner) providing historical background and context, and periodically interrupting the story to point out animated charts illustrating strategic positions of various groups.

"Buffalo were feeding ravenously. Beaver were damming and storing with strange vigor. Horses and dogs were becoming shaggy-haired as never before. And it could be sensed in the booming, bustling mining town of Denver. Most historians agree that the events leading to the Battle of Whiskey Hills and the subsequent disaster at Quicksand Bottoms began here in Denver at a miners' meeting..."

In the year 1867, signs that the approaching winter will be a hard one produce agitation in the burgeoning mining town of Denvermarker, Coloradomarker, as the hard-drinking citizenry fear a shortage of whiskey. Taking advice from Oracle Jones (Donald Pleasence), a local guide and seer (but only when under the influence of alcohol), the populace arrange for a mass shipment, forty wagons full of whiskey, from the Wallingham Freighting Company. The wagon train heads out, under the direction of company owner Frank Wallingham (Brian Keith), regarded as a "a taxpayer and a good Republican."

This cargo then becomes the target for several diverse groups, each with their own leaders and plans. Young Capt. Paul Slater (Jim Hutton) of the United States Cavalry is assigned by Fort Russell commander Col. Thaddeus Gearhart (Burt Lancaster) to escort the Wallingham Wagon Train, and merely wishes to carry out his orders. A group of Irish teamsters, hired as wagon drivers, wishes to strike unless whiskey rations are distributed. Crusading temperance leader Cora Templeton Massingale (Lee Remick) and her followers, informed of the alcoholic cargo, wish to intercept the train and destroy its contents; the group is escorted by a second cavalry division under the command of a reluctant Col. Gearhart. Gearhart's daughter (Pamela Tiffin) is engaged to Slater and entranced by Mrs. Massingale's message. Despite their extremely different personalities and inability to see eye to eye, the weatherbeaten Gearhart and beautiful Cora Massingale fall in love with each other (beneath her composure and grace, even her occasional ribbing against him, Cora is infatuated with Gearhart from the moment he rides into the fort and spends much of the film trying subtly to win his affection). Other interested parties include Sioux Indians, led by "real boozer" Chief Five Barrels (Robert J. Wilke) and Walks-Stooped-Over (Martin Landau), and a Denver citizens militia, led by Clayton Howell (Dub Taylor) and guided by Oracle, concerned about obtaining their precious supply of drinkables. Inevitably, the various groups converge, and the ensuing property struggle is played out through a series of comic set pieces and several diplomatic overtures by an increasingly weary Gearhart.

The film was one of several large-scale, long-form "epic" comedies produced in the 1960s, much like The Great Race or It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, combined with the epic grandeur of the Western genre. The movie is technically outstanding, having been filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 and presented in 70 mm Cinerama in premiere engagements.

Cast

Burt Lancaster ... Col. Thaddeus Gearhart

Lee Remick   ... Cora Templeton Massingale
Jim Hutton ... Capt. Paul Slater
Pamela Tiffin ... Louise Gearhart
Donald Pleasence ... 'Oracle' Jones
Brian Keith ... Frank Wallingham
Martin Landau ... Chief Walks-Stooped-Over
John Anderson ... Sgt. Buell
Tom Stern ... Kevin O'Flaherty
Robert J. Wilke ... Chief Five Barrels

Dub Taylor        ... Clayton Howell
Whit Bissell ... Hobbs
Helen Kleeb ... Henrietta
Val Avery ... Denver bartender
Noam Pitlik ... Interpreter


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