Lee Remick and Burt Lancaster in The Hallelujah Trail (1965)

A Western Whisky Galore

Winter is coming and the miners in Denver are in a panic as whisky is running short and none of the deliveries have arrived. After consulting 'Oracle' Jones (Donald Pleasence) the men combine all their whisky orders to arrive by one big wagon train led in by Frank Wallingham (Brian Keith). But bringing that much fire water across country is not without its issues when not only bandits learn of this but also every Native American Indian. But it also brings trouble in the form of Cora Templeton Massingale (Lee Remick) who assembles her women and plan to march on Denver and the wagon train to prevent the whisky getting to its destination. For Col. Thaddeus Gearhart (Burt Lancaster) that means he and his men have to accompany them even though he disagrees with the women and especially Miss Templeton.

If "Blazing Saddles" is the daddy of a comedy westerns then "The Hallelujah Trail" is likes it amusing little cousin which like many little cousins doesn't know when to stop. And to be blunt it is friggin' frustration as on paper "The Hallelujah Trail" should have been a rip roaring success with various conflicting groups coming together over a massive whisky convoy but director John Sturges never knows when enough is enough which is why for almost the entire first hour what we get is mainly the bickering of Col. Gearhart and Cora Templeton as they disagree and walk in on each other when they are bathing. It isn't that it isn't funny either but Sturges over does it and by the time the story moves on to the wagon train you have had enough.

Donald Pleasence in The Hallelujah Trail (1965)

Fortunately "The Hallelujah Trail" is full of John Sturges' western style so it is full of impressive landscapes and a lot of entertaining characters. That in truth is where "The Hallelujah Trail" is strongest as he brought together an entertaining cast with western regulars such as Burt Lancaster alongside some unlikely western actors such as Donald Pleasence. It is the amusing nature of all the characters which brings a smile to your face more than for what happens which is down to what happens being dragged out much longer than it needed to be.

What this all boils down to is that "The Hallelujah Trail" is a fine example of a movie messed up by a director who didn't believe less could have been more. And it is a shame as if you edited "The Hallelujah Trail" down and cut out all the repetitive and drawn out scenes it would have ended up a memorable western for the right reasons rather than for being over long.