It Left me Defeated and Deflated
Half an hour into "The Undefeated" and the set up is done, the pieces are all in place and like with many movies you expect it to then kick into gear. But half an hour later and it's still not got out of neutral and it's only during the last 30 minutes does "The Undefeated" actually get any momentum and go anywhere. And the reason, well it's not the storyline as this tale of a group of Confederates and another group of Ex Union soldiers finding themselves both heading to Mexico has potential for some interesting scenes between the former enemies. Nope the reason is that it's directed in a very paint it by numbers way and rather than trying to make something from the various story elements director Andrew V. McLaglen almost ploughs through them with an efficient but less than spectacular manner. And to add to the issues you have John Wayne and several of his regular movie buddies alongside Rock Hudson doing the minimum needed to get through things. And so what "The Undefeated" is, is a functional but forgettable western
With the civil war over ex-Union Colonel John Henry Thomas (John Wayne - True Grit) and the men who have followed him for years enter the horse business looking to round up wild horses to sell to the army. But when the army try to swindle them out of money they sell the horses to a couple of Mexicans and agree to take them south of the border for them. At the same time former Confederate Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson - Ice Station Zebra) is leading a group of former confederate soldiers to a new life in Mexico. But with rebels, bandits and all manner of trouble on the route to Mexico these former enemies are forced to put their differences behind them and work together.
"The Undefeated" actually starts quite brilliantly as we enter things as Col. John Henry Thomas leads his men into battle against the Rebels not knowing that war has been declared over. There is a surprising brutality to the action and you begin to think that maybe with the movie times of the 60s that "The Undefeated" is going to be some sort of violent play on an old western. Sadly those opening scenes betray what is to follow because it all ends up rather flat and predictable.
And to be honest it is a shame as the idea of "The Undefeated" where we have the war over and Thomas leading his men on a new career as horse men whilst Col. James Langdon leads his Confederate friends to Mexico has potential. It is obvious that these two groups will meet and old issues will still rear their ugly heads but it has potential. And in the same breadth you know that they will also end up being forced to work together to beat bandits and anyone else who causes them issues which brings some more potential with it. But that potential is ignored in favour of keeping things very simple and so rather than being a story driven by some creative scenes we get one standard scene and idea after another.
It's all a shame and whilst watching some old fashioned action where Thomas and Langdon lead men into battle with some rebels is entertaining it's no different to anything we've seen before. The same can be said of the totally expected mass fist fight which comes when Langdon invites Thomas and his men to a 4th July celebration. It's the sort of comedic mass brawl which would crop up in countless John Wayne movies and whilst it is fun it is also repetitive. And in away that is one of my major criticisms of "The Undefeated" because the middle section as it goes back and fourth between Thomas and Langdon is simply repetitive. Even the back story romances, and there are a couple of them, fail to add anything to make it any different.
As for the performances well other the John Wayne looking heavy and tired this is The Duke on autopilot, delivering the same sort of performance that he did in countless other movies. To be honest when you learn that Wayne had not only fractured some ribs in an accident but also torn a ligament in a shoulder you can understand why it's such an ordinary performance but you get a feeling that having just made "True Grit" where he had to pile on the weight, he found "The Undefeated" a disappointing follow up. And to be honest Wayne is probably the best thing about the movie because quite frankly Rock Hudson is miscast as Col. James Langdon, lacking the grandiose to be believable as a leader of men. It also doesn't help that the outfit and moustache make him look like a joke but Hudson just doesn't have enough presence to match up to Wayne who dominates the scenes they share.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Undefeated" has potential to be an interesting western but ends up very ordinary. Everything about it from McLaglen direction through to the performances of John Wayne and Rock Hudson. And whilst it starts with a sense of brutality what follows lacks that energy and violence.