Release Date(s)1976 (August 12, 2014)
Studio(s)Kino Lorber Studio Classics
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D
Breakheart Pass is a great action western whodunit from 1976 starring Charles Bronson that was directed by Tom Gries, who also directed Bronson in Breakout the year before. The movie takes place on a train that is carrying a group of men and soldiers and transporting medical supplies to a diphtheria-invested military outpost during the early twentieth century. When the passengers suddenly start getting bumped off one by one, it’s up to John Deakon (Bronson) to figure out what’s really going on with this group of people.
The movie was based on a novel and a screenplay by Alistair MacLean, whose work had previously been adapted into other films including The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare, but it was unusual in that it was MacLean’s attempt at a mystery plot with some action thrown in for good measure. The movie itself probably doesn’t have as strong a tone as its makers intended it to have, but it’s still a fun movie with some interesting twists and turns, albeit slightly predictable. The real draw to the movie, of course, is Charles Bronson and seeing his character carry out the business of thwarting the bad guys by any means necessary. There’s also some very impressive stunt work and set pieces, including Bronson fighting with one of the bad guys on the roof of an actual moving train.
Breakheart Pass also features a number of familiar faces and names including Richard Crenna, Jill Ireland, Charles Durning, Ben Johnson, David Huddleston, and Bill McKinney. There’s also a very nice score from Jerry Goldsmith, and while I wouldn’t consider it to be one of his most memorable scores, it certainly provides the film with plenty of class. It’s especially memorable during the opening and closing titles, which helps to set the era and give the film a lot of its character. The film isn’t a straight-ahead western, mystery thriller, or even action movie. Even Charles Bronson isn’t his typical hard-nosed self. Instead it feels like a much lighter affair overall, even though at times the material would suggest otherwise. Actually, watching the film over again and knowing all the twists and turns makes the choices followed upon to make the material a little more lighter seem reasonable once you find out what’s really going on. I’d consider the film to be a strong B movie, but with a little more class than usual. It’s also another great actioner with Charles Bronson, if nothing else.
Kino Lorber’s presentation of Breakheart Pass sports a very solid transfer, one that doesn’t appear to have been given a major overhaul. Film grain is definitely present and seems very natural; image detail is quite plentiful; the color palette isn’t very vibrant, but as is, it’s represented well enough; black levels are nice and solid; and both contrast and brightness are at acceptable levels. There are some occasional film artifacts to be seen and some light flicker from time to time, but nothing that’s enormously distracting to the overall presentation. But it’s a very good-looking print of the movie that holds up well in high definition. The soundtrack, which is a single English 2.0 DTS-HD track, is very good without being overly great. It’s basically mono in nature, but it does deliver clean, precise dialogue and a healthy score. Sound effects and atmosphere play a nice role, as well. The soundtrack definitely sounds like it came out of 1976, but overall, it does the film justice. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
Unfortunately, the only extra on the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer. Still, I’d call this a successful Blu-ray release if you’re looking for a nice transfer of Breakheart Pass. But if you’re looking for a good set of extras to accompany the film, you’ll be disappointed. Just having it in high definition at all is reason enough to pick it up, at least for me. That and it’s actually quite a good movie, so check it out.
- Tim Salmons