The Undefeated at the IMDb
John Wayne and Rock Hudson star as two Civil War officers trying to adjust to peace. The film opens with Wayne leading a cavalry charge against a Confederate position. He wins the day with plenty of rebels killed by sword and gun. As they are clearing up a messenger arrives to tell Wayne that General Lee surrendered three days before. The Duke surveys the carnage and sees what a waste of life has just occurred. Damned internet - hurry up and be invented!
Wayne meets more Southerners who advise them they intend to fight on as they see the Union soldiers as trespassers. Wayne is thoroughly cheesed off and decides to resign his post and go and round up stray horses along with the remnants of his battalion.
Meanwhile Southern Officer Rock Hudson is counting the cost of defeat. His backing of the south has left him broke and he has to set free all his slaves. At least he gives one his watch to show he’s a stand up dude. Rather than surrender his house to carpet baggers he torches it and heads south to a new life in Mexico - and he’s taking the same route as John Wayne!
Wayne and his men are now out of uniform and have rounded up 3000 wild horses. He planned to sell them to the army but when he gets stiffed on the deal he agrees to sell them to the Mexicans instead. Wayne has an adopted Indian tracker son and he advises that he can see two sets of tracks ahead - one is Hudson’s group of men, women and children and the other some stinkin’ banditos. Wayne rides ahead to tell Hudson of the menace that is stalking them and, despite their differences, they join together to see off the threat.
After some mild peril the two groups get together and soon learn that they are not so different after all. Can this mixed group of lost souls bond and show America how to heal its wounds?
This was a decent western but it didn’t have nearly as much to say about the aftermath of the Civil War as I’d have thought. Given the set up I thought Wayne and Hudson would be at loggerheads from the off but after ten seconds of sizing each other up they were swigging bourbon like old pals. Of course the mutual respect for a fellow soldier is fair enough but without any conflict what was the point? There were minor scuffles down the cast list as old scores were settled but no one, apart from the Mexicans, were brutal or untrustworthy.
Wayne put in his standard ten gallon hat performance and you can’t criticise him for that. He did have some decent lines and I liked him bopping the corrupt army buyer on the nose “I ain’t done nothin’” / “Well ya should have done”. Hudson was less of a presence and generally just stood back and let Wayne do the heavy lifting. There were a few laughs sprinkled about with a fun ‘getting to know you’ punch up serving to clear the air and allow Wayne to do his rolled eyes when punched manoeuvre.
The locations were impressive as was the massive herd of horses which would have been a tough ask given the film pre-dates CGI. There were some decent gun fights but it was all PG blood free stuff. The healing and distrust was a bit overdone but every challenge was answered with virtue and goodwill and no doubt the film played as well in the south as in the north.
Personally I like my westerns a bit grittier than this and with more a story to tell, but it was undemanding and visually impressive stuff.
THE Tag Line - Undefeated - Unless you watch ‘The Rounders’, ‘The Professionals’ ‘The Kentuckian’ and ‘The Bravados’.