Breakheart Pass (1976)

PG | 95 mins | Mystery, Western | 10 March 1976

Director:

Tom Gries

Producer:

Jerry Gershwin

Cinematographer:

Lucien Ballard

Production Designer:

Johannes Larsen
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HISTORY

Actor Roy Jenson's name is spelled correctly in the opening credits, but is misspelled as Roy Jensen in the end credits.
       According to a 3 Feb 1975 Box news item, principal photography for Breakheart Pass was done in the northern part of Idaho, much of it on an antique train traveling on the Camas Prairie Railroad Line. The 19th century locomotive was co-owned by Everett Rohrer, Dr. James R. Arneill and Phil Frish of Denver, CO, and was used in several motion pictures, including Cat Ballou (1965, see entry) and The Professionals (1966, see entry). The locomotive was subjected to a detailed safety inspection prior to filming, which was scheduled to take place over several months on the railroad between Lewiston and Coeur d’Arlene, ID.
       On 11 Feb 1975, DV announced that shooting, which was planned for locations in Orofino, ID, had not yet commenced while a 24 Mar 1975 HR news item claimed that filming was underway. Shooting continued through early Apr 1975, as noted in a 7 Apr 1975 Box news item.
       In a 5 May 1975 Time brief, former heavyweight boxing champion Archie Moore explained that the fight scene between he and Bronson atop the moving train in a snowstorm was performed without the assistance of stunt doubles.
       According to AMPAS library production files, Breakheart Pass premiered in Los Angeles on 10 Mar 1976 at the Tower, Pantages and Wiltern theaters, among others. United Artists Corp. released a version of the title song, recorded by the piano duo of Ferrante and Teicher.
       Breakheart Pass was ... More Less

Actor Roy Jenson's name is spelled correctly in the opening credits, but is misspelled as Roy Jensen in the end credits.
       According to a 3 Feb 1975 Box news item, principal photography for Breakheart Pass was done in the northern part of Idaho, much of it on an antique train traveling on the Camas Prairie Railroad Line. The 19th century locomotive was co-owned by Everett Rohrer, Dr. James R. Arneill and Phil Frish of Denver, CO, and was used in several motion pictures, including Cat Ballou (1965, see entry) and The Professionals (1966, see entry). The locomotive was subjected to a detailed safety inspection prior to filming, which was scheduled to take place over several months on the railroad between Lewiston and Coeur d’Arlene, ID.
       On 11 Feb 1975, DV announced that shooting, which was planned for locations in Orofino, ID, had not yet commenced while a 24 Mar 1975 HR news item claimed that filming was underway. Shooting continued through early Apr 1975, as noted in a 7 Apr 1975 Box news item.
       In a 5 May 1975 Time brief, former heavyweight boxing champion Archie Moore explained that the fight scene between he and Bronson atop the moving train in a snowstorm was performed without the assistance of stunt doubles.
       According to AMPAS library production files, Breakheart Pass premiered in Los Angeles on 10 Mar 1976 at the Tower, Pantages and Wiltern theaters, among others. United Artists Corp. released a version of the title song, recorded by the piano duo of Ferrante and Teicher.
       Breakheart Pass was one of several films in which Bronson co-starred with second his wife, Jill Ireland. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Feb 1975.
---
Box Office
7 Apr 1975.
---
Box Office
15 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
11 Feb 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1976
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1976
p. 9.
New York Times
6 May 1976
p. 46.
Time
5 May 1975.
---
Variety
4 Feb 1976
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jerry Gershwin-Elliott Kastner Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod mgr
2d unit dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit asst cam
Cam op
Cam op
Background projection
Process photo
Process photo
Key gaffer
Gaffer best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Generator op
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Grip
Stillman
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst propmen
Asst propmen
Asst propmen
Const co-ord
Const foreman
COSTUMES
Key cost
Asst
Ladies cost
MUSIC
Mus ed supv
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom man
Sd eff supv
Sd eff ed
Asst eff ed
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des
Opticals
MAKEUP
Key make up
Key hair stylist
Hair stylist
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Craft service
First aid
Transportation supv
Asst transportation
Wrangler boss
Helicopter pilot
Scr supv
Casting dir
Prod services
Prod co-ord
Prod asst
Secy to prod
Secy to dir
Prod auditor
Loc auditor
Paymaster
UA representative
STAND INS
Stunt co-ord
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Breakheart Pass by Alistair MacLean (London, 1974).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Showdown at Breakheart Pass
Alistair MacLean's Breakheart Pass
Release Date:
10 March 1976
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 10 March 1976 Tower, Pantages and Wiltern theaters
New York opening: 5 May 1976
Production Date:
week of 24 March 1975--April 1975
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1975
Copyright Number:
LP45557
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by De Luxe®
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1870s Nevada, a U.S. army train arrives at a tiny hamlet called Myrtle on its way to Fort Humboldt. As the soldiers disembark, Nathan Pearce, deputy U.S. Marshal and Indian agent, visits with one of the town prostitutes. Major Claremont, senior officer on the train, is handed a message from the fort for Governor Richard Fairchild, who is on board with his mistress, Marica Scovile, daughter of the fort's commandant. However, instead of turning the message over to the governor, Claremont passes it to Capt. Oakland for decoding. Oakland, then in turn, recruits Lt. Newell to assist in the deciphering. While the train is being refueled, a man in a black coat enters the general store and joins a poker game in progress. Reverend Peabody, who has been traveling on the train as a guest of the governor, recognizes the man in black as "John Murray," an outlaw whose wanted poster is printed in the newspaper. Also in the store, Pearce asks Claremont for passage on the train to pick up Levi Calhoun, a dangerous criminal imprisoned at the fort, but the major refuses, as the train is exclusively for military business. Outside, when the train is fully refueled, it is discovered that Oakland and Newell have gone missing and a search team made up of soldiers is gathered to find them. Back in the store, the man in black is accused of cheating while playing poker. The man, who calls himself John Deakin, refuses to fight back when his accuser punches him in the mouth. Peabody hands "John Murray's" wanted poster to Pearce, who reads the charges: embezzlement and starting a fire that ignited a load of ... +


In 1870s Nevada, a U.S. army train arrives at a tiny hamlet called Myrtle on its way to Fort Humboldt. As the soldiers disembark, Nathan Pearce, deputy U.S. Marshal and Indian agent, visits with one of the town prostitutes. Major Claremont, senior officer on the train, is handed a message from the fort for Governor Richard Fairchild, who is on board with his mistress, Marica Scovile, daughter of the fort's commandant. However, instead of turning the message over to the governor, Claremont passes it to Capt. Oakland for decoding. Oakland, then in turn, recruits Lt. Newell to assist in the deciphering. While the train is being refueled, a man in a black coat enters the general store and joins a poker game in progress. Reverend Peabody, who has been traveling on the train as a guest of the governor, recognizes the man in black as "John Murray," an outlaw whose wanted poster is printed in the newspaper. Also in the store, Pearce asks Claremont for passage on the train to pick up Levi Calhoun, a dangerous criminal imprisoned at the fort, but the major refuses, as the train is exclusively for military business. Outside, when the train is fully refueled, it is discovered that Oakland and Newell have gone missing and a search team made up of soldiers is gathered to find them. Back in the store, the man in black is accused of cheating while playing poker. The man, who calls himself John Deakin, refuses to fight back when his accuser punches him in the mouth. Peabody hands "John Murray's" wanted poster to Pearce, who reads the charges: embezzlement and starting a fire that ignited a load of explosives belonging to the U.S. military. Pearce arrests Deakin and is allowed to take his prisoner on the train to the fort. Once the journey is resumed, Pearce asks Fairchild what the mission of the traveling soldiers is. Reluctantly, Fairchild explains that Fort Humboldt, which has been attacked by White Hand and his band of hostile Paiutes, is in the grips of a diphtheria epidemic. Many of the fort's troops have died, while the survivors need to be treated by Dr. Molyneux, another guest of the governor's riding on the train. Molyneux claims to be currently immune to the disease since he already had it once while in Mexico. Deakin, who sits on the floor with his wrists and ankles bound, overhears the entire exchange. Marica criticizes Pearce for leaving Deakin tied up like a wild animal, but the marshal assures her that Deakin will be untied in the morning, as they will be in snow country and escape would be suicide. That night, when Deakin is left unattended, he attempts to work his hands free. Elsewhere on the train, Richard sneaks into Marica's cabin. Although the two are romantically involved, Marica's demurely rebuffs the governor's advances. Deakin eventually frees his hands, but pretends to be still bound when Marica comes to visit him. She offers him a drink and holds the glass while he sips the alcohol. Then, Deakin convinces her to untie his ankles just to relieve the cramping. Now totally free, Deakin springs up and, after having a brief chat about her affair with the governor, surprisingly asks her to re-tie his hands, just not as tightly. The next morning, Claremont orders the train to be stopped so that a telegraph can be sent to the fort. However, it is Levi Calhoun who receives the message. After killing the Army telegrapher, one of Calhoun’s henchmen sends a reply that the epidemic is getting worse. Meanwhile, Ferguson, the troop train telegrapher, is unable to get a reply from Myrtle regarding the status of Newell and Oakland. Then, once the train moves again, Dr. Molyneux is found dead in his compartment. Deakin determines that the doctor was murdered. Later, while soldiers gather wood for the engine, Deakin snoops around the train's cargo area and finds a spare telegraph key, which he hides underneath the doctor’s corpse. As the train continues, Jackson, the fireman, falls from the engine and plunges to the bottom of a ravine. Deakin goes down and examines the body, which reeks of alcohol, and later finds a whiskey bottle hidden in the engine. The conductor, however, swears Jackson never drank, on or off the job. A young soldier named Rafferty replaces the fireman. Later, Claremont confronts Pearce about his apparent lack of concern about all the recent deaths, then accuses Deakin of possibly being the murderer. When the train slows down yet again, Marica screams as she sees the last three cars disconnect. The men inside the cars panic as they pick up steam rolling backwards, but Sergeant Bellew tries to maintain calm. After Bellew finds the brakeman dead with a knife in his back, the cars roll off the tracks and crash down a hillside, leaving all the soldiers dead. Claremont cannot send for replacements because the spare telegraph key is missing. Meanwhile, at the fort, Calhoun greets White Hand, both of whom are waiting for the train's arrival. That night, the train stops to allow Chris Banlon, the engineer, and Rafferty a few hours of sleep. Deakin is ordered to keep the engine stoked, using only one of the two woodpiles. He disobeys and discovers the bodies of Newell and Oakland in the second woodpile. Deakin then sneaks off to retrieve the hidden telegraph key, which he uses to falsely notify Calhoun that the plan to wreck the rear cars failed. Calhoun responds by asking when the train will arrive at Breakheart Pass, where White Hand plans to attack. The following day, Rev. Peabody disappears and, while it is believed that he could have fallen off the train, Fairchild refuses to stop to look for him. When Deakin searches the supply car, he finds dynamite in the medicine cases, rifles in the coffins, and Peabody’s corpse. However, he is seen by Carlos, the cook, who chases him to the snow-covered train roof. In their fight, Carlos falls over a bridge as Deakin hangs onto the side of the train car. Inside, Henry, the waiter, informs O’Brien, the conductor, that the rifles and dynamite have been discovered. Meanwhile, Deakin goes to Marica’s compartment and explains that he’s a Secret Service agent. Henry and O’Brien search the train for Deakin and arrive at Marica’s compartment. She hides Deakin and denies any contact with him. At Deakin’s request, Marica brings Claremont back to her compartment where Deakin explains to the major that the train is carrying stolen guns and dynamite. Later, showing Claremont the firearms, Deakin theorizes that Molyneux was killed before he could discover the dynamite. Deakin also says that Peabody wasn't a priest and was actually his partner in the Secret Service for the past five years. Claremont gives his pistol to Deakin, who goes up front to the engine and forces Banlon to give him his gun. Claremont and Rafferty show up and dig out Newell and Oakland from the woodpile. Deakin further theorizes that the two were murdered for uncovering the secret plot back in Myrtle, while Jackson was killed for finding their bodies. Banlon manages to steal Rafferty’s gun and throw him over the side. However, Deakin quickly shoots Banlon dead, leaving Deakin and Claremont to operate the engine. Deakin has determined that Calhoun, Fairchild, Pearce, and the train crew are all in on the conspiracy to steal a stockpile of gold and silver at Ft. Humboldt; the rifles are payment for White Hand’s cooperation. As the train nears Breakheart Pass, the waiting Paiutes attack, but are surprised that there are no troops onboard. Deakin and Claremont leave the train, steal a pair of Paiute horses, and wreak havoc on the train and the Indians with some dynamite. Fairchild kills Calhoun in Marica’s defense. The cavalry, led by Col. Scoville, arrives, driving off the surviving Paiutes, while Claremont kills Fairchild in a swordfight and Deakin shoots Pearce dead. When the coast is clear, Deakin retrieves Marica from her cabin and reunites her with her father. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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