THE UNDEFEATED. 20th Century Fox, 1969. John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Antonio “Tony” Aguilar, Roman Gabriel, Marian McCargo, Lee Meriwether, Merlin Olsen, Melissa Newman, Bruce Cabot, Jan-Michael Vincent, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Paul Fix, Royal Dano. Director: Andrew V. McLaglen.

   Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, The Undefeated features two of Hollywood’s leading men, some breathtaking outdoor vistas, and a John Ford sensibility. All that, however, cannot compensate for a lackluster script. The movie takes far too long in getting to the heart of the post-Civil War story, one about national reconciliation as experienced through the intersecting journeys of two men and those recently under their commands.

   John Wayne, looking both sturdy and timeworn, portrays Colonel John Henry Thomas, a recently decommissioned Union officer who decides to try his luck in horse-trading in Emperor Maximilian’s Mexico. Rock Hudson portrays Thomas’s would-be nemesis, former Confederate Colonel James Langdon who, upon learning that the South has lost the war, heads to Mexico with his men and their families rather than live under humiliating Yankee rule.

   When the two men finally end up meeting in Mexico, it doesn’t take long for the movie veer into national reconciliation sentimentalism, as the two former enemies on the battlefield end up joining forces to defeat Mexican bandits. All well and good, except for the fact that the movie’s most glaring flaw is in the absolute mismatch of the two leads. For his part, Wayne actually looks like he belongs in the movie and is a good fit for his character. Hudson, on the other hand, looks like he’s phoning it in and is altogether unconvincing as a Yankee-hating Confederate colonel.

   Although beautifully filmed without any glaring technical flaws, this rather forgettable Western could have been a lot memorable than it ends up being. The film’s romantic subplots and its occasional attempts at lighthearted humor really don’t work very well, either. For a John Wayne film, The Undefeated is surprisingly uninspiring.