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"Buffalo were feeding ravenously. Beaver were damming and storing with strange vigor. Horses and dogs were becoming shaggy-haired as never before. And it could be sensed in the booming, bustling mining town of Denver. Most historians agree that the events leading to the Battle of Whiskey Hills and the subsequent disaster at Quicksand Bottoms began here in Denver at a miners' meeting..."
The year is 1867, and the mining town of Denver is facing a crisis: All the signs are pointing to the coming winter being long, and hard, and they are running out of whiskey! Hoping to resupply before the winter snows make it impossible, the town saloon owners pool their resources to bring in one last wagon train loaded with booze.
The wagon train immediately draws the attention of every Indian within hundreds of miles, and the Women's Temperance League. A cavalry troop is dispatched to protect the wagon train. Temperance leader Mrs. Cora Massingale inspires a band of women to set out to intercept the wagon train and destroy its cargo. A second troop of cavalry is dispatched to protect the women. The Denver Miners' Militia is formed to go out and meet up with the wagon train, and protect it from the Indians, and the women. A group of wagons, driven by members of the Irish Teamsters' Union, breaks away from the main train, until their labor demands can be met.
All these groups come together in the middle a blinding sandstorm, and Hilarity Ensues.
- A-Team Firing: Lampshaded by Col. Gearhart, after the Battle of Whiskey Hills, in which there were no fatalites, nor was anyone badly wounded:
Col. Gearhart: It's a miracle -- A miracle of the highest order that so many bullets could miss so many people in so small an area in such a short space of time.
- Catch Phrase: Wagon train owner Frank Wallingham (Brian Keith) is quick to point out to everyone he meets that he's "a taxpayer and a good Republican."
- The Chick: Louise Gearhart, daughter of Col. Gearhart, and love interest for Capt. Slater, and an admirer of Mrs. Massingale.
- Colonel Badass: Col. Thaddeus Gearhart (Burt Lancaster)
- The Determinator: Nothing is going to stop Cora Massingale (Lee Remick) from destroying that whiskey.
- Dry Crusader: Cora Massingale and her Women's Temperance League obviously.
- Either World Domination or Something About Bananas: The cavalry's sign language interpreter usually gets the gist of what's being said, but he makes a few critical errors.
- Epic Movie: 2 hours and 40 minutes long, with an intermission. Filmed in Ultra Panavision and presented in Cinerama.
- Exposition Diagram: The Narrator would use animated maps showing the movements of the various groups involved, until the situation got so confused that even the maps didn't help.
- Junkie Prophet: Oracle Jones (Donald Pleasence) gets visions of the future, but only after having a few drinks of whiskey.
- The Lancer: Capt. Paul Slater (Jim Hutton), Col. Gearhart's second in command.
- Narrator: Veteran western character actor John Dehner provides an ongoing commentary on the supposed historical context surrounding events, sometimes including maps and arrows to help the viewer keep track of just where everyone is.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Walks-Stooped-Over (Martin Landau) sub-chief of the Sioux Indians, and their main negotiator. After spending the whole movie communicating in badly translated sign language, and listening in as the cavalry officers discuss their plans in English, believing that he doesn't understand them, it is revealed that he speaks English perfectly well.
- Quicksand Sucks: Leads to the disaster at Quicksand Bottoms.
- Trail of Bread Crumbs: Oracle Jones stakes out a safe path through Quicksand Bottoms with torn up strips of his red long-johns. Then Cora Massingale and the ladies of Group C move his stakes.
- Weddings for Everyone: The final scene is a double wedding, between Capt. Slater and Louise Gearhart, and Col. Gearhart and Cora Massingale.
- Weird Trade Union: The Irish Teamsters', with their long list of labor demands.
- The Wild West