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Plot: During the last winter of the Civil War, cavalry officer Amos Dundee leads a contentious troop of Army regulars, Confederate prisoners and scouts on an expedition into Mexico to destroy a band of Apaches who have been raiding U.S. bases in Texas. Runtime: 123 mins Release Date: 15 Mar 1965
Despite the width and breadth of the genre, the western more often than not adheres stubbornly to convention s . There are exceptions, of course: movies like THE WILD BUNCH, CHARLEY ONE-EYE, TELL THEM WILLY BOY IS HERE, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, BAD COMPANY, THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ, THE GRAY FOX, WILD BILL, and UNFORGIVEN, to name but a few, push the envelope in one way or another. Story-rich, and boasting one of Charlton Heston's most interesting performances it ranks right up there alongside his turn as the saddle-weary WILL PENNY , MAJOR DUNDEE belongs among the <more>
genre's finest. Even the "bit" players pun intended are made interesting. Peckinpah, as usual, paints his own particular picture and MAJOR DUNDEE is one of his very best.
Though at times this displays director Sam Peckinpah's penchant for self-indulgence, most of the film is spot-on, with a muscular script, great Mexican locations, and an excellent, macho performance by Charleton Heston, in a role he was seemingly born to play. Likewise, Richard Harris is magnetic in his first western as his imprisoned Confederate counterpart, while James Coburn, along with the Peckinpah stock company, are a whole lot of fun to watch too.The only real flaw, in my opinion, is the subplot involving Dundee's seemingly forced romance with European widow Senta Berger and <more>
his recuperation from an enemy's arrow. I really couldn't imagine Heston's character having much time for courting the opposite sex. Berger does look nice though.Underrated.
A forgotten masterpiece, with some defects (by pzanardo)
"Major Dundee" is a forgotten, much underrated masterpiece, though admittedly affected by many defects. Indeed, here the director Peckinpah is almost as much innovative as in his undisputed best work "The Wild Bunch". The realism of many scenes, like that of the camp-hospital, with the badly-wounded bleeding soldiers lying on the ground, was stark new at the time the film was made. The action scenes are fantastic. In particular, look at the furious violence of the final brief battle on the river, note that a pool of blood spreads out on the water where the horses are <more>
hit: never seen such stuff before!The story is exciting. The photography is wonderful: the beauty of the Mexican locations is definitely stunning. The work of the whole cast is very good.The clash between Major Dundee Charlton Heston and the Confederate war-prisoner Captain Tyreen Richard Harris is somewhat conventional, but the character of Dundee can be placed among the best depicted and most interesting in the history of western movies. This frustrated soldier, a typical born-to-fight fellow, has finally his chance to make war, pursuing the cruel Apache Sierra Charriba. And he fights, kills, makes war against everybody and everything the Apaches, the French army in Mexico, his own soldiers if necessary . Then, suddenly, something goes to pieces inside him. He feels a mortal tiredness; he sinks into drunkenness, dirt, brutish dejection. Then the Apaches reappear, and Dundee finds the strength to exit from his self-built nightmare... and he restarts to fight, fight, fight... This fellow has really no other choice: either to be an assassin, or to be a brute. Strikingly original character!It's true the movie have several faults. It is too long and often slow-paced. The martinet officer played by Jim Hutton is out of place: this comic character could be appropriate in a John Ford's movie, but he grates much with Peckinpah's tragic vision. The scout played by James Coburn and some other minor characters are uninteresting. And, of course, Senta Berger is completely pointless: but she's so lovely that we can easily forgive her presence. I learn from other comments that "Major Dundee" was badly butchered by the producers. I saw it twice at the theaters, and some other times on the TV. I can say that the television version is very bad with respect to what I saw on the wide screen. Many interesting details and subtleties have been cut. And by no means we can forgive that two magnificent scenes are ruined: the ambush on the creek and the carnage at the Apache camp in the wide-screen version happen over-night! But in the TV version it seems that it's full light! This leaves a feeling of annoying nonsense on the viewer are the Apaches sleeping during day? . Too bad!Luckily enough, for all his misfortunes and troubles "Major Dundee" is a great, magnificent, innovative movie.
A missing Gem from Pechenpah's crown (by standtohorse)
Why isn't there a "director's cut" of this movie in DVD format? It's editing caused Sam to disown the finished cut. During production Charleton Heston charged Sam on horseback with saber drawn, quick boomwork averted disaster. He also offered to forgo his salary to get it released. What an inigma. My appreciation is for the accurate depiction of historical details. Horse Cavalry at it's best even to bugle calls. Pre-revisionist accurate depiction of Apache depredations. Maximillian's French vs. Jauristas is also depicted without apology. The whole pathos of <more>
Confederate P.O.W.s who galvanized Yankee to serve on the frontier. Good drama with lots of action to keep the story rolling. "Bring it on..." history "in your face". Please, please, please give us a Directors cut DVD. Hollywood are you listening to middle America? JAmes Coburn's cameo as one armed scout is worth the watch alone.
It's hard to imagine how much better "Moby Dick on Horseback" could have been without studio interference. Sadly, we'll probably never know, since so much footage is lost or undiscovered. This is still a fine movie, with action, humor, suspense and even a little history of the French incursion into Mexico during our civil war.Charlton Heston is the star, and title role, but Richard Harris steals the show as the flamboyant Captain Tyreen. Sam Peckinpah's stock company of Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, R. G. Armstrong and L. Q. Jones are great, along with Western vets James <more>
Coburn, Slim Pickens and Dub Taylor. The under-rated Brock Peters is also featured. Jim Hutton is excellent as the semi-comic relief, Lt Graham, and Swiss actor Mario Adorf is very good as the steady Sgt Gomez.Major Dundee himself is a paradox, a stern taskmaster who seems lost at several points in the story, especially the early racially charged campfire incident. He takes no action in a situation that could doom the entire mission, and is fortunate that the preacher and captain bail him out.It seems that the money or patience ran out and the film ends in a frenzy of fighting with the Apaches and then the French.I recommend this movie to any Civil War or Western fans, you won't be disappointed. If we ever see a truly restored version, it should be even better.
A textbook example of how a penny-pinching producer can ruin a potentially great movie by basically sandbagging its admittedly truculent director, MAJOR DUNDEE nevertheless works as an answer of thoughts to the glorious Cavalry westerns of John Ford. Sam Peckinpah, on his third film overall and first one with a large-scale budget, was somehow able to pull a good film out of his controversial hat, thanks in no small part to his cast.Heston plays an ambitious, ego-driven warden of a prison outpost in New Mexico in the closing months of the Civil War. When a rampaging band of Apache slaughter <more>
a family at a nearby ranch and then take apart a regiment he sends out to destroy them, Heston sees his way to get out of his routine job and get promoted. But to do this, he must form a garrison of troopers comprised of civilians, blacks, and Confederate prisoners. One of the latter is Ben Tyreen Richard Harris , who had once been his friend but is now his worst enemy. Furthermore, his pursuit of the Apache, once it starts, will take the troopers across the Rio Grande into French-occupied northern Mexico. Now, they'll not only have to worry about hunting down the Apache and keeping the peace amongst themselves, they also have to worry about French lancers.Despite the film being butchered so maliciously to the point where many critics rightly complained about its incoherence, plus a marital music score that Peckinpah detested royally he could have used Jerry Goldsmith here , MAJOR DUNDEE succeeds by pulling out as many stops as it can. It benefits from being shot almost exclusively on location in Mexico under truly ghastly conditions, which would have happened even without studio interference . The photography by Sam Leavitt is also quite good though, in another case where the producer overrode the director, Peckinpah couldn't use his favorite cameraman Lucien Ballard on the shoot . And there are those moments of violence and bloodshed that predate, though in a more 'PG-13' fashion, Peckinpah's next film, the far more violent 1969 epic THE WILD BUNCH.Heston is as good as ever in the title role. But surprisingly, he is nearly matched on screen by Harris, who plays his role as an Irish supporter of the Confederacy with great dash and insight. James Coburn also does good journeyman work as the one-armed scout Sam Potts. Peckinpah rounds out the cast with his Usual Suspects: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones, John Davis Chandler, Slim Pickens, and Dub Taylor.In spite of all its flaws, MAJOR DUNDEE is still quite viewable, which is why I rank it an 8 out of 10.NOTE: In 2005, for its 40th anniversary re-release, Sony Pictures released an extended version of MAJOR DUNDEE on DVD, with twelve minutes of footage once thought irretrievably lost placed back in; and they've replaced the original marital music score in favor of one by Christopher Caliendo. It is closer to what Peckinpah had in mind, but with thirty minutes of additional footage irretrievably lost, there's no telling whatsoever how much better this film might have been had Peckinpah not been sandbagged. Nevertheless, it still stands as a slightly flawed but never dull Civil War western.
After the breakthrough success of Ride the High Country 1962 , Sam Peckinpah would embark on a journey to Mexico to film a story about an obsessed major on the tracks of some renegade Apaches. Sam Peckinpah was on his way to making a classic until the interference of producer, Jerry Bresler prevented this from happening. The film begins with a prologue describing the massacre that leads to Dundee's quest for revenge. The film focuses on the hostile relationship between Amos Dundee Charlton Heston and Ben Tyreen Richard Harris . Once friends, but now enemies due to the Civil War are <more>
reluctant to join forces and go after the Apaches. Major Dundee 1965 has to rank with Greed 1925 , Que Viva Mexico 1931 , Metropolis 1927 , and The Magnificent Ambersons 1942 as some of the most maligned films in motion picture history. Major Dundee 1965 is a good movie that might have been great. This is an example of producers putting their dirty greedy palms where they don't belong.
"Major Dundee" is Sam Peckinpah's rehearsal for "The Wild Bunch." The stories for both films are basically the same men whose time has come and gone and they know it, and who don't fit in either society they are forced to be in, and they know that, too . "Dundee" has a good story, excellent action scenes and a sterling supporting cast of first-rate character actors R.G. Armstrong, John Davis Chandler, Warren Oates, among others , but as previously noted, the film tends to fall apart during the second half. Senta Berger, although ravishing to look at, is <more>
totally wasted in a superfluous part, and the entire second half of the film has a choppy, disjointed feel to it. The main problem with it, apparently, was some major interference by Columbia Pictures and especially producer Jerry Bresler. Peckinpah's vision of the story and Bresler's were reportedly miles apart, and after the picture was shot and edited, Bresler and Peckinpah had a major blow-up, the producer had Peckinpah barred from the Columbia lot and hired his own editor to help him recut the picture. When star Charlton Heston saw the version that Bresler and his editor came up with, he went to the executives at Columbia and told them that he would have his name taken off the picture and never work for Columbia again if Peckinpah was not allowed back on the lot to cut the picture the way he wanted. Eventually a compromise was reached and Peckinpah was allowed to work on the editing, but the film still wasn't the way he wanted it, and he basically disowned it. It's too bad, as it's still a very good picture, but it could have been a great one.