on 26 April 2012
This 'restored' version of Major Dundee is a sensitive creation of what this film should perhaps originally have been. Though it doesn't amount to much more than a less grating theme tune, which is maybe no small thing if your not a fan of the 'Fall in behind the Major ...' song in the earlier version. The film has problems with the plot, maybe some of the acting, but it is dramatic and exciting, and possibly more interesting for its difficulties. Yet it is a great film, certainly with a great cast, and well worth a look.
on 11 January 2016
Finally we get something close to what Sam Pekinpah intended. The restored footage makes Dundee a much more complicated and therefore interesting character than in the sanitised version of the movie originally put out by brain-dead studio bosses. Recommended.
Originally intended as a searing epic by director Sam Peckinpah, Major Dundee was taken away from his guiding hands post production and edited into an almost incoherent mess. Here in the new millennium we are able to see a restoration of the film with added scenes that gives the film are more cohesive structure, and yes it improves the film ten fold because the characters have flesh on their bones, yet still we are only really glimpsing three parts of Peckinpah's vision since there is another 30 minutes of film seemingly lost forever, and that is a crying shame because this film could have been a western masterpiece had it been allowed to flourish.
There is still a lot to enjoy here tho, Major Dundee leads a rag tag army of Union soldiers, Confederate rebels, convicts, loonies, and a one armed James Coburn into Mexico to hunt down an Apache army who are responsible for deadly attacks on U.S. bases in Texas. It's not so much The Dirty Dozen, but more like the dirty army! And in the main here it's the fractious nature of this assembled army that gives the film its vigour and selling point. Almost certainly the film is one of the forerunners of Vietnam allegories, and like it or not it's the thematic undercurrent of soldiers under prepared that keeps the film above average.
The cast are fine, it's like a roll call for the macho assembly, Charlton Heston is Dundee, a big square jawed brash man who tries to keep this army in line whilst dealing with his own nagging ego. Richard Harris owns the film as Tyreen, his on going personal war with Dundee gives the film added impetus. James Coburn plays a very interesting character, but it's a character that demands more time on screen than we actually get (perhaps the victim of the cretinous cuts?), and it leaves a hankering feeling that never quite leaves you.
It's a fine journey, it's a fine character piece, and everyone also note that the wide screen shoot is gorgeous, but at the end of the day Major Dundee is only hinting at the genius that would deliver The Wild Bunch four years down the line, but it could have been so much different...
Forgive them for they know not what they do. 7/10
on 3 July 2008
An epic classic that could have been starring the cream of Hollywood. Major Dundee was hampered by studio tampering and conflicts that arose between Peckinpah and his movie producers. The final product looks like the bits and pieces of what might have been a fascinating film.
When the film went over schedule and budget, the Columbia executives took the film away from Peckinpah and handed it over to a team of their own editors. They evidently cut a good portion of the film in order to give a shorter running time (which would allow for more screenings per day). In order to cover some of the gaping holes in the plotline, the character of the company bugler became the narrator of the story in an attempt to tie up many of the loose ends.
The biggest fault in the film is that the character of Dundee is never well defined. It's difficult to grasp the motive for his obsessive pursuit of Charriba. It also looks as if the studio took a film which was intended as a character study and tried to reshape it into a straightforward action film.
Peckinpah was blackballed in Hollywood following his personal clashes with the producers of the film. It is very apparent, though, that he used many of the elements from this film and carried them over into his triumphant return in The Wild Bunch.
on 17 July 2013
Very sentimental purchase for me,Major Dundee is a totally underrated/undervalued western classic.
This blu-ray is expensive,but well worth it,the picture quality is A HUGE JUMP from the dvd,it,s a joy to watch,two discs,theatrical cut on one,extended cut on the other,both blu-ray,and if anybody,s wondering,aye,it is EXTENDED.
Major Dundee blu-ray is a MUST-BUY for any western fan,and it,s region free!!!!!
A calvary officer fights Apaches while keeping Confederate prisoners in line.A Union major late in the Civil War takes it upon himself to punish a band of Apaches who murdered a ranch family and fled into Mexico. Being short of troops he uses Confederate prisoners, ex-slaves and criminals to accomplish his goal.An offbeat Western adventure film about a Union officer in charge of a jail in the Southwest. Renegade Apaches attack an Army outpost killing everyone and the officer leads an expedition against them. The prisoners become part of the Union troops.
on 11 September 2009
The studio travesty has been reversed as far as is possible to reflect Sam Peckinpah's vision. The film is still flawed but this version with extended added scenes and a new soundtrack seems refreshingly new, after all these years. The only version to buy.
on 28 April 2016
The first several viewings I had of this film were of the 122-minute version which director Sam Peckinpah loudly disowned. My reaction to it was broadly the same every time - it was, ultimately, a failure, but one which came achingly close, within a hairsbreadth, of being a masterpiece. Some of its defects could easily be attributed to the well-publicised studio interference - Charlton Heston's decline from rock-hard military man to pathetic, self-pitying drunk seemed to happen in no time, and it was quite clear that important scenes were missing (as they were from the front of the movie, too). Always, the film ended with me left frustrated, hugely admiring several aspects but unable to accept the totality of it. Yet I kept on returning to it (I still do) and the announcement that this DVD would restore twelve minutes was exciting - even though Peckinpah hinted throughout the remainder of his life that his ideal version would have been maybe twenty minutes longer still. The extra footage shows Heston's decline in detail, these are very important scenes which are well acted, and there is much else which illuminates and improves the film as a whole - and yet it still, agonisingly, doesn't quite cut it as one of the great westerns. It was well-known that Peckinpah always had the greatest difficulty in coming to a final decision about the editing of his films and some have suggested that he was never quite sure what he wanted the film to be. But, the more you watch it, the more unendingly fascinating it becomes, and, after about ten viewings by now, I tend to think that the film, warts and all, is nearer to masterpiece than failure. One has to say that the high standard of the acting is let down by the relentlessly narcissistic Richard Harris, for all that he was a lot more annoying in many other movies, and then there is the question of the music. In 1965, the film appeared with a score by the veteran Daniele Amfitheatrof, a studio journeyman who had not worked for several years and never did again (although he didn't die until 1983). Clearly, he was brought in by Columbia to do a salvage job, and the rousing military marches he composed (with vocals provided by the Mitch Miller Sing-Along Gang, yet) infuriated Peckinpah. This DVD restoration has the cheek to provide a brand-new score for the extended version, composed by Christopher Caliendo, who might not even have been alive in 1965. (The disc also offers us the 122-minute version with the Amfitheatrof score as an alternative). One must murmur that Peckinpah might not have approved of Caliendo's work, either.
In its restored form, Major Dundee is really neither better nor worse than it was before: but since it was always a pretty good and always interesting epic failure, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The structural flaws are still there, with the additions more filling in details than adding insight or filling holes, but its still an interesting take on flawed men trying to find some kind of personal vindication in an illegal incursion into a foreign country (Mexico at a time when it was flooded with French troops and renegade Apaches) while their own country is caught up in a bloody civil war of its own. Where most Civil War films opt for either tragedy or a sense of a nation healing itself, this picks at the scabs instead, offering inadequate men barely able to believe in their own delusions any more but still determined to follow them through to the bloody end. And this being Peckinpah, even in 1965, there is plenty of blood and grit on offer - it's a sweaty, dirty looking movie that's under no romantic illusions (well, aside from Richard Harris' tendency to overdo the eyeliner). Unlike The Wild Bunch, it's not a film that gets better every time you see it, but it's still pretty impressive.
The new score, the thing that worried me most about this restoration, is also quite impressive, for the most part pastiching a 60s score convincingly enough for it not to seem out of place. That said, there is something disappointing in the striving but unfulfilled main title: it matches the character perfectly (Dundee is constantly revealed as a very hollow man), but the lack of musical resolution is somewhat unsatisfying. Still, it's certainly less grating for most viewers than Daniel Amfitheatrof's original score or Mitch Miller and his Singalong Gang's jaunty can't-get-it-out-of-your-head-dammit title number, Fall in Behind the Major.
on 8 August 2008
I have a region 1 version of this film and it last 136 minutes. I have never tried to read between the lines on any film, it should be about enjoyment rather than how good the director is or how the character's are defined.
If you enjoy a good western then you will probably enjoy this one, excellent performances from Harris and Heston, with good support from Coburn, a reasonable plot and the usual femalle interest.
A film I have watched many times and have always enjoyed.