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||IMDB Rating: 6.8/10 from 4,957 votes
||Release: 15 March 1965 (Denmark) /
||Genre: Adventure, War, Western
||Director: Sam Peckinpah,
||Stars: Ben Johnson, Brock Peters, Charlton Heston, James Coburn, Jim Hutton, Karl Swenson, L.Q. Jones, Mario Adorf, Michael Anderson Jr., Michael Pate, R.G. Armstrong, Richard Harris, Senta Berger, Slim Pickens, Warren Oates
||Synopsis: 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. Written by scgary66
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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 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.
Tags for Major Dundee Full Movie
, Brock Peters
, Charlton Heston
, James Coburn
, Jim Hutton
, Karl Swenson
, L.Q. Jones
, Mario Adorf
, Michael Anderson Jr.
, Michael Pate
, R.G. Armstrong
, Richard Harris
, Senta Berger
, Slim Pickens
, Warren Oates
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