Major Dundee

Major Dundee

4.5 2
Director: Sam Peckinpah

Cast: Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Jim Hutton

     
 

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It's difficult to imagine a more dignified treatment for Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee than what it's received here -- a fact that is doubly amazing considering how the movie was treated by its studio, Columbia Pictures, on its original release, and abused and neglected in the decades that followed, until 2005. This DVD features the long-awaited "extended

Overview

It's difficult to imagine a more dignified treatment for Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee than what it's received here -- a fact that is doubly amazing considering how the movie was treated by its studio, Columbia Pictures, on its original release, and abused and neglected in the decades that followed, until 2005. This DVD features the long-awaited "extended version" of Peckinpah's damaged masterpiece, prepared in 2005 using footage unseen since the previews of the movie in 1965, and given a whole new score composed by Christopher Caliendo. Not only is the transfer -- in the full, proper 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio -- one of the finest this reviewer has ever scene, but the detail and the richness are a wonder to behold; this is the kind of disc that one uses to demonstrate big-screen monitors and, no doubt, high-definition monitors as well (though it is not in high-def). And both soundtracks to the movie, Daniele Amfitheatrof's original release score from 1965 and Caliendo's new score for the 2005 expanded edition, are here to be heard; in fact, one can easily switch between them with just two touches of a button. The original soundtrack version is brighter and louder, but the revised soundtrack is better balanced and, in keeping with the rescoring itself, much more subtle. The movie has been given a very generous but appropriate 28 chapters as well. All of this would be enough to make this a first-rate DVD, but Columbia TriStar has done a lot more than that with this release. For starters, there's the commentary track, a lively four-way discussion between Peckinpah biographers Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle. They've appeared on other Peckinpah releases, and they haven't run out of steam yet, based on the results here -- they deliver wall-to-wall commentary, and they're never dull as they explain the importance of this movie, not just as a Peckinpah film but as a piece of popular culture and cinema history, about as well as anyone could, delving into comparisons with the work of John Ford and others and relating the movie to contemporary events around it. Their work, coupled with the two different scores, means that one is getting at least six to eight hours of first-time viewing on this disc, and their track is entertaining enough to return to -- often. The other major supplementary materials include an extended excerpt from the documentary Passion & Poetry -- The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah, which, between period footage and interviews with surviving cast members (best of all L.Q. Jones), gives one a great picture of the man and his work on the movie, and the period featurette promoting the movie "Riding for a Fall" (the latter in black-and-white and color versions), dealing with the stuntmen at work on Major Dundee. And, finally, there is the accompanying printed insert containing the essay "Peckinpah's Wounded Masterpiece," by Glenn Erickson. The disc's bonus features are very easy to access, through a multi-layer menu, and they only enhance an already brilliant presentation. The whole package is essential, even for non-fans of the director or the genre.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Although this “extended” version only restores 13 of the more than 40 minutes originally cut from Sam Peckinpah’s 1965 western (over his objections), the added footage substantially improves a movie whose gaps in continuity puzzled 1960s critics and moviegoers. A steadily growing corps of cineastes maintain that Major Dundee is an unrecognized classic, and the restored scenes -- sprinkled throughout the film -- certainly bolster that case. Charlton Heston (who reportedly got so mad at Peckinpah on the set that he once charged the director with sword in hand) plays a cavalry officer tasked with assembling a troop from a mélange of Confederate veterans, freed slaves, marginally competent soldiers, and assorted riffraff. Their mission: follow a band of marauding Apaches into Mexico and rescue three white children kidnapped during an attack conducted by the Indians. At the time of the film’s production, Columbia executives balked at Peckinpah’s three-hour cut and demanded wholesale slashing that resulted in a film that was still overlong (134 minutes) but substantially less coherent. Various character relationships and motivations were either lost or muddled in re-editing, and to make matters worse, producer Jerry Bresler commissioned a musical score that turned out to be horribly inappropriate, changing the movie’s tone. This new DVD goes a long way toward redressing the wrong done Peckinpah by substituting a new orchestral score and reinserting enough of the deleted footage to smooth over the narrative’s rough edges. A true Hollywood maverick, Peckinpah had a knack for infuriating the people with whom he worked. But he knew how to make engaging movies, and the restored Dundee will be a pleasant surprise to both knowledgeable film buffs and casual home viewers.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
In 2005, Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee (1965) was recut and extended, using previously deleted footage (which had been cut by the producer prior to release), and completely rescored, essentially creating a significantly different, and magnificent new version of what had been considered up to that point to be a flawed potential masterpiece. The restored footage, which mostly expands and fills out scenes that were already partly represented in the original release, offers the viewer a fuller account of characters' motivations, many of which seemed vague and undefined in the original release, and explanations for dialogue and incidents that previously seemed obscure. More than that, it turns what had seemed at times to be a loosely constructed story (and it was, the film having gone into production with the script unfinished) and, at times, confusing narrative, into a much more cohesive, seductive, and compelling whole, with a great deal of visual lyricism to be found amidst its violence and fierce dramatic passions. Charlton Heston's Major Amos Dundee is still unknowable (mostly because, as Heston has admitted, he never fully understood the character), but it is much easier to get past that problem in this version of the movie because everything else in it works so much better now. Indeed, Richard Harris emerges as something of a hero in this version, not only in terms of his character -- who finds an unexpected genuine nobility, and a cause bigger and better than the Confederacy that is worth dying for -- but also as an actor, for holding the whole piece together dramatically. The other major new feature is the music by Christopher Caliendo, which supplants the original edition's music by Daniele Amfitheatrof (of which Peckinpah never approved). Caliendo has written a bold, memorably melodic and expansive, expressive Western score with martial elements, of the kind that Alfred Newman might have turned in 50 years before; it's one of the best orchestral scores heard in movies in decades, and is, by itself, reason enough to partake of Major Dundee: The Extended Version. In fact, it and the restored, reconstituted image make this a movie that one should see at least once in a theater, on a big screen; it's no accident that Columbia Pictures saw fit to release this to theaters in 2005, rather than taking it directly to DVD.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/20/2005
UPC:
0043396049437
Original Release:
1965
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time:
2:16:00
Sales rank:
19,761

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by Peckinpah Historians; Incomplete deleted scene "Knife Fight"; Extended scene "Major Dundee and Teresa"; Extended 20-minute excerpt from Mike Siegel's film "Passion & Poetry -- The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah"; Vintage stunts featurette "Riding for a Fall" ; Silent extended outtakes; Trailer artwotk outtakes; Promotional stills and poster artwork; Exhibitor promo reel excerpt; Original theatrical trailer; 2005 re-release trailer

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charlton Heston Maj. Amos Charles Dundee
Richard Harris Capt. Benjamin Tyreen
Jim Hutton Lieutenant Graham
James Coburn Samuel Potts
Michael Anderson Tim Ryan
Senta Berger Widow
Mario Adorf Sgt. Gomez
Brock Peters Aesop
Warren Oates O.W. Hadley
Ben Johnson Sgt. Chillum
R.G. Armstrong Reverend Dahlstrom
L.Q. Jones Arthur Hadley
Slim Pickens Wiley
Karl Swenson Capt. Waller
Michael Pate Sierra Charriba
John Davis Chandler Jimmy Lee Benteen
Dub Taylor Benjamin Priam
Albert Carrier Capt. Jacques Tremaine
José Carlos Ruiz Riago
Aurora Clavel Melinche
Begoña Palacios Linda
Enrique Lucero Dr. Aguilar
Francisco Reiguera Old Apache

Technical Credits
Sam Peckinpah Director,Screenwriter
Daniele Amfitheatrof Score Composer
Jerry Bresler Producer
Thomas Dawson Costumes/Costume Designer
Harry Julian Fink Screenwriter
Howard Kunin Editor
Sam Leavitt Cinematographer
Augie Lohman Special Effects
William Lyon Editor
Oscar Saul Screenwriter
Don Starling Editor
Alfred Ybarra Art Director

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Major Dundee
1. Start [:11]
2. Slaughter [3:09]
3. Captain Tyreen [3:09]
4. Volunteers [1:07]
5. Lieutenant Graham [3:11]
6. Compromise [6:45]
7. Officers [4:37]
8. "Move 'Em Out, Lieutenant." [5:59]
9. Racial Tension [4:54]
10. What They Fought For [4:33]
11. Informer [6:26]
12. Ambush [4:21]
13. "We Got Whipped." [4:35]
14. Call for Surrender [3:57]
15. Liberator [4:19]
16. Festive Night [6:48]
17. Back to Business [5:28]
18. Fooling the French [5:32]
19. Deserter [2:24]
20. Frontier Justice [:54]
21. Interrupted Interlude [5:12]
22. Time to heal [3:50]
23. Back From Durango [3:38]
24. Turning Back [6:43]
25. Springing the Trap [6:58]
26. One Way Home [5:47]
27. Skirmish Line [5:47]
28. All Present & Accounted For [3:07]

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Major Dundee 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite films, albeit a tad too long and drawn out in parts, Heston is strong as is Harris and the rest of the cast. Heston battles the Apache, the French, The Confederates and his own demons in this story of a disciplined union officer. He is survivng the war out west and trying to bring justice at the same time, in a land where there is only injustice and cruelty. The love interest and love interest lost are a bit long and boring, even unneeded but the classic battle at the end is worth the wait.