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Major Dundee Reviews

Page 1 of 5

Super Reviewer

January 20, 2009
I don't know what Sam Peckinpah intended but I'm pretty sure this 'studio edited' discombobulation isn't it. This is a good film that could have been a great one. High on the Richter scale of missed opportunity and unfulfilled potential.

*If you have a choice, watch the 'extended version'. It's still not the film Peckinpah intended us to see but it's a damn sight closer than anything previously available.

Super Reviewer

December 22, 2008
Sam Peckinpah?s early, flawed, epic about a Union Major running a prison camp in the New Mexican front late in the civil war, who enlists Confederate prisoners in order to go after a renegade Apache. The film fell victim to immense studio tampering, it had its budget cut in half from the beginning, they gave Peckinpah pressure throughout the production, and they took the whole film away from him during the editing. As such we?re left with a Magnificent Ambersons situation of a movie with extensive lost footage; the full vision of what it could have been is unknown. The cut on DVD right now has been restored as much as possible, but it?s still not complete. What remains is a film that feels fractured and held together by a tacked on voice over. The film is still watchable, and the underlying concept of Union and confederate soldiers working together is quite interesting, one can see a story about a fractured America forced to unify somewhere below the surface. That said, not all of the movie?s problems can be pinned on the studio. The film?s visual style, while perfectly competent, is not anywhere near the heights achieved by Peckinpah?s other works, and the occasional night scenes are poorly lit making it hard to make out what?s going on.
cody f

Super Reviewer

April 28, 2008
Great cast, Heston and Harris are good together. Good story and fun to watch,but formulaic and bad uneventful ending.
January 30, 2012
I watched the "extended" version of this movie. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised, even though the story seemed to wander at times and somehow seemed unfinished (understandably, given the highly publicized circumstances of how this movie was made). Still, a good movie with interesting characters - not a typical western.
November 13, 2009
Since I am not at all a huge fan of westerns and certainly not a fan of Charlton Heston, my rating may appear a bit low. I found it hard to sit through. There were some major stretches where i was bored. I just found it uninvolving. The score is downright irritating.
September 5, 2009
Very minor Sam Peckinpah western. Too long, and not all that compelling to be honest. The ?behind the scenes? stories of the film?s production (which include Charlton Heston threatening to run Peckinpah through with his saber) are far more interesting than what actually made it to the screen.
July 26, 2009
Uh...Richard Harris and Heston in Mexico, epic/disjointed fighting French/indians/bandits. It's like "Apocolypse Now" except worse.
February 26, 2008
Staring down Racism in it's ugly face, Peckinpah's historical fiction adventure has it all: Indians, Confederates, Yankees (including Black "Smoked Yankees"), Mexicans, Cowboys, German Fraus, French Lancers and Moroccan Infantry; every ethnic group in the area during the time is represented, and how many Directors had the stones to deal with this subject matter, especially then during the hotbed of the Civil-rights era & a hot war in Vietnam? Peckinpah!!. Both cuts have their merits, simply choose to appreciate the good scenes and ignore the claptrap! This film is brimming with great memorable scenes and performances by it's talented cast. Heston's rote "Principles of Combat" speech...At the scene of the massacre: (Major: "I hope he was dead when they did that to him", Sergeant:"If he was dead they wouldnt have bothered"), Coburns pithy comment about the price of being in the Cavalry; Harris chewing out his weaselly "Red-Necked-Peckerwood"; The toothy cameraderie of Warren Oates & Brock Peters evaluating the fighting merits of the French Troops; Tim Hutton's fetish for Artillery and the beautiful brass "Baby howitzer" itself; The mounted singing duel; The look on Peters face when called out by the Peckerwood and the deadly confrontation when Confederate Sergeant Ben Johnson takes offense, and of course all the battle scenes are excellent, particularly the concluding fight against the Lancers; this film is packed with these and more if you can get around all the hype and just grab the popcorn and enjoy them!. Heston, Harris & Coburn are obviously enjoying themselves here, & you should do the same. I count this as one of Heston's best roles. A personal favorite of mine & tough guys worldwide. A "flawed materpiece"? Yes, but still a masterpiece of the genre nonetheless...
Michael H.
December 8, 2011
It's hard to tell what might have been without the reportedly significant studio editing and tampering with Peckinpah's movie. It would probably have been better. I doubt that it would have been great. There are some good scenes and good performances but overall the movie just drags along and then peters out at the end. It may be a fine commentary on the futility of war but it makes for a less than satisfying entertainment.
August 13, 2012
Enjoyed this film directed by Sam Peckinpah who also directed "Straw Dogs" in 1971 created a great story during the 1860's and at the end of the Civil War. Major Amos Dundee, (Charlton Heston) is a major who was in the Union Army and was disgraced and put in charge of a Confederate prison camp. However, Major Dundee is a Southerner and he also finds himself needing the help of Capt. Ben Tyreen, (Richard Harris) who is a Confedrate prisoner and the two of them fight like cats and dogs. Major Dundee has to catch Apaches who escaped to Mexico which is ruled by the French. This is a film dealing with fighting against Apache Indians and also the French and the Confederate and Union soldiers fighting with each other and still trying to carry out their individual missions. Samuel Potts, (James Coburn) gives an outstanding performance as an aid to Major Dundee and also has just one arm. This is a very interesting film with some romance and plenty of bow and arrows flying threw the air. Enjoy
The Movie King
August 6, 2013
It's one of the most complex films ever made. A film directed by Sam Peckinpah, Major Dundee was intended to be a huge epic western, but since Peckinpah was a heavy drinker, the studio fired him and eliminated most of his material and released their version with negative reviews. After Peckinpah's death, the studio found most of Peckinpah's missing footage and restored it back into the film, releasing an "extended version". My experience of Major Dundee was this "extended version" and, while I can't say it's better than the theatrical version or not, Major Dundee is a clear reason why I'm not a super huge fan of the Western genre.

Major Amos Dundee (Charlton Heston), a Union officer, is head of a Confederate prison in New Mexico. When Apache Indians abduct some young kids, Dundee hires a crew, including Confederate prisoners, led by Capt. Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris), an old friend of Dundee before turning Confederate, to find the Indians and retrieve the kids. What Dundee doesn't know is the quest will lead them down to Mexico and tensions between him and Ben will heat up higher.

Other stars in the film include Jim Hutton as Lt. Graham. James Coburn as Samuel Potts, and Senta Berger as a Mexican widow who falls for Heston.

If you look at the film closely, you'll see similarities to the Western classic The Searchers, a story about a crazed man racist towards an Indian race and looking for abducted children. The Searchers is a true Western classic, with an epic storyline, a spectacular performance from John Wayne, and filled with adventure, comedy, and drama. Major Dundee, on the other hand, fails miserably.

Now I have to be honest, I loved the opening sequence, involving an Indian attack at a village and the burning of buildings. That sequence alone had potential that this was going to be a great film. But, shortly afterwards, the film goes downhill fast. For one thing, there's too many characters to count, and it's hard to care for people have been poorly developed. Take James Coburn for example. All he does in the film is make grand announcements to others, and his part was wasted. Jim Hutton was also a waste and I couldn't care for his character much.

What makes The Searchers a great classic is how epic the journey is. In Major Dundee, however, the journey is dull, dull, dull, and dull. While the cinematography stuns, everything else falls flat. Even worse in the story, is that long before the halfway mark, an old Apache returns the kids to the army, so Dundee returns them home and continues to search for the Apaches. Well, if you got the kids back, then what's the point? In The Searchers, you had to wait until the end in order to see the kids, and the journey took five years. By the time the scene I mentioned happened, it hit an all-time low, and the film got worse and worse and worse.

The other problem I had with the story is this; Why is the French in Mexico? The French had nothing to do with the story, so why are they the bad guys now? I thought that was racist. If people complain that The Searchers is racist, then this film is a whole lot worse.

Charlton Heston is one of the best actors in his day. He excelled me, and others, as Moses in The Ten Commandments, and wowed in his Oscar-winning performance in Ben-Hur. In Major Dundee? He's the biggest problem. Heston was a huge miscast, and felt no sympathy for his character when making the quest. For one thing, Heston's character was so stupid that I'm surprised that he was ever a Union officer. I'd thought I'd never say this, but Richard Harrs's character, the Confederate leader, had more common sense than Heston's character, and I'm not a Confederate supporter. Harris had better acting than Heston, and was the only performance worth mentioning.

Heston gets involved in a romance later in the film, and it bores. The film has some action sequences, and they bore as well. Most of them were filmed in the night, so most of the time, you can't tell what's going on. But when you can tell what's going on, the scenes are stupidly-crafted, boring, and lazy.

Major Dundee is a big reason why I'm not a huge fan of the Western genre. It promises something epic and turns into a dull disappointment. The acting, with the exception of Richard Harris, is dull, the action sequences are poorly made, and the epic journey is a boring waste. I wasted two-and-a-half hours of my life watching this dull, racist, junk. If you want to watch a real Western, watch Rio Bravo. Watch The Searchers. Watch even The Magnificent Seven. Avoid Major Poopee at all costs, and you'll do a great favor to the whole world. The more it's avoided, the better.
horse c.
April 22, 2013
Major Dundee is Major Entertainment
April 5, 2013
Major Dundee is a classical Western with plenty of exciting shootouts and breathtaking vistas, but in all honesty, the film's backstory is more interesting than most of what's on screen. It's a situation where the film is less than the sum of its parts, mostly because some elements simply haven't held up that well over the years. Together with the lack of authorial control by Peckinpah, Major Dundee feels too broad and unfocused. There is a nice sense of tension from the plot's underlying political dynamics that kept my interest, but it ultimately felt too rough around the edges for my tastes.
Chris M.
September 7, 2012
Charlton Heston. Ok.
March 3, 2012
Too many hats. I hate a movie with too many hats.
September 17, 2011
Maybe the best Peckimpah movie
December 15, 2010
Damn, there's a masterpiece in here somewhere. Or maybe there never was, since Columbia downgraded Peckinpah's budged just before shooting it, turning it into a gritty Panavision pic, rather than a sweeping 70mm epic. Still, what Peckinpah managed to pull off is very impressive, and hugely entertaining. Heston's work here is very good, playing off a more impressive Richard Harris - a titanic battle of wills similar to another Heston "failure" from '65, Reed's [i]The Agony and the Ecstasy[/i]. What a shame it is that the rest of Peckinpah's footage, including his trademark slow-mo action scenes, are apparently lost for all time.
Jonah R.
October 9, 2009
Feels dated and lacks any real substance.
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