Major Dundee - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Major Dundee Reviews

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January 7, 2016
Good, but flawed and unfinished .... Peckinpah
½ July 18, 2014
What you got here is a Really Big Movie that didnt get made. The studio decided it was costing too much and pulled the plug. What remains is some great stuff that doesnt quite work. I sometimes wonder what it might have been if it had been completed.
ElCochran90
Super Reviewer
½ June 20, 2014
Sam Peckinpah's story set in the Civil War tells the story of Major Amos Charles Dundee who exceeded his orders while serving in the Battle of Gettysburg and, as punishment, has been taken out of combat and put in charge of a Union prison in New Mexico. Simultaneously, groups of Apaches have been raiding U.S. bases in Texas. Dundee, therefore, proceeds to lead a divisive troop of Army regulars, Confederate prisoners, and scouts on an expedition to destroy the band of Apaches, facing internal and external turmoil in the process.

Since Ride the High Country (1962), Sam Peckinpah's scope has grown to be more confident, interestingly more graphically violent, confirming the Western genre to be his area of both expertise and development. The cinematography shows itself as more confident as his directorial capabilities keep evolving, most noticeably in the Director's Cut of the film, which surely shows the motivations of the characters as clear and complimentary to the plot's advancement. Nevertheless, the maximization of the scope came up with a price: Peckinpah's intentions are unclear. Is it a historical account? Most probably not. Accuracy is not a concern here. Social criticism? A commentary on racism? A collective character study on race prejudices? All or some of the above? Or just an action film set in the 19th Century with Mexico's folklore as a stylish excuse?

It is true that the film could have been better and is a waste of valuable potential, but given Peckinpah's status in 1965, he couldn't have been better. It was the necessary step upwards to be taken before perfecting his style, his vision, his passion for Mexican shooting locations, the proper character balance and the proper micro and macro conflicts in his Western masterpiece The Wild Bunch (1969). Nevertheless, the film is well accomplished from a technical point of view, with a badass leading performance by Charlton Heston and a decent effort from the ensemble cast. These are the positive aspects if one can look beyond the romantic clichés and the predominantly stereotypical representations of the rural Mexico, which the film presents as generalizations, instead of peculiarities.

75/100
May 14, 2014
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.
½ April 27, 2014
110101: Great mix of classic western actors and decent cinematography makes for a fun film. Could do without the Charlton Heston posing. His acting is really stiff.
March 28, 2014
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
August 6, 2013
Directed by Sam Peckinpah, who had come into film from TV, getting his feature film career off to a promising start with old fashioned westerns like The Deadly Companions (1961) and Ride the High Country (1962). Then, he was offered this big-budget western by Columbia Pictures, from a story by Harry Julian Fink, which Peckinpah subsequently rewrote, making it a complex character study. It should have made him a megastar, but it's troubled production marred it's reputation. In 1864, during the American Civil War, Union Major Amos Dundee (Charlton Heston) is relieved of his post after a tactical error during the Battle of Gettysburg, and sent to run a POW camp in the New Mexico territory. It's here where Dundee is given a chance to redeem himself, after a cavalry is massacred by a band of Apache's led by Sierra Charriba (Michael Pate), Dundee gets together a group of mercenaries, chosen by Dundee and Irish Captain Tyreen (Richard Harris) to go into Mexico to track down Charriba and his men and get them dead or alive, but it's to be a long journey, and a physically exhausting one too. It's a grand old adventure, and Peckinpah gets the best out of his cast, and there's some great vistas and shots in this film. Peckinpah's original cut was butchered after it's original release, but attempts have been made to restore it to how it should have been.
½ 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.
April 22, 2013
Major Dundee is Major Entertainment
½ 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.
November 27, 2012
I've never been much of a fan of Heston but he is very good in this. Richard Harris is even better as his one timed friend, turned prisoner, turn lieutenant in an unofficial mission. A solid film that points toward the masterpieces that Peckinpah would create in the genre in the years to come.
September 7, 2012
Charlton Heston. Ok.
August 26, 2012
Un film qui a mai vieiili. Les scènes d'actions sont confuses. Les personnages sont trop caricaturaux.
March 3, 2012
Too many hats. I hate a movie with too many hats.
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.
January 26, 2012
This movie is too long with a less than compelling story.
November 6, 2011
Union Prison warden Amos Dundee (the badass in a neckerchief Charlton Heston), collects his best troops as well as his best Southern Trash Confederate Prisoners (led by scene stealer Richard Harris) to go across the Mexican border to hunt down a bunch of bloody Apache savages. Along the way he rescues a village, cheats on a smoking hot German lady (seriously, Senta Berger), and pisses off the entire French army. The extended cut of Major Dundee is a fine film that shows the promise that director Sam Peckinpah delivers on in uber classics The Wild Bunch and Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. And it's a man's movie. Heston, Harris, James Coburn, LQ Jones, Ben Johnson, RG Armstrong, and Warren Oates. VF.
½ November 6, 2011
Heston is a military man with a hankerin' to get some killing done in this semi-classic western. An excellent supporting cast backs him up on his journey to Mexico, where he fights Indians and French, as well as his own people. Lots of good performances and lots of good moments. Not an amazing film by any stretch, but solid.
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