Saturday, September 17, 2011

Major Dundee

Major Dundee, a 1965 Sam Peckinpah western, is one of those movies that passed me by. How I missed it I'll never know, but I don't remember ever having seen it. I was at The Grandmother's place changing the channels and came across this coming on TCM. It stars Charlton Heston, the titular Major after Apache blood; Richard Harris, a confederate prisoner and former friend of Dundee; James Coburn, scout for the garrison; and Slim Pickens. It has an ugly history of edits, lost film & re-releases. I'm glad I've seen it, but this won't go on the list of films I'll watch again. It does have James Coburn in it, though, so I may have to come back to it for that reason alone.

a fan-made trailer:

Reviews are mixed, often within the same review. Most reviewers are talking, not about the theatrical release, but the extended version which added back some of what had been cut. The top critics at Rotten Tomatoes like it. Variety opens by saying the film
might well have been a better picture before its director was dismissed in post-production after a fractious Mexican shoot. But it is also more evident than ever the film is inherently a deeply flawed work that was far from fully realized in both script and shooting. is conflicted, saying, "Even if the picture falls apart in the second half, the first half is loaded with individual scenes that are beautifully staged and acted." Time Out closes with this: "A fine if fractured Western, more subversive of conventional mythologies than it seems." Entertainment Weekly says, "the movie sprawls like an inflated Dirty Dozen. ... yet at its best you can feel Peckinpah, at the twilight of the studio era, dreaming of a far wilder bunch." DvdTalk concludes
a great picture with many brilliant scenes and powerful moments. If mangled movies by great filmmakers were studied as closely as lost books by great authors, I believe Dundee would stand out as an American national epic about the politics of military adventurism.
Combustible Celluloid is a fan and calls it "an ode to the unstable, explosive force that was Sam Peckinpah, as well as to the powerful studio system that crushed him and kept him down." MUBI ranks it 8th of 10 Peckinpah films.

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