Major Dundee

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Something for the weekend.  A musical medley from the movie Major Dundee (1965).  Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

Here is a fan made trailer for the restored edition that was released in 2005 that included much of the footage that was cut over Pekinpah’s protests:

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The court martial scene of  Confederate trooper O W Hadley is brilliantly performed by Warren Oates, Charlton Heston and Richard Harris, and demonstrates the superb quality of so much of this mangled masterpiece:

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If anyone has not seen this film, they should remedy this omission as soon as possible.

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4 Responses to Major Dundee

  • Sadly, the studio (or whomever it was –I don’t have a copy of the restoration) went and wrecked the restoration with a new score that in my opinion is inferior to the original.

    I love the director’s cut of The Wild Bunch. The extended edition of Major Dundee, not so much.

    Having said that: Charlton Heston at his monotone staccato best. “I have three orders of march….”

  • I have the restored version and I agree that the new score is a waste. Fortunately you have the option of playing it with the original score which is what I did when I viewed it for the umpteenth time last Friday night.

    The dialogue is brilliant throughout the film. I greatly enjoy this exchange between Heston and Jim Hutton, portraying Lieutenant Graham, the archetype of eager young shavetails everywhere and everywhen:

    Maj. Amos Dundee: Lieutenant Graham?

    Lt. Graham: Yes, sir.

    Maj. Amos Dundee: I gave you a specific order, and you failed to carry it out.

    Lt. Graham: No, sir, you gave me a command. I gave the orders from then on.

    Maj. Amos Dundee: You surely did, Lieutenant. Have a cigar.

  • (sin of omission identified and repented) (Major Dundee placed into Netflix queue) Here’s hoping for an enjoyable penance.

  • 1965 was a busy year, moving from New Jersey to New Hampshire, I missed the movie. Somewhere, I have an old “Charlton Heston is my President” bumper sticker. He died April 5, 2008, with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side, a favorite actor and a decent man. Rest in Peace.

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