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During the last winter of the Civil War, cavalry officer Amos Dundee leads a contentious troop of Army regulars, Confederate prisoners and scouts on an expedition into Mexico to destroy a band of Apaches who have been raiding U.S. bases in Texas. Written by
Average Shot Length (ASL) = 4.7 seconds See more »
Although Mexico was occupied by French troops during the American Civil War and that occupation was not looked upon kindly by the Lincoln administration, there was never any fighting between the U.S. Army and the French. See more »
In the territory of New Mexico towards the end of the Civil War, an Indian, Sierra Charriba, and his Apache warriors raided, sacked and looted an area almost three times the size of Texas.
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Major cuts = minor disappointments, but still worth a look.
The problems behind the scenes of this Civil War-era western (director vs producer over final cut, director's excesses and delays causing budget issues) are legendary. Thankfully, though the finished product is far from perfect, enough good things remain to make the film watchable and entertaining. Heston plays the square-jawed title character, an action-loving soldier who resents being put in charge of a prison camp. When a local settlement is slaughtered by Apaches, he must set out to rescue three captured boys but finds that he can't do it alone and must rely on a ragtag assortment of helpers. One of the few "real" officers he gets is Hutton as a rather bumbling, by-the-numbers lieutenant. He fills out his party with several Confederate prisoners, notably Harris as an embittered Captain, one-armed scout Coburn, several Negro Union soldiers led by Peters and various criminals and degenerates including Taylor and Pickens. Heston and Harris forge a very uneasy alliance as they head south into Mexico to retrieve the captives. They stumble onto the remains of a village in which curvy Berger is tending to the sick and dying. Needless to say, she sparks the interest of both Heston and Harris, only adding to their enmity. Eventually, the motley band of soldiers finds itself hunting Apaches while being hunted by French soldiers who are occupying Mexico. This escalates into an almost impossible situation when Heston's group reaches a river with the enemy both in front of and behind him. All the elements for a grand-scale, epic story are in place, but it falls short of excellence because of the problems in the editing room. Heston is great as the damaged, but heroic Major. Harris, though oddly cast and sporting that goofy blue eyeshadow he favored in the 60's, is also strong and the two make great adversaries. Coburn's role is smaller, but he gives it impact. Berger's role epitomizes the words decorative and obligatory, but she is luminous, especially when she isn't continuously yanking on her shawl (which happens VERY often!) The cast is chock full of excellent actors who enhanced many western films and television series. Oates has a nice turn as a Confederate who tests Heston's mettle (though he is referred to many times as a boy and was 37 years old!) Anderson is very endearing as a young bugler who becomes a man during the conflict. (Palacios, who plays his love interest, married director Peckinpah after this.) The primary problems seem to come in the mid to late section of the film when many things happen to the characters in swift succession and it's hard to completely gather their motivations and the timing of the actions. This section was clearly cut, haphazardly, and it weakens the narrative and the pace of the film. (Note Heston's sudden beard which appears out of nowhere.) Also, some of the battle sequences are edited so choppily that it's difficult to see who's being killed off! One must just assume, from whoever's left at the end, that the rest of the characters didn't make it. Still, the action scenes in the film are excitingly staged and the actors go a long way in putting the story across. Though it is rarely shown in widescreen, that format is a must for fully appreciating the camera-work and composition of the film. Heston, who admired (but tangled mightily with) Peckinpah, wound up making no money for his work as he put up his salary to help defray the cost overruns.
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