In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
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
During the fiesta in the village the serape worn by Maj. Dundee changes from folded up to half folded up while he is being cut in by Lt. Graham. 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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Opening credits prologue:
1864 JOURNAL 1865
In the territory of New Mexico, toward the end of the Civil War, an Indian Sierra Charriba, and his 47 Apache warriors raided, sacked, and looted an area almost three times the size of Texas.
On October 31, 1864, an entire company of the 5th United States Cavalry sent out from Fort Benlin to destroy him, was ambushed and massacred at the Rostes ranch.
We are indebted to Timothy Ryan, bugler 5th United States Cavalry, the company's sole survivor, for his diary, the only existing record of this tragedy and the campaign that followed. See more »
Three major scenes (and some minor ones) were added to the restored version, along with a new score by Christopher Caliendo. The major scenes added are:
Captain Tyreen and his men are captured by Dundee in a mountain stream as they attempt to escape the prison;
Dundee spends more time recovering in Durango, falling in love with Melinche (Aurora Clavell), a Mexican girl who nurses his wounds;
A scene where Dundee, Tyreen, a several of their officers - Samuel Potts (James Coburn), Sergeant Gomez (Mario Adorf), and Lieutenant Graham (Jim Hutton) - find a marker left for them by Charriba (Michael Pate) and discuss strategy on how to fight him. At the end of the scene, we learn the fate of the Indian scout Riago (Jose Carlos Ruiz), who has been crucified in a tree by Charriba's men. In the original version, his character simply disappears without a trace.
Various smaller shots are added, including a burial of corpses after the opening massacre, children watching the activities in Fort Benlin, Potts struggling to find a partner during the fiesta at the Mexican village, and a slightly longer version of the Apache river ambush.
Also available as extras on the DVD are a slightly longer version of the interlude at the river between Dundee and Teresa (Senta Berger), and a knife fight between Potts and Gomez in the Mexican village.
"Major Dundee" is a forgotten, much underrated masterpiece, though admittedly affected by many defects. Indeed, here the director Peckinpah is (almost) as much innovative as in his undisputed best work "The Wild Bunch". The realism of many scenes, like that of the camp-hospital, with the badly-wounded bleeding soldiers lying on the ground, was stark new at the time the film was made. The action scenes are fantastic. In particular, look at the furious violence of the final brief battle on the river, note that a pool of blood spreads out on the water where the horses are hit: never seen such stuff before!
The story is exciting. The photography is wonderful: the beauty of the Mexican locations is definitely stunning. The work of the whole cast is very good.
The clash between Major Dundee (Charlton Heston) and the Confederate war-prisoner Captain Tyreen (Richard Harris) is somewhat conventional, but the character of Dundee can be placed among the best depicted and most interesting in the history of western movies. This frustrated soldier, a typical born-to-fight fellow, has finally his chance to make war, pursuing the cruel Apache Sierra Charriba. And he fights, kills, makes war against everybody and everything (the Apaches, the French army in Mexico, his own soldiers if necessary). Then, suddenly, something goes to pieces inside him. He feels a mortal tiredness; he sinks into drunkenness, dirt, brutish dejection. Then the Apaches reappear, and Dundee finds the strength to exit from his self-built nightmare... and he restarts to fight, fight, fight... This fellow has really no other choice: either to be an assassin, or to be a brute. Strikingly original character!
It's true the movie have several faults. It is too long and often slow-paced. The martinet officer played by Jim Hutton is out of place: this comic character could be appropriate in a John Ford's movie, but he grates much with Peckinpah's tragic vision. The scout played by James Coburn and some other minor characters are uninteresting. And, of course, Senta Berger is completely pointless: but she's so lovely that we can easily forgive her presence.
I learn from other comments that "Major Dundee" was badly butchered by the producers. I saw it twice at the theaters, and some other times on the TV. I can say that the television version is very bad with respect to what I saw on the wide screen. Many interesting details and subtleties have been cut. And by no means we can forgive that two magnificent scenes are ruined: the ambush on the creek and the carnage at the Apache camp in the wide-screen version happen over-night! But in the TV version it seems that it's full light! This leaves a feeling of annoying nonsense on the viewer (are the Apaches sleeping during day?). Too bad!
Luckily enough, for all his misfortunes and troubles "Major Dundee" is a great, magnificent, innovative movie.
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