Sign in to follow this  
Dargo

Okay, what was with the 2 and a half star rating for MAJOR DUNDEE I just saw on my satelite channel guide???

34 posts in this topic

Just watched the "extended version" of Peckinpah's Major Dundee on TCM tonight, and I have to say that THAT was one very good IF not great Western!

Yes, after investigating this film's history on the internet, I found that the shorten version which was somewhat orphaned by the director due to the studio making its own cuts to it was panned by many critics back in '65 when it was released. But c'mon here, after watching this extended version tonight and one I'd say should rate at least 3 stars and perhaps even 3 and a half stars, I have to ask how bad could have been the shorten version?

Guess I forgot to add that I've never watched this film, shorten of not, until this evening, and as you can tell, I was very impressed with it.

(...and so maybe Peckinpah WAS justified in drinking himself to an early death after all and after the treatment the suits in Hollywood gave him, eh?!) ;) 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Press Release From Film Forum (April 2005)

MAJOR DUNDEE: THE EXTENDED VERSION, a new restoration of Sam Peckinpah’s Civil War/Western epic, starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris, will run at Film Forum from Friday, April 8 through Tuesday, April 19 (twelve days). Originally released in 1965 in a severely butchered version, MAJOR DUNDEE can finally be seen in a cut that closely restores Peckinpah’s original vision. Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures Vice-President in Charge of Film Restoration, who oversaw the project, will introduce the 8:00 show on opening night, Friday, April 8, along with composer Christopher Caliendo, who wrote a brand new score for the extended version.


“Until the Apache is taken or destroyed...” Continue rotting in a Civil War prison camp or join with hated Union jailers in pursuit of three children kidnapped by massacring raiders: that’s the deal Charlton Heston’s eponymous martinet Dundee — himself with something to prove after a miscue at Gettysburg — offers his prisoner and ex-friend, Richard Harris’s cavalier Captain Tyreen, successively Irish potato farmer, cashiered Union officer and Confederate renegade. Volatile enough, but as Dundee further fleshes out his command with a friendly Indian, Negro volunteers, and one-armed James Coburn, it’s clear that for the obsessive Major, this will be a kind of land-locked Moby Dick, a quest after the Apache across the Rio Grande into occupied Mexico — and a confrontation with Emperor Maximilian’s French lancers.


Sam Peckinpah’s first large-scale Western was complete with epic sweep, his own stock company (a stunning array of Western icons, including Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, L.Q. Jones, and Slim Pickens), and blood-soaked violence anticipating the director’s later The Wild Bunch. But it also became one of the screen’s most notorious films maudits (Horizons West author Jim Kitses called it “one of Hollywood’s great broken monuments”). When the studio — which had cut the budget by a third just before the start of shooting — threatened to shut the picture down early, Heston offered his own salary back to allow missing scenes to be shot. The studio took the money but still didn’t film the scenes. Then an additional 20 to 50 minutes — estimates differ — were hacked away, a complete butcher job that ran roughshod with the continuity, confusing both audiences and critics. To compound matters, the studio imposed a music score on the film that the director objected to vociferously.


Forty years later, Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures, matching color separation masters with a still-extant soundtrack for a longer version, has located and restored all but six minutes of Peckinpah's original cut. To help bring the film more into line with Peckinpah's vision, a new music score was commissioned from composer Christopher Caliendo, with the entire track now recorded and re-mixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The result is that rare event in film history and restoration: the rescue of a once-mutilated masterwork.


A SONY PICTURES REPERTORY RELEASE. Running time: 136 minutes

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Charge of the Peckinpah Brigade
By J. HOBERMAN

Published: April 3, 2005


HERE is a particular sort of movie that the French call "film maudit." Cursed by an unhappy destiny, such a movie is ripped from its director's womb and mutilated by its studio; misunderstood or reviled on release, it usually proves ruinous at the box office.

Sam Peckinpah's 1965 cavalry western, "Major Dundee" - opening Friday for a 12-day run at Film Forum in a restored, extended version - is a legendary maudit. The British critic Jim Kitses called it "one of Hollywood's great broken monuments." Peckinpah, who tried to have his name removed from the film when Columbia released it 40 years ago this month, characterized the movie's making and unmaking as "one of the most painful things that ever happened in my life."

 
 
"Major Dundee" was conceived as a deluxe vehicle for Charlton Heston and a potential reserved-seat road show, like the 1962 spectacular "How the West Was Won." John Ford, first choice to direct any cavalry movie, was busy with his final western, "Cheyenne Autumn." Thus, the script found Peckinpah, a director of television shoot'em-ups whose 1962 western, "Ride the High Country," attracted attention for its autumnal deployment of the veteran cowboys Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea.

Peckinpah was fascinated by the spectacle of smashed ambitions - he had wanted to make a movie about General Custer as a perverse hero whose greatest triumph was a legendary defeat - and he spent the summer of 1963 elaborating a scenario that cast Mr. Heston, America's pre-eminent epic star, as a maladroit, overreaching loner. He would never inhabit a juicier role than the megalomaniacal Dundee. Nor would Peckinpah have another protagonist whose obsessions dovetailed so well with his own.

A Southerner in the service of the Union, Dundee commands a Texas prison camp, where he was transferred for trying to "fight his own war" at Gettysburg. When a band of marauding Apaches massacres white settlers living nearby and takes their children captive, Dundee repeats his pattern by illegally commandeering weapons and assembling a motley regiment of Confederate prisoners of war, Union deserters, Texas horse thieves and free black soldiers to pursue them into Mexico. Dundee's army is integrated, though violently yet grossly divided. All that binds these Americans is their fear and loathing of a racial foe. After five weeks, the Apaches deprive Dundee of his rationale by setting their captives free. Still, fueled by the major's vanity and a certain giddy inertia, the quest continues..

"Major Dundee" was itself a misadventure. In February 1964, two days before filming began in Durango, Mexico, Columbia underwent a corporate shake-up and the film's budget was slashed from $4.5 to $3 million. Still, Peckinpah fought to keep production in Mexico, where he recapitulated the reign of terror occurring back in Hollywood. He imagined a new sort of Western: savage, violent and charged with magical desire. (The movie's 25 stuntmen were, according to an article about the production in Life magazine, the most ever assembled for a single movie.) No less than his arrogant antihero, Peckinpah led his men beyond the law. Gordon Dawson, a production assistant, recalled being "scared to death." Peckinpah, he told the director's biographer David Weddle, "was firing people right and left," 15 crew members in all.

Columbia's new regime feared that they had inherited a runaway production with a lunatic at the helm. Mr. Heston confided in his diary that he didn't know what "Major Dundee" was supposed to be about. Yet midway through filming, he intervened. To save Peckinpah's job, Mr. Heston returned his salary, a gesture with few if any parallels in Hollywood history. "Major Dundee" wrapped 15 days late and $1.5 million over budget. That summer, Peckinpah found himself banned from the Columbia lot. His 2-hour 44 minute-version - including slow-motion battle sequences inspired by Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" - was cut by 30 minutes by the producer Jerry Bresler. After a disastrous Hollywood preview in February 1965, complete with Peckinpah smashing a pint of whiskey outside the theater, Bresler shortened "Dundee" again.

These cuts, amounting to 12 minutes, have now been restored. Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures vice president in charge of film restoration, found the trims in the 1990's but was not able to fit them into the existing movie until an earlier audio track turned up, mislabeled, in a British storage facility. (Bresler had done his last edit in London.) The extended "Major Dundee" is the preview version, with one exception. A new, more somber musical track has replaced the inanely exuberant existing one commissioned by Bresler that featured the Mitch Miller chorus. "The studio is trying to make amends," Mr. Crisp told me over the phone, noting that both scores will be available on the DVD.

The extended "Dundee" is richer and more coherent, but it remains a fascinating wreck. It not only represents a debacle, it embodies one and, in that, remains extraordinarily attuned to its historical moment. "Dundee" acknowledges the racial and social divisions of the mid-60's while conjuring the hubris of the Great Society. Any cavalry film is both a western and a combat movie, but Peckinpah contaminated the classicism of Ford's "Fort Apache" (1948) with the interventionist thematics of "The Magnificent Seven." And as the historian Richard Slotkin notes in "Gunslinger Nation," the result "translates the political and ideological paradoxes of the Vietnam War into mythic terms."

The evening of April 7, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appeared on television to explain the "war of unparalleled brutality," which had escalated dramatically during the past few months. "Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping," he said, "women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to their government. And helpless villages are ravaged by sneak attacks." "Major Dundee" opened in New York that day and, in characterizing Vietnam, Johnson might almost have been describing the torched, corpse-strewn settlement with which "Dundee" begins, just as the movie imaginatively prophesied the geopolitical debacle that the war became.

The film's most sympathetic review called it "ugly," "brutal" and "gory." Just as liberal intellectuals were reversing themselves on Johnson, the candidate they supported in 1964, so Newsweek, which had named "Ride the High Country" the best movie of 1962, turned on Peckinpah: "Think of Yosemite Falls or suicides from the top of the Empire State Building, or streaking meteorites downward toward the earth and you'll get some idea of the decline in the career of Sam Peckinpah." The magazine noted that Peckinpah had been fired from his next movie, "The Cincinnati Kid," after a week.

Peckinpah seemed finished. But three years later he would shake the curse of "Dundee," return to Mexico and make a movie about Americans at war that many people, myself included, consider the greatest Hollywood production of the 1960's: "The Wild Bunch." To see the extended "Major Dundee" is to see the smoking ruin from which Peckinpah's masterpiece arose.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glenn Erickson (aka DVD Savant) link, detailing the original script of "Dundee" and comparing it to both versions of the film:

DVD Talk

In short, still missing (if filmed at all) sequences include:

- The opening massacre scene
- Sgt. Gomez telling Dundee that he had been kidnapped by Apaches as a boy and lived with them for several years
- Several scenes where Captain Waller tries to send a runner to have Dundee arrested. Apparently Dundee has Sergeant Gomez rough him up, or at least that's the intimation of the script.
- Lt. Graham robbing the supply train (alluded to but not shown in the film)
- The beginning of the expedition is chaotic, the animals are undisciplined. Tyreen shoots a bird and gets the feather for his hat. There's a joking fight scene between Union and Confederate troopers, but it's not serious.
- After the river crossing scene. Captain Waller arrives at the border with a party to arrest Dundee, but they run into the Confederate patrol and are chased off by them
- The drinking scene, where Dundee offers whiskey to the command for the river crossing. Dahlstrom toasts the Union, Chillum toasts the Confederacy, and everyone except Slim Pickens' character Wiley ends up dumping their whiskey onto the ground in protest
- Some scenes in the build-up to the river ambush, Gomez leaving the command with the Rostes boys, the Old Apache informant disappearing right before the ambush, Tyreen whistling Dixie, but the answer coming from behind him.
- Dundee tries to ride a mule to raise morale and show off his expertise, but his thrown off
- Tyreen and Dundee talking about their days at West Point, and about their admiration for Robert E. Lee (a scene which would have reinforced the point that Dundee was a Southerner)
- Some brief scenes with Tim and Linda, and Dundee and Teresa on the night of the fiesta
- The kinfe fight between Potts and Gomez, available in part on the DVD as an extra
- Dundee formally granting Graham his command after his wounding
- Dundee chases after Teresa after she discovers him with Melinche. Melinche leaves the bar/hotel and is arrested by the French
- Gomez contacts Dundee in the bar but is unable to save him because there are too many French soldiers around
- Dundee has a nightmare flashback scene of the events in the film
- After the conference of Dundee and his officers (in the restored cut), the Apache leaders have a similar meeting, trying to determine what Dundee's next plan of action is
- More lead-in to the ambush, including Potts and Gomez relieving the pickets so that they would in danger instead of the pickets
- After the final battle, Dundee and Potts find another Apache trail marker left by Guerro, Charriba's subordinate, who has apparently survived the battle.

How much of this was shot, and how much was just in the script, isn't clear. But this still makes for interesting reading.

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joe, a number of years ago Major Dundee was discussed in some detail on these boards. One of the posters who is no longer around (was it FredCDobbs?) and who had worked in the industry said that one of the problems with the film was that Peckinpah was drunk and stoned a fair amount of the time. Apparently there were more problems than just the "misunderstood genius" vs. the "evil studio bosses."

Dundee would be better for me with someone other than Richard Harris, an actor who usually sets my teeth on edge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

GEEZ DARG,  looks like you CAN'T ask a simple question and get a SIMPLE ANSWER!  :wacko: 

So, have you seen this movie with a different star rating before and elsewhere?  Then the question does deserve a better explanation than Peckinpah was a drunk. And too.......

Didn't you ask for a reason for the 2 1/2 star rating, and NOT a full summary of the ENTIRE MOVIE? :blink:

Sepiatone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
49 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

GEEZ DARG,  looks like you CAN'T ask a simple question and get a SIMPLE ANSWER!  :wacko: 

So, have you seen this movie with a different star rating before and elsewhere?  Then the question does deserve a better explanation than Peckinpah was a drunk. And too.......

Didn't you ask for a reason for the 2 1/2 star rating, and NOT a full summary of the ENTIRE MOVIE? :blink:

Sepiatone

Well, actually here Sepia, I do appreciate all the input here, both the shorter ones and the more lengthy such as our friend CJ has offered up, as I was really looking for more than just a simple answer to my thread topic's question about its "rating", and had hoped this thread might produce a more in-depth examination into Peckinpah's film by the assembled.

(...this rare thread that I've started, that is) ;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Dargo said:

Just watched the "extended version" of Peckinpah's Major Dundee on TCM tonight, and I have to say that THAT was one very good IF not great Western!

Yes, after investigating this film's history on the internet, I found that the shorten version which was somewhat orphaned by the director due to the studio making its own cuts to it was panned by many critics back in '65 when it was released. But c'mon here, after watching this extended version tonight and one I'd say should rate at least 3 stars and perhaps even 3 and a half stars, I have to ask how bad could have been the shorten version?

Guess I forgot to add that I've never watched this film, shorten of not, until this evening, and as you can tell, I was very impressed with it.

(...and so maybe Peckinpah WAS justified in drinking himself to an early death after all and after the treatment the suits in Hollywood gave him, eh?!) ;) 

 

Well, whomever responsible for the satellite guide had to give THEIR personal opinion. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, hamradio said:

 

Well, whomever responsible for the satellite guide had to give THEIR personal opinion. 

My guess is that the rating was based on the shorten version and not the extended one TCM showed last night.

I.e. someone didn't do their homework.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As an aside, Charter Spectrum is changing its format.  One aspect is that the old 4 star(?) rating for movies has been replaced by the Rotten Tomatoes ratings.  If ratings weren't confusing enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

My guess is that the rating was based on the shorten version and not the extended one TCM showed last night.

I.e. someone didn't do their homework.

I have a feeling you're right here, James.

Yep, I'll bet it was indeed the shortened and thus lesser regarded version that whoever is in responsible for posting the ratings and the short synopses of films one sees on the satellite guide, perhaps most likely out of something such as Leonard Maltin's movie review book, was how I ended up seeing that 2 1/2 star rating for this film.

(...and secondly, yes again, I seriously doubt that person has ever watched this film, either version, to begin with, and so your "someone didn't do their homework" line would be very appropriate here)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, TheCid said:

As an aside, Charter Spectrum is changing its format.  One aspect is that the old 4 star(?) rating for movies has been replaced by the Rotten Tomatoes ratings.  If ratings weren't confusing enough.

Thanks.

And so now I must say that I find this a shame then, Cid.

You see, I've never been that impressed with the ratings one sees at Rotten Tomatoes and their "accuracies" (for want of a better word) in defining the quality of many films, and have always felt the IMDb website's ratings one sees there tend to be more representative of my feelings about various movies.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, kingrat said:

Joe, a number of years ago Major Dundee was discussed in some detail on these boards. One of the posters who is no longer around (was it FredCDobbs?) and who had worked in the industry said that one of the problems with the film was that Peckinpah was drunk and stoned a fair amount of the time. Apparently there were more problems than just the "misunderstood genius" vs. the "evil studio bosses."

Dundee would be better for me with someone other than Richard Harris, an actor who usually sets my teeth on edge.

Funny you mention Harris here, kingrat. After investigating the history of this film on the internet last night, it seems you're not the only one who didn't like him in the film, and with some saying he overacted in it.

(...gotta say though I thought he was just fine as the Irish immigrant-turned-Confederate officer, and that his performance seemed to fit the resentful and cocky counterpoint to Heston's character) 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

heston shoulda kept his money. I've tried to like this but it just escapes being a great movie for me.

:lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

heston shoulda kept his money. I've tried to like this but it just escapes being a great movie for me.

:lol:

What Nip. Heston doesn't slap Senta Berger around enough for ya in this thing or somethin'??? Or at ALL, for that matter.

Is THAT what's troublin' ya, bunkie?!

(...sorry dude, but I just can't imagine McQueen and McGraw in those roles at all) ;)

LOL

 

 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/17/2019 at 1:52 AM, Dargo said:

Just watched the "extended version" of Peckinpah's Major Dundee on TCM tonight, and I have to say that THAT was one very good IF not great Western!

Yes, after investigating this film's history on the internet, I found that the shorten version which was somewhat orphaned by the director due to the studio making its own cuts to it was panned by many critics back in '65 when it was released. But c'mon here, after watching this extended version tonight and one I'd say should rate at least 3 stars and perhaps even 3 and a half stars, I have to ask how bad could have been the shorten version?

Guess I forgot to add that I've never watched this film, shorten of not, until this evening, and as you can tell, I was very impressed with it.

(...and so maybe Peckinpah WAS justified in drinking himself to an early death after all and after the treatment the suits in Hollywood gave him, eh?!) ;) 

i did not know PECKINPAH directed this...i know next-to-nothing about it as a movie.

not too long ago i saw both STRAW DOGS and THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE back to back and am most interested in anything he ever directed.

i have always liked the 1-4 star rating system, provided you allow for half-stars; every "peg" on the "star chart" says something more if you think about it- and really, **1/2 is probably- when you get down to it- how about 68% of stuff really ends up over all. I think, in my own odd way, it's a better rating than three stars which is more "eh, it was good"- but it's the EASIEST of the ratings to toss off on something.

sorry, i know i'm not making much sense here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recorded MAJOR DUNDEE off TCM a few years ago. The print they played then ran 135 min 42 seconds. Would anyone know if that was the same length print they broadcast the other day?

I suspect it was, based on the TCM Schedule information, but that information is occasionally wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Dargo said:

What Nip. Heston doesn't slap Senta Berger around enough for ya in this thing or somethin'??? Or at ALL, for that matter.

Is THAT what's troublin' ya, bunkie?!

(...sorry dude, but I just can't imagine McQueen and McGraw in those roles at all) ;)

LOL

 

 

How about Shirley Booth instead of Senta Berger? Nip would have liked that.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/17/2019 at 1:59 PM, Dargo said:

Funny you mention Harris here, kingrat. After investigating the history of this film on the internet last night, it seems you're not the only one who didn't like him in the film, and with some saying he overacted in it.

(...gotta say though I thought he was just fine as the Irish immigrant-turned-Confederate officer, and that his performance seemed to fit the resentful and cocky counterpoint to Heston's character) 

Richard Harris often seems resentful and cocky . . . but is this acting, or is this just him? He hits the right marks in early films like Shake Hands With the Devil and The Night Fighters, two films I would rate above Major Dundee, playing characters who are, you guessed it, resentful and cocky, also arrogant and hot-headed. I also think he's good in his biggest role, This Sporting Life, as an athlete to whom all the above adjectives apply, as well as brutal and not very bright. I don't think the audience is supposed to want to scream at Rachel Roberts to get away from him as fast as she can, but that's definitely how I feel. I remember liking him in The Molly Maguires, where he plays a kinder, gentler character.

Harris is also the Tony Franciosa of historical movies. Just as Franciosa usually got the parts turned down by Marlon Brando and Paul Newman, Harris got the historical roles turned down by Burton and/or O'Toole. Cromwell is a good example. Harris isn't bad, just as Tony Franciosa usually isn't bad, but even a Richard Burton walk-through performance would have been better. Harris is perfectly competent as Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies; maybe he had mellowed some by then.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, NipkowDisc said:

I liked that part.

:)

You mean even THOUGH she played a woman who stands at only about 10% of 50 foot tall???

(...what's come OVER you, Nip?!)

;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/17/2019 at 4:48 PM, Dargo said:

Thanks.

And so now I must say that I find this a shame then, Cid.

You see, I've never been that impressed with the ratings one sees at Rotten Tomatoes and their "accuracies" (for want of a better word) in defining the quality of many films, and have always felt the IMDb website's ratings one sees there tend to be more representative of my feelings about various movies.

Honestly, I don't find any ranking system to really work for me online. Rotten Tomatoes is only really applicable for films from 1998 on, and on sites like IMDb, the majority of the films place between 5.0 and 7.5.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us