6.8/10
6,238
73 user 57 critic

Major Dundee (1965)

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.

Director:

Sam Peckinpah

Writers:

Harry Julian Fink (story), Harry Julian Fink (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Charlton Heston ... Major Amos Charles Dundee
Richard Harris ... Captain Benjamin Tyreen
Jim Hutton ... Lieutenant Graham
James Coburn ... Samuel Potts
Michael Anderson Jr. ... Tim Ryan
Senta Berger ... Teresa Santiago
Mario Adorf ... Sergeant Gomez
Brock Peters ... Aesop
Warren Oates ... O. W. Hadley
Ben Johnson ... Sergeant Chillum
R.G. Armstrong ... Reverend Dahlstrom
L.Q. Jones ... Arthur Hadley
Slim Pickens ... Wiley
Karl Swenson ... Captain Waller
Michael Pate ... Sierra Charriba
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Storyline

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 scgary66

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

THE EPIC STORY OF THE GREAT SOUTH-WEST !

Genres:

Adventure | War | Western

Certificate:

16 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Spanish

Release Date:

16 April 1965 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Sierra Charriba See more »

Filming Locations:

Sierra Madre del Sur, Mexico See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,520, 10 April 2005, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$14,873, 17 April 2005
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2005 restored) | (unreleased director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastman Color)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sam Peckinpah asked to have his name taken off the film after the studio took the final cut away from him and, citing budget overruns, refused to allow him to shoot the additional scenes he requested. See more »

Goofs

In the final battle, Capt. Tremaine is struck by Tyreen and falls from his horse into the river, but in the very next shot he is back in the saddle. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: 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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue:

1864 JOURNAL 1865

Foreward

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 »

Alternate Versions

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.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in I Dream of Jeannie: The Moving Finger (1965) See more »

Soundtracks

Shall We Gather at the River?
(uncredited)
Written by Robert Lowry and Charles Ives
Sung by R.G. Armstrong, Brock Peters and the soldiers at the burial after the first river battle
See more »

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User Reviews

 
War of attrition
12 July 2001 | by virek213See all my reviews

A textbook example of how a penny-pinching producer can ruin a potentially great movie by basically sandbagging its (admittedly truculent) director, MAJOR DUNDEE nevertheless works as an answer of thoughts to the glorious Cavalry westerns of John Ford. Sam Peckinpah, on his third film overall and first one with a large-scale budget, was somehow able to pull a good film out of his controversial hat, thanks in no small part to his cast.

Heston plays an ambitious, ego-driven warden of a prison outpost in New Mexico in the closing months of the Civil War. When a rampaging band of Apache slaughter a family at a nearby ranch and then take apart a regiment he sends out to destroy them, Heston sees his way to get out of his routine job and get promoted. But to do this, he must form a garrison of troopers comprised of civilians, blacks, and Confederate prisoners. One of the latter is Ben Tyreen (Richard Harris), who had once been his friend but is now his worst enemy. Furthermore, his pursuit of the Apache, once it starts, will take the troopers across the Rio Grande into French-occupied northern Mexico. Now, they'll not only have to worry about hunting down the Apache and keeping the peace amongst themselves, they also have to worry about French lancers.

Despite the film being butchered so maliciously to the point where many critics rightly complained about its incoherence, plus a marital music score that Peckinpah detested royally (he could have used Jerry Goldsmith here), MAJOR DUNDEE succeeds by pulling out as many stops as it can. It benefits from being shot almost exclusively on location in Mexico (under truly ghastly conditions, which would have happened even without studio interference). The photography by Sam Leavitt is also quite good (though, in another case where the producer overrode the director, Peckinpah couldn't use his favorite cameraman Lucien Ballard on the shoot). And there are those moments of violence and bloodshed that predate, though in a more 'PG-13' fashion, Peckinpah's next film, the far more violent 1969 epic THE WILD BUNCH.

Heston is as good as ever in the title role. But surprisingly, he is nearly matched on screen by Harris, who plays his role as an Irish supporter of the Confederacy with great dash and insight. James Coburn also does good journeyman work as the one-armed scout Sam Potts. Peckinpah rounds out the cast with his Usual Suspects: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones, John Davis Chandler, Slim Pickens, and Dub Taylor.

In spite of all its flaws, MAJOR DUNDEE is still quite viewable, which is why I rank it an 8 out of 10.

NOTE: In 2005, for its 40th anniversary re-release, Sony Pictures released an extended version of MAJOR DUNDEE on DVD, with twelve minutes of footage once thought irretrievably lost placed back in; and they've replaced the original marital music score in favor of one by Christopher Caliendo. It is closer to what Peckinpah had in mind, but with thirty minutes of additional footage irretrievably lost, there's no telling whatsoever how much better this film might have been had Peckinpah not been sandbagged. Nevertheless, it still stands as a slightly flawed but never dull Civil War western.


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