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Author Topic: Major Dundee (1965)  (Read 68254 times)
Groggy
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« on: March 23, 2005, 04:11:40 PM »

  According to a number of sources, Sam Peckinpah's should-have-been masterpiece, "Major Dundee", will be released on DVD on 5/31/05, with thirteen minutes of footage restored!  I haven't actually seen the version that's out now, but I'd still be very excited to see the uncut version.  Sounds like an awesome film, if it's any good I'll be all over it!

http://www.dvdaficionado.com/dvds.html?dir=Sam+Peckinpah

Press Release From Film Forum, which will be showing the extended version in April:

Quote
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 laterThe 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

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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2005, 04:21:20 PM »

Man, that is great news. Always thought the lost footage was destroyed. Dyin' to see the extended version!

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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2005, 08:03:41 PM »

  It'll be interesting to hear the new musical score.  Besides the "Major Dundee March," I liked the original score.  That creepy sound that was played everytime someone said,"Until the Apache is taken or destroyed," still gives me shivers.

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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2005, 12:09:25 AM »

I take it, then, that we only get the new score, the old one isn't offered as an option. This is too bad. Peckinpah may not have liked that score, but it is still part of the history of the film and important to our understanding of the way the film was originally experienced.

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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2005, 08:23:26 AM »

I've been going through the old Peckinpah classics recently, and I have never seen this film. Good news indeed. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia was also released recently. Will have to buy that one too. Any one who has seen it?

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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2005, 12:48:57 PM »

I've been going through the old Peckinpah classics recently, and I have never seen this film. Good news indeed. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia was also released recently. Will have to buy that one too. Any one who has seen it?
Terrific movie. Moody and magnificent. A great "character study" that takes it's time. OATES gives career best performance. Run it as part of a double bill alongside THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (Peter Yates 1973) with ROBERT MITCHUM. A drink or two while you watch may cushion the dramatic blow of this pair.

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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2005, 05:16:28 AM »

Supposedly, there will also be a major Peckinpah promotion from Warner Brothers. A box set including: Ride The High Country, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as well as a new special edition of the Wild Bunch. It hasn't been officially announced yet, but I really hope this set comes out.

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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2005, 04:33:48 PM »

Supposedly, there will also be a major Peckinpah promotion from Warner Brothers. A box set including: Ride The High Country, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as well as a new special edition of the Wild Bunch. It hasn't been officially announced yet, but I really hope this set comes out.

There's also a new "Wild Bunch" documentary being made this year, with interviews with Walon Green and Co., I wonder if that'll be on the new SE?  I didn't find "An Album In Montage" all that interesting, personally, and I think the current TWB DVD is crap (do we really have to flip the f-ing disc?  Please).  So hell yeah, I'm looking forward to it.

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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2005, 07:03:39 PM »

  This was a couple posts back, but I think the new and old scores will be included on the dvd.  There is a good explanation of what new footage will be included at digitalbits.com. 

  It'll be interesting to hear the new score.  Really looking forward to seeing this.

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« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2005, 06:44:25 AM »

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.


J. Hoberman's "Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the Sixties" will appear in paperback next month.

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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2005, 12:24:44 PM »

It has been postponed till the end of August. Perhaps they have found more footage?

I finally got to see Alfredo Garcia, and it is already one of my favourite Peckinpah flicks. I've always liked Warren Oates, but I had no idea he was this cool. In my opinion, he's up there with Clint, Powers Boothe, and Mickey Rourke as the kings of cool. Sorry Belkin, but I saw it sober. No alcohol in the house.

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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2005, 08:30:24 AM »

A review of the theatrical release of the extended version can be found here: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=15189

Enjoy. I can't wait to see this, even though I normally can't stand Charlton Heston.

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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2005, 02:14:26 PM »

Have any of you seen the MAJOR DUNDEE-EXTENDED CUT? I saw it in NY at the Film Forum a few weeks ago.

I saw the original version once before on video. I thought it was a mess. After seeing the extended cut, I'd say that it's a vast improvement. Don't get too excited, though. It's not a lost masterpiece, or at least I don't think so. It's still a mess. Just a much better one. The score is an improvement and the additional scenes add a lot. But still, it suffers from the same weaknesses as the original cut, only less so.

There's something romantic and enticing about "lost masterpieces." Some people want to believe that Major Dundee was a brilliant film that the studio destroyed. I think that's only partially true. The studio definitely wrecked it, but it was ultimately Peckinpah who didn't deliver the goods. He did eventually. What Major Dundee promises, the Wild Bunch ultimately delivered.

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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2005, 05:33:10 AM »

I watched the unextended cut on AMC yesterday, and let me just say this:
 
The version I saw was the "butchered" 123 minutes version, edited for television at that, and pan-and-scan, with commercials.  That being said: if this is the heavily edited version, I absolutely cannot wait to see to the uncut version.  It was far from perfect, but a fantastic film nonetheless.  I'd get it an 8/10.

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« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2005, 02:04:58 PM »

I watched the unextended cut on AMC yesterday, and let me just say this:
 
The version I saw was the "butchered" 123 minutes version, edited for television at that, and pan-and-scan, with commercials.  That being said: if this is the heavily edited version, I absolutely cannot wait to see to the uncut version.  It was far from perfect, but a fantastic film nonetheless.  I'd get it an 8/10.

If you thought the butchered version was "fantastic" then you should find the extended cut to be FREAKING AWESOME. If you gave it an 8/10, then this new one has got to be a 12/10.

Seriously, it is WAAAAAAY better. That said, I still stand by my little review above. I think it's very flawed. I wish I could dig it as much as you will.

The character actors in it are amazing. All the little bit parts are more interesting than the actual lead characters. Charlton Heston cannot compete with, oh...

Warren Oates
Ben Johnson
L.Q. Jones
Slim Pickens
Dub Taylor
and all the other dirty, drunken bastards that made up Peckinpah's repertory group. They are amazing, and I found them to be the best part of the film.

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