Major Dundee (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time / 1965 / 123 & 136 mins / NR
Sam Peckinpah's MAJOR DUNDEE has one of the most testosterone filled opening credit scenes ever filmed. It tells you straight up front that this is a MAN'S MOVIE! After a somber narration tells us pretty much everyone is going to bite the bullet before the end credits roll we meet our villain, the evil Apache psycho Sierra Charriba (Michael Pate.) After he has laid waste to a relief column of cavalry (including women and children), he rides up to one of the only survivors and gleefully screams "I am Sierra Charriba! Who you send against me now?" At which point the dramatic score blasts, "MAJOR DUNDEE" fills the 2.35 frame and a list of the biggest bad-asses of the era are ticked off one after another: Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Jim Hutton, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, L.Q. Jones, Slim Pickens, Brock Peters... basically Sierra Charriba is in for a serious whoopin' over the next couple of hours.
MAJOR DUNDEE was Peckinpah's first big budgeted major studio film and the story of its nightmare production is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Begun with an incomplete script and shot in very remote Mexican locations, the film would ultimately be taken away from the director after his extreme abuse of his cast and crew (fueled by a ragingly out of control drinking problem) caused the production to go 15 days over schedule and 1.5 million dollars over budget. The originally released film was completely re-edited (to 123 minutes down from the director's 152 minute cut) without Peckinpah's involvement and was a commercial and critical failure. While the production of MAJOR DUNDEE caused Peckinpah to be ostracized from Hollywood for several years, the film, like the director himself, would make a comeback.
As that opening lays out for us, MAJOR DUNDEE is about the title characters' hunt for Sierra Charriba. A disgraced Union officer managing a Confederate prisoner of war camp, Dundee (Heston) enlists a rag-tag group of prisoners, soldiers, mercenaries and Native Americans to hunt down the murdering villain. That is pretty much the bulk of the plot.
In 2005, the 136 minute producers cut was discovered in the Sony Picture archives and re-scored to play the film festival circuit before being released on DVD. This version plays far smoother than the original cut, showing many of the subtleties and trademarks character nuances Peckinpah would go on to be known for. Twilight Time has included both the original theatrical and this producer's cut in this release (Peckinpah's full length cut appears to be lost.)
While MAJOR DUNDEE is no WILD BUNCH, it is an enjoyable ride packed with a great cast at the top of their game. If you love Peckinpah or "revisionist" westerns of the 1960's, this is a must have for your library.
Twilight Time comes to the rescue and presents not only both cuts of MAJOR DUNDEE on Blu-ray, but brings them to the high-def format in the best looking presentations yet. While not perfect (the color could have been tweaked a little more and some sporadic ringing is evident) this release stands tall over all that has come before with beautiful filmic texture and strong detail in both of the anamorphic 2.35 transfers.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (on the extended cut) and the DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track (on the theatrical cut) both fare even better with excellent fidelity and clarity. After years of substandard presentations on home video and television, MAJOR DUNDEE is finally available looking and sounding as great and grand as it truly deserves.
Each cut of the film comes on its own disc with its own supplements. The Extended Version includes and fantastic commentary with Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle moderated by Nick Redman.
Christopher Caliendo's new score is presented on an isolated DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track.
The theatrical trailer for the 2005 re-release of this edition rounds out the Extended Cut supplements.
The original Theatrical Cut includes Daniele Amfitheatrof's controversial score on an isolated DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track.
A little over four minutes of "Silent Extended Outtakes," an "Incomplete Deleted Scene: "Knife Fight" and a short "Extended Scene: "Major Dundee and Teresa."
The original promotional materials offered include "Trailer Artwork Outtakes," "Exhibitor Promo Reel Excerpt" and the original Theatrical Trailer.
Twilight Time's release of MAJOR DUNDEE is a treat for Peckinpah fans and general film buffs alike. Sporting both cuts of the film to compare and a great batch of supplements, this release comes Highly Recommended!
** MAJOR DUNDEE is available exclusively via www.screenarchives.com an excellent soundtrack and film specialty site **