Plot: What’s it about?
It’s the mid-sixties and judging from the decent turnout of Ride The High Country, director Sam Peckinpah is given an epic task to bring a big film set south of the border and telling a tale of a leader, his men and the task they undertake hunting down a tribe while making a few stopovers along the way. One struggle, one man and a large band of characters make up the tale of Major Dundee
It’s the tail end of the civil war and deep in the heart of New Mexico, an Apache tribe led by Sierra Charriba is responsible for leading a murderous attack. Upon noticing the large amount of dead bodies, Major Amos Charles Dundee (Charlton Heston) prepares to exact revenge to hunt down the tribe. With it, he assembles a group of fellow officers, prisoners, and most notably a confederate bunch led by Captain Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris) who’s escape attempt resulted in a death of a few officers. Nevertheless, Dundee gives in to Tyreen and both ride together to fight against the Apaches pledging to settle the score when they are killed and done for, only that.
What Dundee and his men don’t know is the obstacles that are within their path and the pains that will occur along their tailspin journey.
Here’s a film that has variety and violence mixed in with an almost included appearance by the kitchen sink. Sam Peckinpah’s film tells the tale of one man’s obsession and the struggles both with his men and internally along the way. A gutsy man who feels that only the renegades along with his soldiers are trustworthy to take on such an unique battle.
The performances by both Charlton Heston and Richard Harris are superb in that each have their heroic moments and no matter how much they hate each other, on the battlefield they are one and are powerful enough to take on anybody. They both have their differences and their pasts but in the name of Apaches, they fight to track down Sierra Charriba and take him and his tribe down.
The film has plenty of chaos and grit along with a few in between instances that balances the tone down and in some cases throw the film off into another thing of itself. Despite the mixture, Peckinpah and this “extended version” covers a vision of confusion, wide scope and surprise all in a matter of nearly two and a half hours with a well shot picture and a great assemblage of moments made together into one unique film. Major Dundee is far from being a major pain in the ass as it’s extended edition improves to a degree upon the films original cut giving a few more character moments and a few tweaks here and there.
Video: How does it look?
Major Dundee: The Extended Cut is given its maiden voyage on DVD with a 2.35:1 anamorphic treatment with results that are visually very good but with some elements from films of the past that still remain a transfer of the time with a speck here and there and a widescreen speck cut going from fuzzy to clear on a dissolve in scene evident in many Cinemascope films. Most of the film’s picture quality is clear and remains a gorgeously shot piece with solid results visually not overbleeding colors and not draining them out either as well.
Audio: How does it sound?
Here’s where the fun begins audibly. On the opening menu of this title, there is a choice of viewing the film with a new 5.1 Dolby Digital track or the original mono track upon its original theatrical release. The best choice is the former over the latter for one simple reason. Both tracks have the same film, however the musical score of the film differs in both tracks.
Christopher Caliendo’s 5.1 score is a treat and when it works, accompanies the film greatly and is hookably effective from the opening Columbia logo to the end of the finished product along with balancing the sound and effects without much delay and with great clarity. The same cannot be said of the score on the stereo track which captures the effects in a slightly muted fashion but possesses one of the most obviously misscored tracks of all (and this is what the film was released with originally in 1965) with the bad title song of Falling In With the Major which gets more annoying with each listen.
Despite that setback, audibly the presentation remains favorable with 5.1 over mono. This disc also has a French audio track along with English, French and Korean subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Major Dundee has been given a royal treatment for a single disc title and it all starts off with another in the ongoing DVD commentary series called Peckinpah’s Present on Peckinpah’s Past with the host Nick Redman and the usual suspects of all things Peckinpah– David Weddle, Paul Seydor and Garner Simmons.
In this entry, our four historians have what is the most divided of Peckinpah commentaries to date as they point out the wonderful informative stuff along with the things that didn’t work as well for Peckinpah according to them. That is not to say that they dislike the movie, it’s more on the basis that there a lot more split votes amongst the speakers than usual.
When the major says charge, they run like hell and with that charge comes a survival with another solid track by the men, once again.
In addition to the valuable track, there is a wonderful insert from film historian Glenn Erikson giving a documented take on Peckinpah’s Wounded Masterpiece going into a lot of what the four historians go into along with a few sweets here and there.
Next there is an incomplete deleted scene that is intergrated in the film but is here individually as one scene here and while it’s inclusion is curious, it makes one wonder how effective it could’ve been as a scene. Along with that is a not so extended scene with the Major and Teresa that doesn’t add up to much but just an extra minute and a half near the water of the scene.
After that is another gem of this title, the 20 minute excerpt from Mike Siegel’s film Passion and Poetry- The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah. With it’s players and their interesting take on things, I hope to see this Ballad fully for the excerpt whetted my interest for a lot more and its section on Major Dundee was a most intriguing one.
Following that is a vintage featurette “Riding For a Fall” that is a short take on a stuntman and one memorable fall within the film. What’s most interesting on this disc is that it can either be shown in clear black and white or grainy color with the materials provided.
On top of that is a few outtakes minus the sound along with an excerpt from a exhibitor promo reel showing a bit of the film from that time.
Finishing out the disc are Promotional Stills and Poster Artwork with that artwork working itself into Trailer outtakes and its use both wide and close up.
There is also the theatrical trailer of the film as well as the 2005 Re-Release trailer narrated by Peckinpah regular L.Q. Jones.
With it’s wide trip along with its variety of characters following along this possessed leader, Major Dundee benefits on its extended edition thanks to solid comments, intriguing extras and a film that holds up amongst all Peckinpah’s films with a bit of cinematic foreshadowing of elements that would find its way into future Peckinpah films as well coming very well recommended on DVD.