Major Dundee (1965)
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The most polished film I've seen of Peckinpah's. Bridges the gap between the traditional western and the more bloodthirsty efforts which would later come.
Major Dundee, Sam Peckinpah's flawed second film, stars Charlton Heston as a disgraced Union officer tasked with assembling a posse to kill Apache raiders. I really like the first half of the film, but it has real problems following through on its set-up. Several of the most interesting characters fail to complete their arcs or disappear entirely. An unconvincing romance is shoehorned into it, from which point the story completely derails. This extended cut, apparently closer to Peckinpah's intent, I'm sure makes the derailment more justifiable, but in return, makes it more tedious. Ultimately, the Melvillian elements just don't pay off. And personally, while it's thematically sound, the dark cinematography and muddy day-for-night makes certain sequences difficult to understand. There's a great deal to admire however. The relationship between Dundee and the renegade Confederate Captain Tyreen (Richard Harris) is fascinating and leads to all the best scenes in a film that is veritably about the possibility of healing the wound between the North and the South (still relevant in the mid-60s). Heston is a proper cold-hearted badass wound so tightly that he might break at any time (and does). So off to a great start, but then it gets lost.
Not one of Peckinpah's finest. Found myself losing interest in the middle.
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #51 in BFI's 100 Westerns
This movie ranks #661 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?