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Major Dundee Blu-ray Review

“Major Dundee” is admirably ambitious.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah,1965’s “Major Dundee” is part western, part epic, part action-drama. The Civil War set story revolves around the titular Major who was demoted to a New Mexico POW Camp after presumably botching something at the Battle Of Gettysburg. After ranchers and Cavalry members are brutally massacred by Apache warriors (led by Sierra Charriba), Major Dundee mounts a mission to not only stop them but rescue 3 children that were taken by the Apache. Dundee assembles a rag-tag army made up of Union soldiers, black soldiers, criminals, a drunk, a Reverend and Confederate POWs that include Captain Ben Tyree (who has a history with Dundee). As the group travels to Mexico, they face just as many problems within their own camp as they do outside of it.

It’s no secret that “Major Dundee” was a production plagued by issues and it does show in the final product (especially the theatrical cut). It’s a choppy movie with a weirdly rushed ending that has a lot of scenes where the movie sort of stalls for time. Outside of that, however, Peckipah’s eventful film manages to be a wildly engaging men on a mission movie that bears some resemblance to “The Searchers” and “Moby Dick.” It’s a story about a man who is obsessed with carrying out a mission probably more out of his own selfish need to redeem himself than anything else. Sadly, it’s also an all too relevant story about America’s division. It’s kind of disturbing just how much of this movie resonates even now. 

Between Peckinpah’s skilled direction and the stunning location shooting/cinematography by Sam Leavitt, the movie is also a visually stunning multi-genre picture. The movie certainly had no shortage of production values and it definitely shows on screen.

The cast is a who’s who of Hollywood with Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Jim Hutton, Senta Berger, Michael Anderson Jr. and Ben Johnson all starring in it. Granted, it’s mostly the Heston-Harris show, but it’s still fun to see character actors popping up every now and then. Heston is definitely the MVP here. Not only does he guide the movie, but his character has the most weight to it. It is his movie after all.

Note: This set includes the theatrical cut and the 14 minute longer extended cut of “Major Dundee.”

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The transfer from a 4K scan (for both cuts) has some flickers and print defects, but, for the most part, it’s a nice upgrade that really showcases the glorious visuals.

Audio Track: 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD MA for Extended cut and 1.0 DTS-HD MA for the Theatrical cut.  How does it sound? Both of the original Lossless 1.0 tracks are satisfactory. The 5.1 track has a new score which might put off some purists.


Extras:
* A double-sided poster
* A glossy booklet with photos, essays by Jeremy Carr, Faran Smith Nehme, Robert Heath, and Neil Snowden
* UK Theatrical trailer and uncropped trailer, US theatrical trailer, 2005 re-release trailer, and German theatrical trailer
* 3 deleted scenes and compiled scenes with commentary by film historian/film critic Glenn Erickson.
* “Riding For A Fall”- An archival featurette about the stunt work.
* 4 animated galleries- Major Dundee On Set, Major Dundee Colour Stills, Major Dundee Portrait Stills, Promoting Major Dundee.
* “Mike Siegel: About The Passion And Poetry Project”- Filmmaker Mike Siegel talks about his Sam Peckinpah documentary.
* “Passion And Poetry: Sam Peckinpah Anecdotes”- A collection of acting greats talk about working with Peckinpah.
* “Passion And Poetry: The Dundee Odyssey”- Mike Siegel’s documentary about the making of “Major Dundee.”
* “Moby Dick On Horseback”- A new visual essay by film historian/film critic David Cairns.
* 3 commentaries- one by Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, one by film film historians/critic Gleenn Erickson and Alan K. Rode and a solo track by Glenn Erickson.

June 27, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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