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Major Dundee Details


Sam Peckinpah's 1965 feature Major Dundee was recut and rescored for re-release theatrically in 2005, 40 years after its original release. The "Extended Version," as it is known officially, tells essentially the same story as the original but with clearer motivations for the characters (which often seemed vague or obscure in the 1965 edition) and much greater effectiveness. Major Amos Charles Dundee (Charlton Heston) is a West Point graduate who somehow -- it's not clear -- exceeded his orders while serving in the Battle of Gettysburg and, as punishment, has been taken out of combat and put in charge of a Union prison in New Mexico. He then gets word that marauding Apaches under Sierra Charriba (Michael Pate) have raided an American settlement, slaughtering the troops who were pursuing them and kidnapping three young boys, whom they've taken to their lair south of the Rio Grande (and if this sounds a lot like the plot of John Ford's John Ford, it's because they used the same story as inspiration). Dundee assumes responsibility for capturing or destroying the raiders and rescuing the captives, but because he has far too few men, he's forced to recruit prisoners, including his one-time friend, Confederate Captain Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris), and other "gentlemen of the South," to fill out his ranks. Tyreen and his men despise Dundee, but agree to serve on this mission in exchange for the chance for possible pardon of commutation of sentence (Tyreen and some of his men are facing the rope, for killing a guard in an escape attempt). The mission takes them deep into Mexico, where they free the children but now find themselves being stalked by the very Apaches that they were hunting, as well as having to fight off the French troops stationed there. And as they quickly see, the French troops, though white and supposedly "civilized" like themselves, treat the native Mexicans in ways that make the Apaches look almost saintly. In the end, this ragtag group of soldiers, malcontents, deserters, traitors, and criminals finds a larger cause in their quest -- bigger even than their own survival -- as they discover something uniquely fine and honorable in being an American, and in American ideals. It takes the sacrifice and deaths of many to get to that point, but the movie -- in this version -- gets us there convincingly, if in decidedly grim and bittersweet fashion. Though based on fiction and shot under incredibly (indeed, legendarily) chaotic conditions, the movie ultimately proves to be a rousingly disturbing examination of what it means to be an American, and the meaning of American ideals. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

  • Release date:March 15, 1965


Charlton Heston
as Maj. Amos Charles Dundee
Richard Harris
as Capt. Benjamin Tyreen
Jim Hutton
as Lieutenant Graham
James Coburn
as Samuel Potts
Senta Berger
as Widow
Mario Adorf
as Sgt. Gomez
Brock Peters
as Aesop
Warren Oates
as O.W. Hadley
Ben Johnson
as Sgt. Chillum
R.G. Armstrong
as Reverend Dahlstrom
L.Q. Jones
as Arthur Hadley
Slim Pickens
as Wiley
Karl Swenson
as Capt. Waller
Michael Pate
as Sierra Charriba
John Davis Chandler
as Jimmy Lee Benteen
Dub Taylor
as Benjamin Priam
Albert Carrier
as Capt. Jacques Tremaine
José Carlos Ruiz
as Riago
Aurora Clavel
as Melinche
Begoña Palacios
as Linda
Enrique Lucero
as Dr. Aguilar
Francisco Reiguera
as Old Apache


Sam Peckinpah
Jerry Bresler
Oscar Saul
Sam Peckinpah
Daniele Amfitheatrof
Composer (Music Score)
Howard Kunin
Don Starling
William Lyon
Thomas S. Dawson
Costume Designer
Augie Lohman
Special Effects