Major Dundee – Blu Ray Review. Arrow Films

Arrow video in the UK have released this 2 disc special edition of the Sam Peckinpah western Major Dundee starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris.

Charlton Heston stars as Major Amos Dundee, a Union Cavalry officer, who mounts an expedition to hunt down Apache war chief Sierra Charriba. Building his own army of criminals, ex-slaves and Confederate POWs – among them one Captain Ben Tyreen (Richard Harris), whose intense former friendship with Dundee is tainted with a sense of betrayal on both sides – Dundee heads into Mexico, his eye fixed firmly on a last shot at greatness.

The film was a very troubled production and the director had the original version, running at 2 hours and 45 minutes, taken away from him and re-cut. This studio version was released to mixed reviews and poor box-office. Shot in Mexico (even after budget cuts it was still a very expensive shoot), Major Dundee is a film which looks rushed and choppy in places, and unfortunately we will never see it the way Peckinpah intended. 12 added minutes are in the longer cut on this release which helps and adds some things back into the story but after a good first half it falls into a narrative that is muddled and at times sloppy.

Charlton Heston even gave back his entire salary in order to keep the production alive, but it ultimately resulted in a tragically compromised vision. Even this version has very violent undertones, especially for a film made in 1965, and you can see how Peckinpah was refining his craft. A fascinating failure with some good performances, its such as shame that it was treated so badly at the time.

This 2 disc special edition from Arrow has both the longer and theatrical cut from a 4K scan. The transfer is a mixed bag with muted colours, but image quality is excellent most of the time with a good grain structure. With the Audio it has the extended cut with a 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix that works well with the new music. The original theatrical version has its original score mono mix, presented in a clear, lossless DTS-HD MA.

There are a ton of extras including a superb documentary and many interviews.

  • 60-page perfect bound booklet featuring new writing by Farran Nehme, Roderick Heath and Jeremy Carr plus select archive material
  • Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
  • Fold out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella

DISC ONE – EXTENDED VERSION

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a 4K scan by Sony Pictures
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio with new score by Christopher Caliendo
  • Lossless original mono audio with original score by Daniele Amfitheatrof
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with Nick Redman, David Weddle, Garner Simmons, Paul Seydor
  • Audio commentary by historian and critics Glenn Erickson & Alan K. Rode
  • Audio commentary by historian and critic Glenn Erickson
  • Moby Dick on Horseback, a brand new visual essay by David Cairns
  • Passion & Poetry: The Dundee Odyssey, a feature length documentary about the making of Major Dundee by Mike Siegel, featuring James Coburn, Senta Berger, Mario Adorf, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Gordon Dawson
  • Passion & Poetry: Peckinpah Anecdotes, nine actors talk about working with legendary director Sam Peckinpah, featuring Kris Kristofferson, Ernest Borgnine, James Coburn, David Warner, Ali MacGraw, L.Q. Jones, Bo Hopkins, R.G. Armstrong, Isela Vega
  • Mike Siegel: About the Passion & Poetry Project, in which filmmaker Mike Siegel talks about his beginnings and his ongoing historical project about director Sam Peckinpah
  • Extensive stills galleries, featuring rare on set, behind the scenes, and marketing materials
  • 2005 re-release trailer

DISC TWO – THEATRICAL VERSION (LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE)

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a 2K scan
  • Lossless original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Riding for a Fall, a vintage behind the scenes featurette
  • Extended/deleted scenes
  • Silent Outtakes
  • Select extended/deleted scenes and outtakes with commentary by historian and critic Glenn Erickson giving context on how they were intended to appear in Peckinpah’s vision of the film
  • Original US, UK and German theatrical trailers
  • Stills gallery

A great package for a flawed but fascinating western.

FILM – 6 PICTURE – 7.5 AUDIO – 8 EXTRAS – 9

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