Major Dundee

Search Movies

Sam Peckinpah's first big-budget production, a Civil War-period Western of knotty complexity, to do with a mixed-nuts posse of Union regulars, Confederate POWs, a handful of custodial "coloreds," Indians, and ragtag civilian volunteers in pursuit of an Apache raiding party south of the border, and pursued in turn by a platoon of the French occupation army. It sounds almost farcical in so brief a summary. It plays remarkably well, despite the purported butchery of it by the studio. In retrospect, after the director's numerous other battles with the brass and after the degeneration of his career into self-parody and impersonal potboilers (The Killer Elite, The Osterman Weekend), it becomes more apparent that the true subject of the film is not so much, in a line lifted from the daily-diary narration, "a command divided against itself," not even so much a nation divided, as it is a man divided, a man conflicted. The true subject, to come right out with it, is Peckinpah himself. The two principal antagonists — Maj. Dundee (Charlton Heston at his sculptural best), the Union officer fallen out of favor with his superiors and relegated to the role of jailkeeper at a remote New Mexico outpost, and Capt. Tyreen (Richard Harris at his Brando-est), the Confederate turncoat cashiered out of the U.S. Army and now fallen into captivity — represent two sides of the same coin, former comrades at war with each other in more ways than one, linked by their common Southern backgrounds, by their military demotions, and by the double-E in their surnames. Dundee: the glory-seeker, the self-doubter, the guilty boozer, the headstrong hardliner who can't help but stray from the course, the damn fool. Tyreen: the self-romanticizing rebel, a sophist, a gallant, a dress-up dandy of humble origins, "a fanciful man" who, above all else, "has style." Together they describe their creator to a T, and there's something quite prophetic in the filmmaker's self-analysis through these two grapplers. Not just prophetic, to be sure, but diaristic, a direct reflection of his daily reality on the project, roaming the wilds of Mexico on a mission of doubtful outcome, with inadequate support or approval, an uncertain reception awaiting back home. To the extent that this is prophecy, it's the self-fulfilling kind. One of the men says a mouthful when, talking as the pot to the kettle, he says to the other, "When are you going to learn you made all your own troubles?" With Jim Hutton, James Coburn, Michael Anderson, Jr., and Senta Berger. (1965) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG-13
"Major Peckinpah"


This movie is not currently in theaters.


Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs