Blu-ray: Major Dundee: 2-Disc Limited Edition

STUDIO: Arrow Video | DIRECTOR: Sam Peckinpah| CAST: Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Jim Hutton, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, R.G. Armstrong, Senta Berger
RELEASE DATE: June 29, 2021 | PRICE: Blu-ray $29.99
BONUSES: commentaries, featurettes, archival materials, deleted scenes, more
SPECS: NR | 122 min./136 min. | Western war adventure | 2.39:1 widescreen | DTS-HD MA 5.1/original mono

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  1/2 | Video  1/2 | Overall  1/2

When the pundits and film website put together their “Best of 2021” Blu-ray this impressive package will surely be mentioned.

Sam Peckinpah’s 1965 problematic western Major Dundee has been offered a handful of times previously in the digital format. First, its production studio Columbia released its truncated, original theatrical version, then a restored director’s cut was offered on DVD and in some theaters in 2005, highlighted by 13 minutes of added footage and a new score. Now-defunct boutique label Twilight Time also had their own 2013 limited edition version with some terrific extras and commentaries.

Now, Arrow had put together all previous extras and some new ones for a two-disc presentation that has been newly rescanned in 4K that includes both versions of the film along with a handsome 60-page color booklet and a double sided poster.

That’s a lot of swag for a film that received little love from critics or at the box-office when it was theatrically released. But for passionate fans of the film—and we assume there are many based on its slavish treatment on homevideo– and Peckinpah completists, this is a must-have.

But even with the new footage that’s been added, Major Dundee is episodic, the ending anti-climactic and ultimately disappointing. Coming after the director’s more traditional Ride the High Country, Major Dundee is generally recognized as a tune-up for the 1969’s The Wild Bunch, which was also the victim of studio interference, but considered his masterpiece, especially after severed footage was reinstated.

Major Dundee stars Charlton Heston as the title character, a headstrong Cavalry officer in the post-Civil War Southwest, who enlists the help of Confederate POWs (led by his former West Point ally Richard Harris), black infantrymen and a band of mercenaries and scouts to go into Mexico and exterminate a renegade Apache leader.

As with most of Peckinpah’s films, Major Dundee boasts a terrific cast of character actors in colorful roles, including James Coburn, Jim Hutton, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates and R.G. Armstrong, along with Senta Berger as Heston’s fetching love interest and Michael Anderson, Jr. as the troupe’s young bugler and the film’s narrator.

The behind-the-scenes stories told on the extras and a few of commentaries reiterate the film’s myriad of production problems before, during and after its filming and the filmmaker’s legendary drinking and drugging issues, as well as his anti-studio, anti-producer attitude which did not serve him well here or throughout the rest of his career.

New on this Arrow set are more additional scenes, trailers and trailers, and another commentary by critic Glenn Erickson.  As with previous releases, there are also optional scores for the movie, the original jaunty one featuring Mitch Miller and his group singing and a more serious but relatively unmemorable score commissioned for its extended cut release.

On the plus side, Major Dundee does offer an epic feel, some superb action sequences, a few interesting plot situations that are not always satisfyingly resolved and terrific cinematography by Otto Preminger regular Sam Leavitt.

Buy or Rent Major Dundee: 2-Disc Limited Edition

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.