Major Dundee | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Director Sam Peckinpah went over budget during production of this 1965 epic western and was fired, so this restoration, based on a scholarly assessment of his intentions, can't really be considered a director's cut. But it's 12 minutes longer, its story is easier to follow, and its score is closer to what Peckinpah had in mind. Still as flawed as its title hero and a bit out of control, it's a powerful and provocative account of a disgraced Union officer (Charlton Heston) reluctantly joining forces with Confederate prisoners (including Richard Harris) to kill or capture an Apache who led a massacre in New Mexico. It may not approach The Wild Bunch, but after the soldiers cross into Mexico the film takes on weight and flavor that suggest major Peckinpah, and both Harris and Heston (who gamely gave up his salary to keep Peckinpah on board, at least for a while) contribute some of their finest work. With Senta Berger, James Coburn, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson. PG-13, 136 min. Music Box.

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