In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
During the last winter of the Civil War, cavalry officer Amos Dundee leads a contentious troop of Army regulars, Confederate prisoners and scouts on an expedition into Mexico to destroy a band of Apaches who have been raiding U.S. bases in Texas.Written by
When Maj Dundee and the relief column arrive at the Rosta's ranch, Dundee is not wearing a blue jacket. As he, Potts, and Ryan go into the massacre site he is still without his jacket and it is not visible on his saddle.
Shortly later, as Dundee, Potts, and now with Sgt Gomez approach the trooper hanging upside down, Dundee is now wearing his blue jacket, though not buttoned. See more »
In the territory of New Mexico towards the end of the Civil War, an Indian, Sierra Charriba, and his Apache warriors raided, sacked and looted an area almost three times the size of Texas.
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Opening credits prologue:
1864 JOURNAL 1865
In the territory of New Mexico, toward the end of the Civil War, an Indian Sierra Charriba, and his 47 Apache warriors raided, sacked, and looted an area almost three times the size of Texas.
On October 31, 1864, an entire company of the 5th United States Cavalry sent out from Fort Benlin to destroy him, was ambushed and massacred at the Rostes ranch.
We are indebted to Timothy Ryan, bugler 5th United States Cavalry, the company's sole survivor, for his diary, the only existing record of this tragedy and the campaign that followed. See more »
The 2005 restored version contains 12 additional minutes of footage originally edited by the studio without the director's consent. See more »
I grew up watching westerns, and saw this one every now and then on TV. Heston played one of my great heroes; a Federal Army Officer commanding a regiment squarely situated with Lincoln's United States, and under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant. He is out in the west, has men of honor under his command, save for the occasional horse thief and rebel.
It's a tale of obsession. With Melville as the inspiration and Peckinpah helming the project, how could it go wrong?
Well, as the historians on the commentary track reminded me, market forces were at work back at the studio. And so it was that what could have been a historic film about tracking down an Apache war-band, was turned into an overlong film involving a love interest and Imperial French guards.
For the most part it's exceptionally staged. The only foible is the story itself. The main plot gets resolved in act two, and so the story falters there. The story also meanders with the love interest, and what started out as a plot driven story regarding justice and revenge in the never-ending struggle between the natives and the white-man, turns into an elongated adventure regarding the life and times of Major Amos Charles Dundee.
Instead of a Melville like tale, we get a brief chronology of an army officer as went to resolve one issue, but stirred up others in the process. Huh.
So, can we castigate it as a bad film? It's a tough call. I think it's better to say that the film started out on an almost misleading note, but promised on the title; a film about Major Dundee. We get the sense that the film is going to stay on one topic, one plot, one story, but winds up embracing a ton of others.
For all that there is a lot of symbolism and deep stuff operating here. We examine Dundee's command decisions and his command detachment to pursue a single minded goal. Note Harris's change in shirts as Heston's character flirts with debauchery. Note the change in landscape as Heston and his forces pursue their goal. Note the uniforms and comment on contemporary social upheavals of the time (as was noted on the commentary track, but yes, I spotted it before it was pointed out).
That's not all, there's also a coming of age tale here, as well as a romance (however retrofitted, and I'll go ahead and say it, I don't care how beautiful the Austrian actress is, and she is stunning, her role and tale do not belong).
All in all it is an entertaining tale, and the ever sly mind might see the climatic finale as Peckinpah's comment on what power got us embroiled in conflicts involving US forces fighting native contingents. Ring any bells? That could be reading too much into it, but based on what I know about the director, I don't find it too far off the mark.
It's almost an ingenious film. It's almost a classic. One could even call it a flawed classic. View it for what it's worth. If it seems somewhat odd, then keep what I told you in mind.
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