Major Dundee (1965)

Approved   |    |  Adventure, War, Western

Major Dundee (1965) Poster

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.



  • "Major Dundee," Richard Harris 1965 Columbia
  • "Major Dundee," Charlton Heston and Richard Harris. 1965 Columbia
  • "Major Dundee," Richard Harris 1965 Columbia
  • Major Dundee (1965)
  • Major Dundee (1965)
  • "Major Dundee," Charlton Heston and Director Sam Peckinpah. 1965 Columbia

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User Reviews

1 November 2004 | Poseidon-3
Major cuts = minor disappointments, but still worth a look.
The problems behind the scenes of this Civil War-era western (director vs producer over final cut, director's excesses and delays causing budget issues) are legendary. Thankfully, though the finished product is far from perfect, enough good things remain to make the film watchable and entertaining. Heston plays the square-jawed title character, an action-loving soldier who resents being put in charge of a prison camp. When a local settlement is slaughtered by Apaches, he must set out to rescue three captured boys but finds that he can't do it alone and must rely on a ragtag assortment of helpers. One of the few "real" officers he gets is Hutton as a rather bumbling, by-the-numbers lieutenant. He fills out his party with several Confederate prisoners, notably Harris as an embittered Captain, one-armed scout Coburn, several Negro Union soldiers led by Peters and various criminals and degenerates including Taylor and Pickens. Heston and Harris forge a very uneasy alliance as they head south into Mexico to retrieve the captives. They stumble onto the remains of a village in which curvy Berger is tending to the sick and dying. Needless to say, she sparks the interest of both Heston and Harris, only adding to their enmity. Eventually, the motley band of soldiers finds itself hunting Apaches while being hunted by French soldiers who are occupying Mexico. This escalates into an almost impossible situation when Heston's group reaches a river with the enemy both in front of and behind him. All the elements for a grand-scale, epic story are in place, but it falls short of excellence because of the problems in the editing room. Heston is great as the damaged, but heroic Major. Harris, though oddly cast and sporting that goofy blue eyeshadow he favored in the 60's, is also strong and the two make great adversaries. Coburn's role is smaller, but he gives it impact. Berger's role epitomizes the words decorative and obligatory, but she is luminous, especially when she isn't continuously yanking on her shawl (which happens VERY often!) The cast is chock full of excellent actors who enhanced many western films and television series. Oates has a nice turn as a Confederate who tests Heston's mettle (though he is referred to many times as a boy and was 37 years old!) Anderson is very endearing as a young bugler who becomes a man during the conflict. (Palacios, who plays his love interest, married director Peckinpah after this.) The primary problems seem to come in the mid to late section of the film when many things happen to the characters in swift succession and it's hard to completely gather their motivations and the timing of the actions. This section was clearly cut, haphazardly, and it weakens the narrative and the pace of the film. (Note Heston's sudden beard which appears out of nowhere.) Also, some of the battle sequences are edited so choppily that it's difficult to see who's being killed off! One must just assume, from whoever's left at the end, that the rest of the characters didn't make it. Still, the action scenes in the film are excitingly staged and the actors go a long way in putting the story across. Though it is rarely shown in widescreen, that format is a must for fully appreciating the camera-work and composition of the film. Heston, who admired (but tangled mightily with) Peckinpah, wound up making no money for his work as he put up his salary to help defray the cost overruns.

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Did You Know?


Woody Strode was considered for the part that went to Brock Peters. Strode was part Native American and he wrote in his memoirs that he didn't get the part because he was told by Sam Peckinpah that he looked too much "like a half-breed" to play the part.


Narrator: 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.


The type of howitzer used by Lt. Graham in the M1841 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer, a small but effective piece used primarily as horse artillery. In the final battle, Graham orders that the piece be elevated to 28 degrees; the highest level that can be reached for this piece is ten degrees.

Crazy Credits

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.

Alternate Versions

Three major scenes (and some minor ones) were added to the restored version, along with a new score by Christopher Caliendo. The major scenes added are:

  • Captain Tyreen and his men are captured by Dundee in a mountain stream as they attempt to escape the prison;
  • Dundee spends more time recovering in Durango, falling in love with Melinche (Aurora Clavell), a Mexican girl who nurses his wounds;
  • A scene where Dundee, Tyreen, a several of their officers - Samuel Potts (James Coburn), Sergeant Gomez (Mario Adorf), and Lieutenant Graham (Jim Hutton) - find a marker left for them by Charriba (Michael Pate) and discuss strategy on how to fight him. At the end of the scene, we learn the fate of the Indian scout Riago (Jose Carlos Ruiz), who has been crucified in a tree by Charriba's men. In the original version, his character simply disappears without a trace.
  • Various smaller shots are added, including a burial of corpses after the opening massacre, children watching the activities in Fort Benlin, Potts struggling to find a partner during the fiesta at the Mexican village, and a slightly longer version of the Apache river ambush.
  • Also available as extras on the DVD are a slightly longer version of the interlude at the river between Dundee and Teresa (Senta Berger), and a knife fight between Potts and Gomez in the Mexican village.


Shall We Gather at the River?
Written by
Robert Lowry and Charles Ives
Sung by R.G. Armstrong, Brock Peters and the soldiers at the burial after the first river battle


Plot Summary


Adventure | War | Western


Release Date:

15 March 1965


English, French, Spanish

Country of Origin


Filming Locations

Sierra Madre del Sur, Mexico

Box Office


$3,800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,520 10 April 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:


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