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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The New York Herald Tribune Review by Robert Salmaggi 4/8/1965

Major Dundee, a sprawling Western, gets lost on the trail and never does find its way, thanks to a confusing continuity and several meaningless sub-plot sidetracks...The film starts out on a simple enough tack.  But the viewer is soon forced into a constant guessing game in the effort to bridge actions, why's and wherefores. (An off-screen narration, ostensibly drawn from the diary of one of Dundee's troopers, adds beautifully to the over-all fog) Further, the screenplay plods wearily in parts, seems haphazardly drawn, and at film's finale, the viewer is more confused tan ever. A few good things come through the haze - a hatful of good performances for one. Charlton Heston is his usual rockhard self, while Richard Harris turns in a fascinating performance. Interesting characterizations are contributed by James Coburn, Jim Hutton, Michael Anderson Jr, and Brock Peters. Providing some titilating but irrelevant moments (including a wet, clinging chemise bathing scene) is Senta Berger, a German actress of staggeringly fullblown proportions. Sam Peckinpah, veteran of the Western frontier, again shows that vigorous, gutsy style. The battle scenes are boisterously staged, and provide meaty substance for action fans. Throughout the film. there are vivid, often grotesque stamps of his realism technique, e.g, pools of blood at the feet of blanketed battle casualties; death-throe gurglings of a man cut down by a bullet; vultures feeding off a grisly corpse, hanging corpses turning slowly on their ropes in the noon day sun. Peckinpah has admirably drawn his grubby, tobacco-spitting characters, but they are all lost in the maze of tedious incidents...Major Dundee unfortunately throttles itself with irritating complexities.

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