Jerry Bresler's capabilities as a producer can be accurately gauged by his behavior on The Vikings, a swash-buckler that had a puerile script by Calder Willingham but was beautifully photographed by Jack Cardiff and skillfully edited by Elmo Williams.. Bresler partially obscured his folly in hring a writer like Willingham for such a project by also hiring such outstanding talents as those of Cardiff and Williams.
On Major Dundee, Bresler has not been so proficient, and has squandered a considerable amount of Columbia's money by allowing an immature director (Sam Peckinpah), who also collaborated on the script, to ruin what could have been a sure-fire actioner.
The story should have been a straight-line chase of murderous, marauding Apaches by an intrepid U.S. Cavalry commander impersonated by Charlton Heston. Instead, this film is a meaningless maundering among Peckinpah's ignorance of masculine character traits and how to depict them. Major Dundee remains inexplicable throughout, and, what is worse, uninteresting. So do all the other characters, including a Confederate prisoner played by Richard Harris with a sort of lock-jaw that afflicts British actors who know nothing of our West - or Civil War.
Major Dundee will take a lot of living down by Peckinpah, and by Bresler, who should not have entrusted so expensive a production to such an inexperienced director. As for Heston's performance, it surprised me. Like everyone else, I had come to the conclusion he was doomed to spend his days as a spectacular figure in long shots. Wretched though Major Dundee is, it provides some evidence that Heston can also act in close-ups.