Peckinpah unbound

“Major Dundee” has gotten the “restored” treatment. Fat chance this thing comes to Charleston, so I’ll wait for the DVD. But please, please, somebody on this blog go see this in the theater (is Michael the only person who would be able to go see this?). From what I understand, it will be quite an experience. The most striking thing is not the additional 12 minutes (after all, Peckinpah’s original cut was 2 hours 44 minutes, and the theatrical release was 2 hours and 2 minutes–this “restored” version is only 2 hours 14 minutes), but the completely new soundtrack and the dolby digital sound. Of course, the original aspect ratio will add to the experience (the only way to see Richard Harris is on the big screen–his performances can be measured best by the square foot). I haven’t seen this film in a while…I saw it on VHS years ago. I remember it was pan-and-scan, with the colors all but lost. A bit of a disappointment. And while I’m on the subject of Peckinpah, let me ask if anyone has seen any of his smaller films (“Junior Bonner,” “The Ballad of Cable Hogue,” “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”). I think “Bonner” is excellent. This may be a stretch, but it reminds me of recent Eastwood, or “Tender Mercies.” Peckinpah had a gift for depicting violence, but he was just as skillful shooting small, quiet, intimate moments between characters. The scene where Slim Pickens dies by the water’s edge in “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid” is one of the more moving scenes in cinema. And the scene where Bob Dylan reads the labels of canned goods at gunpoint is gloriously absurd (“Peas…spinach…creamed corn…”).

11 thoughts on “Peckinpah unbound”

  1. If I have the time and energy I may make a pilgrimage into NYC and see a couple films–especially Major Dundee and Oldboy. but I wonder about this additional 12 minutes–is it added according to a plan set out by Peckinpah or simply put in because it was around? In the couple of reviews I have seen they are not very clear about what this additional footage consists of. Is there any chance of the film being entirely restored? (if there’s 12 minutes around, why not the rest of it?)

  2. If I never have to see a film with chuck heston in it again, I’ll be quite pleased. Then again, I was never a Peckinpah affecianado. Well, the CB Radio/country song film he made (what’s it called?) was fun, but I grew up in the seventies so that’s a given.

  3. Jeff–puh-leeze! Evaluating Peckinpah by “Convoy” is like judging Hitchcock by “Topaz.” As for Heston, he’s given us great B films like “Soylent Green,” “Planet of the Apes,” and my favorite “The Omega Man.” On the A-list, we have the Peckinpah, “El Cid” and “Touch of Evil.” apparently Heston gave up his salary so Peckinpah could finish Major Dundee–so I have to give him a hand for that.

    Note: according to a French critic I read (I wish I could remember the over the top essay!) Heston’s torso (circa Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments) is an “axiom of cinema.”

  4. But I’m saying I liked Convoy. That I remember it fondly from my youth. As for Heston, he never did it for me. I also remember (also fondly) The Omega Man and Soylant Green and Planet of the Apes, but Heston’s performances always seemed a shade too histrionic. His celebrity–his manhood–didn’t tap into anything that meant much to me back then. And his politics over the last couple of decades have been difficult to stomach. but I’m only one guy out of 60 million.

  5. I generally agree with Jeff on Heston – too many B-movies and religious epics just made him a caricature to me. But I did see the revamped Touch of Evil a few years ago. Though Heston was not the best thing in the movie, and a ridiculous stretch to play a Mexican police detective – it’s a fine, fine film.

  6. Jeff–I’m just saying that if you enjoyed Convoy you might actually appreciate Peckinpah’s genuinely great movies–The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Ride the High Country,Cross of Iron, Straw Dogs…I am an aficionado I guess so I like just about all of his films, including the bizarre fevered “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.” even The Killer Elite has its moments…

  7. I do admire Straw Dogs and The Wild Bunch but I’m not much of a fan. I’ve really never given Peckinpah a shooting chance, to be honest.

  8. I’ve never gotten much out of Peckinpah, either. And–gasp–don’t really like “The Wild Bunch.” Heresy, I know. I’ve always found his stuff tendentious. I do like “Ride the High Country.” And, strangely, I kind of admire “Alfredo Garcia” and “The Osterman Weekend” for being so extravagantly loony–push it into surrealism and his odes to violent grandeur seem more intriguing, harder to unravel…

  9. Watching the DVD, and I think this is without doubt underrated. There are some stunningly beautiful shots in this film, and Peckinpach’s use of the widescreen format is incredible. The locations are great, and the tone is perfect. Gritty, bloody, dusty, sickening. For about an hour and ten minutes it’s a near perfect film. But even in the lousier moments, this film is worth looking at.

    Take the scene with Dundee and Teresa, right after the village festival. They’re alone, and she says something inane like “it’s good to celebrate just being alive,” he says “thank you for being kind,” blah blah blah. But the scene closes the way it opens, with this magnificently framed shot: a crumbling archway that opens up onto a Mexican dusk that’s falling over the valley.

    The new score helps, but this film is still hard to watch at parts. But always wonderful to look at.

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