Major Dundee: Everett Collection
Owen Gleiberman
April 06, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

If you want to see the missing link between John Wayne’s squint and Clint Eastwood’s sneer, look no further than Charlton Heston in Major Dundee. As the glowering antihero of Sam Peckinpah’s 1965 cavalry epic, Heston acts with a caustic, contained fury — honor teetering on the edge of obsession — that bridges the square fervor of a classic Western with the nihilism of contempo, stare-down revenge. Like virtually every movie in history that was drastically cut by its studio, Major Dundee has the reputation of being a butchered masterpiece. Now you can see for yourself: Sony is rereleasing the film with much of its original footage restored. As Dundee, a disgraced Union officer, assembles a ragtag pickup army — Confederate prisoners, black guards, a one-armed James Coburn — to go after Apache aggressors, the movie sprawls like an inflated Dirty Dozen. Major Dundee has its longueurs, yet at its best you can feel Peckinpah, at the twilight of the studio era, dreaming of a far wilder bunch.

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