I don't see this as the kind of issue in which there has to be personal comments at all toward anyone regardless of how they feel about which score is better, whether replacement scores in general are ethically right or not etc. Mr. Redman may think I've been engaged in a long history of personal attacks on him, but I've been quite supportive of many other things he has done for the soundtrack community over the years, I don't see him any different ultimately as any studio that releases these products and in light of the experience I've had in the past with films like "1776" when a previous version of the film was denied to us in a new format for reasons not having to do with archival issues (like with "The Alamo" and "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World") or in the case of CBS/Paramount and the music replacement for "The Fugitive" TV series, it just happens that "Major Dundee" ends up being a title that brings both of these issues out into the open for discussion because of the decisions involved in the release of this film on Blu-Ray.
Mr. Redman has in a previous interview here at HTF been quite candid in using strong language to run down the importance of the original score of this film to justify the unprecedented step that was taken with the score replacement that of itself raises serious ethical questions no different from the kind later raised with "The Fugitive" music replacement issue. He has used terms such as "absolutely ruinous" and couched the issue in terms of a debate over the supposed injustice that was done to Sam Peckinpah because of the presence of this score. He is entitled to that opinion but it is not an opinion etched in stone as a trusim in life because one can easily look at the production of this film and the chaos that took place behind the scenes and make a strong case that Sam Peckinpah is the one who should bear the blame for what happened in the film based on his obsession with trying to make an early version of "The Wild Bunch" instead of concentrating on developing a coherent storyline. The film sets up a fascinating premise of these two factions who have been engaged in war with each other, having to come together for a common good that itself becomes problematic as the mission goes on and the main objective, rescuing the children abducted by the Apache, is already fulfilled and it becomes instead a determination to go beyond that objective and kill the Apache leader. As it is, has no ending and ends up treating the entire set-up piece of the movie, the Apache raid as a colossal afterthought as the film progresses (if you blink, you will entirely miss the fact that the children get rescued early on because Peckinpah spends so little time on this). The film wastes a lot of time with the thrown-together group of Union and Confederates engaged in "down time" in villages, having more fights among themselves (a redundancy of a point already made earlier in the film that we didn't need more of) worrying about the side threat of the French in Mexico, and then in the ultimate absurd detour serves up the unwelcome distraction of Senta Berger, who while great to look at, serves absolutely no point in the film except to drag it to a giant halt. And you can't even blame the editing of the film after Peckinpah was removed for this general incoherence because they were stuck with a shooting script Peckinpah refused to work on or fix into something more substantive because he was obsessed with doing the things that might make him an icon to others, but which didn't help this film at all. The one area that *was* botched in the final edit, and which the long cut corrects, is resolving the matter of the fate of one character, a scout who disappears inexplicably with no explanation and leaving open the question of whether he was a traitor or not unresolved. WIth this plot point fixed, the movie does become improved from a narrative standpoint even if we still have the problem of no final act that the director/screenwriter never saw fit to give us.
All of this is to just make the argument that there can be people like myself who can gladly welcome the presence of a longer cut of the film to be a better viewing experience than the older cut of the film, but not at the expense of being forced to listen to an alternate score, especially when it should not be regarded as a truism of life that the original score somehow has no place with an extended cut of the movie. As I've said, I'm willing to forego my objections to the ethics of engaging in music replacement at all, and also to allow for the subjective difference of opinion on who composed a better score aesthetically if we can all have the option of having both scores available with this longer, and better constructed narrative.
The negative feeling toward Amfitheatrof's work, I feel is influenced by two things totally independent of the merits of the acutal underscore in the film. First is the title song that plays over the main credits which is a much-too up-tempo song taking place over horiffic scenes of carnage and destruction. I freely admit this clashes overall and doesn't work. I do understand though the reasons why a song was commissioned, in the tradition of how many other movies of the day did the same thing, but there could have been a better and less intrusive way of doing this, perhaps over the End Credits instead, and using only an instrumental of the main theme over the Main Titles. I think because people are so negative about the song (and I do understand that attitude), that as a result when they hear the main theme throughout the movie properly used as underscore, their minds are still too much on the song and this leads to a preconditioned attitude that the rest of the score is wrong as well.
Also, the LP of the film soundtrack which has been reissued on CD, doesn't make a good case for the score either as it's loaded with bizarre sound effects and several songs that are not heard in the movie at all. It doesn't make for a good stand-alone listen. I have though watched this film more than once with an open mind trying to concentrate on the underscore only and whether what I hear clashes with the visual narrative on-screen. Only once did I think this happened, in a badly written scene (the fault of which rests on Peckinpah's shoulders) when Dundee has fallen into a drunken state in a lonely Mexican town and there is a comical use of the theme for a few seconds that falls flat.
The score is not the greatest of scores composed, but it served its purpose for a film of this time and any flaws in the final end product, should not, IMO, and contrary to Mr. Redman's assertion, be laid at the feet of the composer especially when replacing the score ultimately gives cover to the man who bears the greatest responsibility for why this film didn't turn out right, and that was Sam Peckinpah. Because of this, the DVD satisfied the biggest objection by letting those of us who like the idea of seeing a better cut of the film narrative wise, see it without having to endure music replacement in the 90% of the movie that is still there and which was scored by Daniele Amfitheatrof and should remain scored by him to maintain the integrity of a longer cut of the film as a product of its time. If an alternate score must exist for some people, then fine, let it be there *alongside* a version that satisfies the objections of others, and do not force us to have to watch an "archival copy" that serves no purpose except to lie on the shelf instead of to be watched. That's what this issue comes down to, and I have to admit, I think it's unfortunate that there can't for some people be a simple recognition that fairness and freedom of choice for the viewer could easily have made room for all sides of the subjective question of which version is better. Most of those who are saying that the theatrical cut is enough, seem to be arguing this from the perspective of newcomers to the film who don't understand that if one isn't a newcomer to the film, and doesn't share Mr. Redman's view of the music situation, then that's not going to be a satisfactory solution.
Obviously what's done is done for this release, and I can only hope one day in the future there will be a more fair-minded perspective of how to release this film as formats improve further. At least for now the door isn't closed for me to see the film the way I'd rather see it, and if that means seeing it in standard resolution instead of HD, so be it. HD of the old cut isn't going to be any more satisfying to me than a remastered version of "The Fugitive" with Mark Heyes music was than older lower quality versions with the music intact.
Edited by Jack P, March 26 2013 - 10:07 AM.