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"If they move, kill 'em!" Beginning and ending with two of the bloodiest battles in screen history, Sam Peckinpah's classic revisionist Western ruthlessly takes apart the myths of the West. Released in the late '60s discord over Vietnam, in the wake of the controversial Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and the brutal "spaghetti westerns" of Sergio Leone, The Wild Bunch polarized critics and audiences over its ferocious bloodshed. One side hailed it as a classic appropriately pitched to the violence and nihilism of the times, while ...


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Apr 2, 2020

Watching The Wild Bunch During The Pandemic

For the past few years, I have been interested in Western novels and films and am using the mandated time staying home to watch Westerns I haven't seen before. I am more interested in the earlier Westerns from before the time the genre fell out of favor. But I greatly enjoyed to see this famous "revisionist" Western from 1969, directed by Samuel Peckinpah, "The Wild Bunch", Although still controversial, "The Wild Bunch" is on virtually every list of top Westerns and top films. It is on the National Film Registry selected by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."

The film includes a large cast of outstanding, aging actors headed by William Holden as Pike and Ernest Borgnine as Dutch, the leaders of the wild bunch, a small violent, tightly-bonded group of aging outlaws. The film is set in 1913 at the outset of the Great War and opens in a small town in southern Texas, but most of the film takes place in Mexico and was filmed on-site.

The film depicts the tired outlaws at the end of their careers after a life of crime and the rise of a more technologically advanced society with automobiles and dreadful sophisticated weaponry, among other things. The small aging band is looking for its last main chance. After a disaster in Texas it tries its luck in Mexico which is in the middle of its own internal war.

The film is extraordinary in many ways in addition to its realism and its harsh portrait of the West. With all of the this revisionism, it is difficult not to feel for the outlaws with their camaraderie, toughness, and persistence. The acting is convincing throughout, from the gang members through the soldiers and leaders of the Mexican army, to a pursuing posse, and through the many Mexican women. The movie features a train robbery and a blowing-up of a bridge. These are staples of Westerns but they are handled in this movie with unusual tension and depth. The film includes a wonderfully apt musical score. But it is primarily known for its cinematography and for the many innovations it introduced in pacing and scoping.

The film is brutally violent particularly in its opening and closing gunfights, that continues to make many viewers uncomfortable. The level of violence may have been meant as a commentary on the Vietnam War which was raging at the time. I found it fit within the theme of the film and enhanced the view of the West and the story the film had to tell.

This film portrayed a way of life that vanished, for well or ill. With all the brutality and violence of the outlaws, they tried to live honorably among themselves and to have a life of adventure and toughness rather than routine.

I found it a more than rewarding use of my stay-home time to watch this film, which deserves its reputation as a classic.

Robin Friedman


Nov 20, 2008

The Wild Bunch

The movie was not complete. It stopped about a half hour before the end of the movie. The last half-hour just was not there.

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