Friday, August 28, 2015

503. The Wild Bunch (1969)


Running Time: 145 minutes
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah
Written By: Walon Green, Roy N. Sickner, Sam Peckinpah
Main Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates
Click here to view the trailer

AND SUDDENLY THE SKY WAS BATHED IN BLOOD...

Recorded The Wild Bunch off of TCM the other night (have I mentioned how much I love Turner Classic Movies?), as I figured it would be one less to have to rely on Netflix for. As it stands right now, I only need twenty-six more discs from them and then my dependency on them becomes nil. Anyway, The Wild Bunch...*meh*...read on...


The film begins with a gang of outlaws, strolling into town, dressed in full military regalia. It turns out that "the wild bunch" stole the military clothes and are using them in their attempt to rob a railroad office. What they don't know is that a posse of bounty hunters have traced their trail and have basically followed them into town, setting up their battalion on the roof of a nearby building. When the heist is seemingly successfully pulled off, the bunch head out, only to be caught off guard by Deke Thornton (Ryan), who is leading the bounty hunters. He's taking a particular interest in firing off rounds at the leader of the bunch, Pike Bishop (Holden), a former friend, turned sworn enemy. The bunch eventually get out of their jam, head for safer ground, however, when they dig into their sacks of loot, they find bags full of washers, instead of the intended gold. Pike's group - along with his right hand man Dutch (Borgnine) and the Gorch Brothers, Lyle (Oates) and Tector - head for the Mexican border. The men get into a scuffle with Mapache, the general of the local military and to keep the peace, offer to work for him. They are given the assignment to steal sixteen cases of rifles from a train shipment and return them to Mapache - Pike & company agree. I'll close the plot synopsis by reminding you that no movie featuring a train heist can be all bad and that goes for The Wild Bunch too, although beware, it's not all good either.

SPOILER ALERT!


Mark another tick in the "massive disappointments" column, as The Wild Bunch wasn't even half as good as I was expecting. For six years now I've been flipping back and forth, reading passages from THE BOOK every time I watched one of the movies and for six years I've seen a firmly planted Ernest Borgnine, a mean look on his face, wielding a bull whip above his head, ready to strike. There were no bull whips in The Wild Bunch and upon closer inspection, it was never a bull whip at all. Anyway, for six years I've passed over this picture, trying to save The Wild Bunch for a rainy day, sure it would be the cat's meow. Well, this cat's got the croup because she sure ain't meowing. Oh I suppose it wasn't TERRIBLE or anything. Like I said, a train heist automatically gets it a few brownie points and what a train heist it was. It lasts probably twenty something minutes and after an hour and ten of a dragging western, it was a breath of fresh air in a porta-john. I wonder though - when the boys got the loot off the train, why did they then set the train on a backwards course? Wouldn't have made more sense to ride off and let the train keep rolling down the tracks, making Deke and company think that they were still getting away. When they set the train backwards, all that happened was Deke and his men simply rode off the track and now they knew that Pike had de-trained. I felt like there were some missed opportunities in this scene for some further suspense, now that I think about it. Why not make it a track that can't be easily just ridden off of, forcing Deke and his men to come up with something crafty to avoid being run over by a train? Why not leave the wagon wheel stuck in the broken bridge for just a little longer - send us into nail bitingly close territory. Great scene, but not perfect.


Of course, the other great scene of the movie, the one that will help get the film any points that it earns, would be the finale, when Pike & crew walk back into town, side by side, clearly ready to kick some heavy duty booty. I found it pretty perfect that Pike was murdered by a kid. It showed the chaos of the whole film and how literally ANYONE could just pick up a gun and start creating victims. Also, it drew back to the earlier scene - that some kids will grow up to become evil men - don't forget the kids burning the ants & scorpion. All in all, I'd chalk this one down as a disappointment, but let's just say that I could see arguments for it's greatness, so I'll let it slide in that respect. I wasn't particularly a fan, but I am a fan of so few westerns. I knew The Wild Bunch was never going to be my favorite western (an honor bestowed upon Once Upon a Time in the West - probably forever) but I was hoping it could crack the Top 5. Perhaps one of the upcoming Anthony Mann flicks or maybe even The Searchers can do it; three westerns that are still on deck.

RATING: 4.5/10  I feel like a '5' would be discounting the boredom I felt throughout the picture and that a '4.5' better conveys the ratio of good to bad.

MOVIES WATCHED: 957
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 44

August 28, 2015  10:45pm

7 comments:

  1. My favorite Western of all time and one of my favorite films overall. Sorry you didn't like it more. I guess we just don't agree on Westerns.

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    1. I guess we don't. I actually still have a handful of westerns to go - The Naked Spur, The Searchers, Man of the West - perhaps we'll find a common ground.

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  2. You recently pondered if people actually read your review, or just skip to the score.. Well, I will admit to 'skip reading' this one .. in pretty much the same way I'd watch the fim...
    Well, what do you expect me to say .. It's that delightfully sensative and subtle Mr Peckinpah bringing another understated gentle exploration of gender stereotypes.. You KNEW I was going to love this din't you?

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    1. Ya know, I really wasn't sure. I guess I should've known though. If there's one thing Ray "loves" it's gender stereotypes.

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  3. I think I've mentioned before .. One good thing the book didfor me was show me that I shouldn't dismiss Westerns wholesale. There are some cracking ones out there. And Anthony Mann / Jimmy Stewart ones stand up as good examples .. As for 'The Searchers' .. I will leave you to write my reply for me...
    Please tell me there are no more Sam Peckinpahs to come...

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    1. Nope, two more Peckinpah's actually: Straw Dogs and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

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