Combustible Celluloid
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With: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sanchez, Ben Johnson, Emilio Fernandez, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek, Alfonso Arau, Chano Urueta, Elsa Cardenas, Bill Hart, Rayford Barnes, Stephen Ferry, Sonia Amelio, Aurora Clavel, Enrique Lucero, Elizabeth Dupeyron, Yolanda Ponce, Jose Chavez, Rene Dupeyron, Pedro Galvan, Graciela Doring, Major Perez, Fernando Wagner, Jorge Rado, Ivan Scott, Sra. Madero, Margarito Luna, Chalo Gonzalez, Lilia Castillo, Elizabeth Unda, Julio Corona
Written by: Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah, based on a story by Walon Green, Roy N. Sickner
Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 145
Date: 18/06/1969

The Wild Bunch (1969)

4 Stars (out of 4)

If They Move...

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Wild Bunch on DVD

Sam Peckinpah's great, bloody Western shocked most people with its extreme violence upon its original release, but now it's firmly nestled in the American canon, even earning slots on the various AFI Top 100 lists. Like many other Westerns, it has to do with the end of the American frontier and the beginning of civilization, and the clash that occurred between, but Peckinpah took this conflict to new heights. Set just after the turn of the century (and on the verge of the First World War), when automobiles began replacing the horse, the movie centers around aging Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his team (Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Edmund O'Brien, Ben Johnson and Jaime Sanchez) as they plan on retiring after "one last big score." After failing, they retreat to Mexico -- pursued by Pike's former pal (Robert Ryan) -- and agree to steal a shipment of guns for a Mexican general (veteran film director Emilio Fernandez). In addition to dealing with age and the coming civilization, Pike also walks a fine line between what it means to be human and what it means to be something less. Loyalty is important; if a man can't be loyal, he says, he's "like some animal." Planning a caper is the work of a man, but descending into violence can rob a man of his humanity. Peckinpah filmed the final shootout with a mix of slow motion and fast cutting, resulting in a display of violence that caused writers to use the terms "balletic" and "operatic." The "director's cut" was released in 1995, but the MPAA threatened it with an NC-17, which threw the entire idea into jeopardy. Thankfully, the film won out and was released uncut with an R. The short documentary The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage (1996) was nominated for an Oscar. Both were eventually released on DVD in 1997, then in a restored version in 2006.

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