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Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

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Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby Lzcutter » January 26th, 2009, 2:13 am

Mr Cutter and I had the opportunity to watch one of my Christmas presents this week-end. The Blu-Ray edition of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

It had been a few years since the last time I had watched this pivotal film from my past. It was the film that made me realize that I wanted to have a career in film making.

But as I was watching it I realized that it covers in many ways the same territory that Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch covers.

Both films center their films on men who who are outlaws. The west is changing, perhaps too quickly, and these men can not keep up. Both films deal with men out of step with the times they are living in.

Where The Wild Bunch takes a more dramatic and violent approach to the story, Butch Cassidy covers much the same ground using wit and humor.

Both stories end up with similar endings.

I often wonder what Butch Cassidy would have been like if it had starred Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. They could never agree on the billing despite Richard Zanuck's best efforts otherwise.

But McQueen's lose was Redford's gain because Redford provided a chemistry with Newman that McQueen never could have.

It's too bad that Newman and Redford could never find a third property to work on together.

Butch Cassidy reminds us that they were both quite expert at deadpan delivery. It also reminds us that William Goldman was a good writer and Conrad Hall an exceptional cinematographer.

Most of all, it reminds me of how under appreciated the late George Roy Hill remains.

Speaking of the The Wild Bunch a film I have not seen in quite some time but love, I was thrown tonight while watching Robert O's outro to Silverado that there is a remake of the Bunch in the works with Willie Nelson as one of the stars.

(Okay, I just checked IMDB for the remake of the Bunch and if that description is correct, then Robert O needs a new researcher because the film titled The Wild Bunch starring Willie Nelson has nothing to do with the original film starring William Holden.)



Do we have a thread for Silverado? I know it is one of Movieman1957's (Chris) favorite westerns and would like to talk about it since it was just on.

Also do we have a thread for Rio Bravo?
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Postby movieman1957 » January 26th, 2009, 9:42 am

I watched the last few minutes of "Silverado" and was quite surprised by Osborne's statement of a remake on "The Wild Bunch" as well. Good Lord!

Well, Nelson looks enough like Edmund O'Brien to pull that part off. Gee, who else would be in it? Why bother?
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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby Mr. Arkadin » January 26th, 2009, 8:35 pm

Lzcutter wrote:But as I was watching it I realized that it covers in many ways the same territory that Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch covers.


I respectfully disagree and personally see a vast gap between these films in depth and themes. One is a romantic buddy film, the other perhaps the deepest western ever made. Nobody rides a bike around to Raindrops Keep Fallin on My Head in The Wild Bunch.

Both films center their films on men who are outlaws. The west is changing, perhaps too quickly, and these men can not keep up. Both films deal with men out of step with the times they are living in.


While there are some similarities here, this is only the surface of Peckinpah's film, which speaks of Pike's inability to live up to his own code of honor and unify his men, the growing impersonal use of violence, idealism vs. pragmatism, innocence vs. corruption, and redemption.

Butch & Sundance seems to have more in common with counterculture films of the late 60's. It also lacks the hard edged realism of TWB, where being an innocent bystander doesn't assure safety.

Where The Wild Bunch takes a more dramatic and violent approach to the story, Butch Cassidy covers much the same ground using wit and humor.


As for wit and humor, there is plenty in The Wild Bunch, whether it's being cheated out of a swallow of booze, saying a few words for the few dead departed (with a church supper and a choir!), or ribbing each other about the definition of “tandem.” The difference is the way the humor is presented. In B&S, an in-gang feud results in a fist-fight with gags, whereas a similar situation in TWB has each of them pointing guns at each other. The laughs are a point of bonding and camaraderie that actually keep the Bunch from killing one another!

Both stories end up with similar endings.


Again, I disagree here. The Bunch choose their fate. Holden's Bishop Pike deals with failure. Failure to live up to his own ideals and code, command his men, or even the betrayal of his own body to perform as it once did. Unlike others who find acceptance, Pike's salvation comes from honoring his debts--even when it costs him all.

Has this action sequence ever been topped?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUhUAa3y4rE[/youtube]
The end of the film reverts back to the beginning with a new gang. It won't be the same anymore, but it'll do.

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby JackFavell » May 1st, 2009, 1:57 pm

I just watched The Wild Bunch for the first time last night, and noticed the similarities.....

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby bryce » May 1st, 2009, 11:24 pm

You could find numerous similarities between just about any genre film - just compare Forrest Gump with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - but superficial coincidence doesn't mean they're anything alike past skin deep.

There are only so many stories out there to be told. "The devil's in the details" is most true when approaching a man like Peckinpah, his works, and the way in which he chooses to tell his stories. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is mere entertainment while The Wild Bunch possesses true grit and knows it.

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby JackFavell » May 3rd, 2009, 5:53 pm

OK. I am apologizing before I post this. I hope I don't upset anyone here. I am trying to be honest about my reactions to this movie. I have gone back through my post and tried very hard to be fair in the way I looked at The Wild Bunch.

There are only so many stories out there to be told. "The devil's in the details" is most true when approaching a man like Peckinpah, his works, and the way in which he chooses to tell his stories. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is mere entertainment while The Wild Bunch possesses true grit and knows it.


It's the "knows it" part that I don't like. It reminds me of the self aware, self important high school kids who go goth for effect - pure affectation. I feel like TWB's unrelenting black viewpoint is a little simplistic and immature, though I am sure that with Vietnam looming, and the news reports that were shown every evening, this movie had a much more profound impact on its generation than it did on me from my vantage point here in 2009. That said, it is still relevant.

I also didn't like the TV style edits and zooms. I can forgive that, because it may be that Peckinpah did them first, and then so many filmmakers were affected by the movie that those edits and zooms became de riguer in TV direction. I don't really know. All I know is that they seem laughable to me because they were so overused on television in my childhood. I never forgot TWB was a movie, because the camera was moving around doing stuff.... it made it hard to suspend my disbelief. Perhaps that works to the movie's benefit as a treatise on human nature. Staying removed or alienated from the characters could actually have been what Peckinpah wanted. But I do like to sink deeply into a movie if I can.

I hate the sledgehammer forcing of the theme. No subtlety here.

The sex isn't sexy.

Things I do like about The Wild Bunch, in order:

Robert Ryan - He is absolutely wonderful here. His performance has the only subtlety in the movie.

William Holden - Magnificent. I don't think I have to say why.

\Lucien Ballard's cinematography - just gorgeous, even when he is showing someone's head exploding. The colors of the landscape, or even of Ben Johnson's eyes, are vivid and true.

The theme itself - This is a great idea for a movie. The plot is seamlessly carried out to it's logical conclusion.

The incredibly nihilistic viewpoint - It is heavy duty, but I like the idea of showing a gritty, realistic west, and how men (and women) are just the same now. The world is a cesspool, and we rarely rise above it, even if we want to. The best we can do is kill ourselves. Love it.

Ben Johnson - With a name like Tector Gorch, it's gotta be good....

The turning upside down of western conventions - I love that our hero Pike makes decisions that are not nice. He decides to use townspeople as shields, and he has to be talked into saving Angel by his sidekick, who is way more honorable than he.

The sex isn't sexy.

This shot:

Image


OK That was just a shameless excuse to post a picture of Ben Johnson. Sorry, again. :wink:

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby knitwit45 » May 3rd, 2009, 6:10 pm

OK That was just a shameless excuse to post a picture of Ben Johnson. Sorry, again. :wink:

There is no such thing as too much Ben Johnson. Loved him as a "kid" and loved him more in his maturity. :oops: :oops:

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby JackFavell » May 3rd, 2009, 6:43 pm

I agree wholeheartedly, knitwit45.

As I am working my way through Ben Johnson films, I feel panicked like I did when I read Jane Austen. I know there are only a finite number of movies to see and that I will run out of Ben Johnson sooner or later....

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby bryce » May 3rd, 2009, 7:47 pm

Hi Jack, why would you ever think that would offend anyone? Fantastic opinions, thank you for sharing them!

Disagree I must, though, and I know that I can't offer up anything of substance that will change your mind. I argue that the film isn't simplistic or immature, but instead a fully realized manifestation of Peckinpah's sentiments regarding humanity, human interaction and the relationships we form - and I can easily see why that might come across as forced as a Hot Topic gothic. I would be lying if I didn't say that I don't feel the exact same damn way he does, though, and that I probably share a good amount of his personal demons - obviously emotions that positively color my perceptions of any of his films.

As for the sledgehammer nature of the theme, well, look at any of my posts in the general forums and you'll see why that delights me. Sometimes people don't listen when you tap them on the shoulder - sometimes you have to break their face (or, in Peckinpah's case, their mind) open before you have their full, undivided, paralyzed attention.

The editing (and its subsequent effect) is a matter of taste but, like most of Peckinpah's editing technique, it has been diluted down to at best irrelevancy and at worst accused imitation by years and years of abuse by lesser film-makers and television. To me, his technique, especially in The Wild Bunch, is a lot like American beer: most folks are so used to watered-down crap (Budweiser/Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) that when something wholly original and delicious (Sprecher/The Wild Bunch/The Good the Bad and the Ugly) comes along every single other brewery in the country mimics it (Three Floyds/Young Guns), forever reducing whatever positive effect was had. (Sorry, that's a really bad analogy - I just wanted to slam a completely over-rated Chicago brewery.)

I have always firmly believed that Sergio Leone only found success (whereas Peckinpah couldn't) because Leone had one hell of a firm grasp on (melo)drama. This is natural, considering he's Italian. (ho ho ho!) Really, though, they both had the same views on humanity, capitalism, and the United States, and they both approached supposed heroism with the same skeptical eye. Leone put the burden of discovery (of what he was really saying) on us (and that's saying something as he wasn't really trying too damned hard to hide his feelings as he aged) while Peckinpah came out and said it like it is.

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby JackFavell » May 3rd, 2009, 8:16 pm

That was a great reply, Bryce, and I think we may actually agree on most of the movie, if I've read you right, for instance:

The editing (and its subsequent effect) is a matter of taste but, like most of Peckinpah's editing technique, it has been diluted down to at best irrelevancy and at worst accused imitation by years and years of abuse by lesser film-makers and television.


I think this must be what happened. I was not old enough to see this movie when it came out. I don't know which came first, Peckinpah or the lesser directors that all used that technique.

Disagree I must, though, and I know that I can't offer up anything of substance that will change your mind. I argue that the film isn't simplistic or immature


I am saying that about it being immature after one viewing of the movie. I may change my mind after more. You guys have obviously watched it many more times than I have, so I will defer to your more expert opinions. I was just curious as to why this movie has such a high place for some people. Just consider me a newbie to Peckinpah.

I have always firmly believed that Sergio Leone only found success (whereas Peckinpah couldn't) because Leone had one hell of a firm grasp on (melo)drama. This is natural, considering he's Italian. (ho ho ho!) Really, though, they both had the same views on humanity, capitalism, and the United States, and they both approached supposed heroism with the same skeptical eye. Leone put the burden of discovery (of what he was really saying) on us (and that's saying something as he wasn't really trying too damned hard to hide his feelings as he aged) while Peckinpah came out and said it like it is.


Now you are completely beyond me! I don't know Leone at all! I only started really watching westerns, except for Ford, in the last year. I thought Peckinpah found a measure of success.... but I don't really know his story. I do know he had a lot of demons.

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby MichiganJ » May 4th, 2009, 10:49 am

Bryce wrote:
Three Floyds...I just wanted to slam a completely over-rated Chicago brewery.


Three Floyds is a brewery in Indiana, (not Chigaco--c'mon give us "hossiers" something) and I'll take a Gumballhead or an Alpha King over much of what passes for beer out there. If you want a Chicago beer, I like the Goose Island's Honkers, but prefer their IPA (love the hops). Their Belgium styles are both tasty, too (I prefer the Pere Jacques). For your beloved Sprecher, I tend to like their Scotch Ale (which is much better than Floyd's Robert the Bruce, but much pricier, too). I also enjoy their Dopple Bock. The best micro-brew I've found is He'Brew ("the chosen beer") and their Jewbelation beer (12 malts, 12 hops) is one of the better beers I've had.

The best beers, of course, are in Europe. Belgium is probably number 1 for all around greatness. Germany is up there, too. But there's plenty of great beers throughout. If you like a Guinness (and who doesn't?), the best one I ever had was in a tiny pub in Stow-on-the-Wold, England (in the Cotswolds). Took over 15-minutes for them to draw it, and was it worth it.)

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program....

The way I see it, The Wild Bunch is very much a film of its time, and unfortunately is dated as a result. No fault of the film, or Peckinpah, of course. Butch, like Mr. Arkadin said, is really a "buddy" movie more than a western. And, if you take out the "Raindrops" song (which is easily done), it holds up quite well, today. I don't think Butch aspired to be anything more than an entertainment, and it is that. It is also family friendly, and meant to be. Aside from the fact that both The Wild Bunch and Butch are westerns (and again, for Butch, even that's secondary), comparing the two is difficult.

While I like The Wild Bunch, I rarely return to it. For Pechinpah, I'm much more interested in Straw Dogs.
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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby bryce » May 4th, 2009, 11:29 am

Well, that's another strike against Chicagoans and their horrific taste in everything from hotdogs to beer (but not music!). Every idiot customer I deal with says it's a Chicago beer and I've never taken the time to look into it. The fact that it's brewed in Munster - boy, I just have to know if that's a gimmick or not! - almost makes it worse. Anyway, I never said their beer wasn't better than average, just that it's woefully overrated and, sadly, starting to be priced like it is. I work right across the street from the Goose Island brewpub, get a 20% discount, and still think they make beer only worth drinking when the co-workers go over after work. That's not to say I don't like them - their Bourbon County, their cherry wood brew, and their 312 are all decent, but, sadly, just that. I like He'Brew's Lenny Bruce, though I find that like most microbrews, they're far too heavy on the gimmick. Good beer, though. I had a Peak's organic IPA the other day during a taste test and it was very well balanced. Started cold until it warmed up. Like all good IPA's it became fuller bodied as it shook off the chill, and it had a hell of a nose on it. Wish I were as knowledgeable as my boss, he was naming off the percentages and boiling times dead on. The worst IPA I've ever had was Flying Dog's. The sooner brewmasters get over their HOPHOPHOPHOPHOP fetish, the better - not everything needs 20lbs of hops in it, we're not waiting for the bitterness to die down on the trip back from India here.

We carry five of the six Belgian trappists. My favorite is Orval. The best American bock is, of course, Shiner (gee, expect anything different from a Texan?). Their commemorator and Cosmo's might be the two best German style beers in America today - sadly, for a short while, too. I wish it were possible for Guinness to be decently imported into the country but I do understand the physical impossibilities of it.

"While I like The Wild Bunch, I rarely return to it. For Pechinpah, I'm much more interested in Straw Dogs."

Straw Dogs is my favorite of his films. Aside from all the reasons we could both cite, the best is this:

Image

Like most great film-makers, I find that Peckinpah's controversy - and subsequent hardships working within the studios - often produced better and better films.

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby MichiganJ » May 4th, 2009, 3:30 pm

(I'm partial to Rochefort and Chimay's Blanche (although I'll take any of 'em). When I'm in Chicago, I frequently visit Goose Island, usually after shopping at your store. (There's a pretty good Mexican place right there, too, if I'm not mistaken.)

While I love the Hops, I agree that it can be overdone. Dogfish Head's 120 minute IPA is the biggest offender, if you ask me. They have to sweeten it up just to make it drinkable.)


One of Pechinpah's greatest gifts, I think, is his casting. William Holden in The Wild Bunch and particularly Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs are unexpected and brilliant. (Dylan in Pat Garrett may be less so, but I actually like him, although I recognize many don't).
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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby mrsl » May 6th, 2009, 7:14 pm

Random thoughts on both movies First off, I've never seen, nor had any urge to see The Wild Bunch. Seeing the trailer on TV was plenty for me. Although I liked the stars, the movie held no interest for me. Oddly, as much as I adore both Paul and Robert, seeing Butch and Sundance once in my lifetime was plenty. The movie never turned me on except for the leap off the mountain into the river. I didn't like Katherine Ross in the part she played. I distinctly recall the feeling that she was just spending time and in a hurry to finish and go home. But then, I never got any chemistry from her in any of her roles, except possibly in The Hellfighters with the Duke, Vera Miles and Tim Hutton's twin dad Jim. Being a western fan, as I believe I am, I know it sounds weird that I never saw the Bunch, but I like my westerns a little more civilized than Sam Peckinpah portrayed them. I do have copies of both and one day will sit and watch them, but until then, I prefer The Sting, and The Horse Soldiers, and others like them. Call me goofy, but reading all of these posts has given me the prod I guess I needed.

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Re: Random thoughts on Butch and the Kid and the Wild Bunch

Postby Mr. Arkadin » May 18th, 2009, 6:57 pm

It's nice to be back and see all the new faces and posting (my computer has been down) with lots of interesting thoughts on both films. Critiquing The Wild Bunch, I can understand how the zooms and slow motion might be distracting, or look dated to some viewers, but these were part of Peckinpah's repertoire and while he did not originate the techniques, he perfected them in such a way that they became part of his signature. It was not uncommon for Sam to have six cameras rolling at various speeds and edit between them. I think the opening gun battle has around three hundred and sixty edits alone! As far as simplistic viewpoint, I guess that depends on what you pick up from the film. There are quite a variety of themes here, and the film can be (and has been) read many different ways. A lot of critical analysis has been written for this movie and I’d recommend taking a look at some different viewpoints and a re-watch later down the road. About the sex not being sexy—you’re absolutely right! It’s not supposed to be. The relationship and bonding of these men is paramount. They can easily be seen as a family unit and it’s the love they have for each other that is the heart of the film.

Peckinpah made plenty of other great movies from the noted Straw Dogs (1971), to last night’s wonderful Junior Bonner (1972) (One of the few westerns with no gunplay and “Bloody Sam" made it!), or the war classic, Cross of Iron (1976). Like Hitchcock, Welles, Ford, and other greats, many of Sam’s themes reappear throughout his films and it’s in seeing the whole body of his work that he is best understood.


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