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The Wild Bunch (1969)

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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » August 16th, 2010, 6:42 pm

kingrat wrote:he original impact of the film on many directors was that they wanted to do something like this, too.


It is common for lesser artists to want to copy those who are successful. However, this does not infer that they have the skill or depth to create a similar enduring work.

kingrat wrote:Contemporary viewers did draw parallels between the peaceful Mexican village and the (allegedly) peaceful Vietnamese villages before the American military intervention. The analogy isn't hammered home as in, say, LITTLE BIG MAN, but it's there, and the coding told us that if we were opposed to the war, we should like this film.


I don't see The Wild Bunch as an antiwar film. I think Danny Peary does, but then again he disliked the film--probably because of his flawed interpretation.

kingrat wrote:Is it possible to show sadism on screen, such as the dragging of Jaime around the ring, without either encouraging sadism in the spectator or desensitizing the spectator to violence? I would say 1) Almost certainly not and 2) If it is possible, Peckinpah doesn't manage to do so.


Sadism has been shown in film from its inception. Films like He Who Gets Slapped (1924) or The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) incorporated similar ideas in the silent era. I would never suggest that to enjoy such a film is to actually be a sadist any more than I would suggest a fan of westerns has a desire to shoot people.


kingrat wrote:None of this directly affects a discussion of the characters and acting in the film. I think it's also fair to say that when THE WILD BUNCH came out, almost no one talked about any of the actors. Instead, people talked about the violence and Sam Peckinpah.


Actually, it was people who did not understand the film that complained about the violence. There were several critics who thought it was an incredible masterpiece and said so. Peckinpah actually cut much of the gore that the studio wanted, saying: "If all I do is drive people out of the theater, I've failed."

If you are a person enraptured by violence, The Wild Bunch will only speak to you on a superficial level. If all you see in this film is violence, I would tactfully suggest that perhaps you are not comprehending the many themes and great performances that reside here. As Angel himself would say: "That's because you have no eyes."

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby ChiO » August 16th, 2010, 10:11 pm

KingRat wrote: the coding told us that if we were opposed to the war, we should like this film.


And my impression at the time was just the opposite. THE WILD BUNCH, and all Peckinpah films and Leone (read: Eastwood) films and Siegel (read: Eastwood) films, because of the violence, were fascist movies -- glorifying violence -- and, therefore, were pro-war and any other machismo show of force. So I refused to watch them (the first movie with any Eastwood connection that I watched was BIRD and that was in 2004. Yup -- there's been a ton o' ketchin' up because of that flawed thinking.).

Is it possible to show sadism on screen, such as the dragging of Jaime around the ring, without either encouraging sadism in the spectator or desensitizing the spectator to violence?


As to "without...encouraging sadism in the spectator", I certainly hope so. I don't think my Sadism Quotient has risen markedly since watching the noir and Western works of Anthony Mann, whose movies are among the most sadistic I've ever seen. As to "without...desensitizing the spectator to violence", I tend to agree with you. Exposure to anything tends to desensitize one. But -- now desensitized to violence -- you'd be amazed at the movies I still delay in viewing (I refuse to say "refuse to view") because of my fear of the violence.

I think it's also fair to say that when THE WILD BUNCH came out, almost no one talked about any of the actors. Instead, people talked about the violence and Sam Peckinpah.


That's the way I remember it. And that's why I didn't watch it until 2, 3, maybe 4 years ago.

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby MichiganJ » August 17th, 2010, 10:25 am

Curious, did TCM show the theatrical version or the director's cut? For me, the added character information included in the director's cut turned a really good film into a great one.
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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby JackFavell » August 17th, 2010, 10:51 am

I'm fairly confident that it was the Director's Cut, but I have never seen the other one, so I can't say for sure.

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby movieman1957 » August 17th, 2010, 10:57 am

Is there a time difference? I haven't seen it this time yet but I think it clocked in about 2 1/2 hours.
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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby knitwit45 » August 17th, 2010, 12:38 pm

I was so tempted to watch this, but the gore and violence factor have always scared me off. It is one of those movies that I would love to see, if someone who knows the movie was sitting beside me, telling me when to hide my eyes.

My brother took my grandmother to see Ben Hur, and did just that...she finally starting peeking, and decided it wasn't so bad after all (except for the guy who lost part of his arm in the sea battle)

I'd probably peek, too...it's just the "scare" factor, I think. :shock: :lol: :shock:

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby MichiganJ » August 17th, 2010, 1:03 pm

movieman1957 wrote:Is there a time difference? I haven't seen it this time yet but I think it clocked in about 2 1/2 hours.

Sounds like it was the director's cut. I forget the details, but Warner Brother's had cut fifteen or so minutes of footage during the initial release. Interestingly, they didn't cut the violence but rather they removed much of the back story (the flashbacks), which, of course, provides the motivation, which was entirely missing in the original release.
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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby JackFavell » August 17th, 2010, 1:26 pm

To tell you the truth, the violence did not bother me, but Bo Hopkins did, and the scorpion scene did. Luckily Bo bites the dust after ten minutes. I still have trouble watching those "sweet" little kids dropping the scorpion into the ant hill. ahhh, it really bothers me.

I suspect that that scene is what people really reacted to - it sets the tone for all the rest of the violence.

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby JackFavell » August 17th, 2010, 7:51 pm

Arkadin,

You blew my mind with your description of TWB - I never thought of it before, the way you wrote it, but it was true. It IS more about contrast and the inevitable confrontation between differing ideologies than anything else. Over and over, we are shown those opposites you talk of.

I think (you'll correct me if I am way off) it's also about ideologies that aren't so different - The Bunch aren't so different from Mapache and his men at the beginning. They come to realize that they despise him, and all he stands for - they realize that they ARE Mapache. They are becoming the enemy. What is that line? "We have seen the enemy and he is us".

They come to a crossroad, and they make a conscious choice to be different from the thing they despise. It doesn't matter to anyone else what they do, so what makes them choose the harder path? Why bother? Does it all comes down to conscience? How many of us make that choice, instead of letting the inertia of following the same path take us down to oblivion?

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby Lzcutter » August 17th, 2010, 8:26 pm

It was the director's cut that TCM aired. Shortly after the film was released, Warner's pulled it back and cut it down so that movie theater owners would get another screening a day out of the film.

They cut the flashbacks that tell the story of Pike and Deke for American audiences. Which, considering how vocal critics and others were about the violence in the film, seems in hindsight like an odd choice to cut. The European version continued to circulate with all the footage intact.

For years, bootleg copies of the European version were all we had that told the story the way Sam intended.

Finally, the Z Channel in Los Angeles was able to get a copy of the European version and broadcast it. That started the whole movement towards restoring the American version with the deleted scenes back in.

One of my favorite behind the scenes stories is that the editor Lou Lombardo got into a raucous fight with Sam over the editing of one of the scenes. Sam got his way after he hit Lombardo over the head with a lamp.
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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby klondike » August 17th, 2010, 9:07 pm

Lzcutter wrote:One of my favorite behind the scenes stories is that the editor Lou Lombardo got into a raucous fight with Sam over the editing of one of the scenes. Sam got his way after he hit Lombardo over the head with a lamp.


Funny how often Peckinpah could inspire that "I-love-this-enough-to-kick-your-butt" loyalty from people on various projects.
Here's poor Lombardo being so inspired by the raw footage of The Wild Bunch that he goes toe-to-toe beyond all job-description to defend his vision of the story-arc and gets himself KO'd with an appliance . . . and then there's Chuck Heston recalling how he lost his cool and threatened to go knuckle-city with Sadistic Sam on the set of Major Dundee, a movie whose completion Heston felt so committed to that he rescued the production with his own money!
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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » August 17th, 2010, 9:34 pm

JackFavell wrote:Arkadin,

You blew my mind with your description of TWB - I never thought of it before, the way you wrote it, but it was true. It IS more about contrast and the inevitable confrontation between differing ideologies than anything else. Over and over, we are shown those opposites you talk of.

I think (you'll correct me if I am way off) it's also about ideologies that aren't so different - The Bunch aren't so different from Mapache and his men at the beginning. They come to realize that they despise him, and all he stands for - they realize that they ARE Mapache. They are becoming the enemy. What is that line? "We have seen the enemy and he is us".

They come to a crossroad, and they make a conscious choice to be different from the thing they despise. It doesn't matter to anyone else what they do, so what makes them choose the harder path? Why bother? Does it all comes down to conscience? How many of us make that choice, instead of letting the inertia of following the same path take us down to oblivion?


Perhaps more than any other western, The Wild Bunch seeks to examine a world without morality (while The Great Silence [1968] asks: What is morality?).

In the opening of the film, we are treated to six minutes of a Temperance Union meeting. Meanwhile, the Bunch pulls a robbery while an ambush waits outside. As the parade passes by, the Bunch enters the crowd (We’ll join ‘em) and a deadly crossfire ensues. Alcohol and guns are the overlaying themes here, symbolizing the townspeople and the Bunch, but both devices are only inanimate objects, endued with the power and responsibility only a person can give them (see, Shane [1953]). Are the Bunch any different from the townspeople, who seek to legislate righteousness?

There is also the theme of idealism vs. pragmatism. Angel is clearly the idealist of the Bunch, but he is also the man who would murder his lover, rather than see her with Mapache. Pike is no sentimentalist, having sacrificed Crazy Lee to make his escape early in the film and Dutch will later abandon Angel to Mapache.

Are guns, alcohol, idealism, or pragmatism evil in and of themselves? Or is it perhaps that without a moral compass, man is akin to a rudderless ship or a car without a steering wheel?

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby JackFavell » August 19th, 2010, 11:35 am

Perhaps more than any other western, The Wild Bunch seeks to examine a world without morality (while The Great Silence [1968] asks: What is morality?).

In the opening of the film, we are treated to six minutes of a Temperance Union meeting. Meanwhile, the Bunch pulls a robbery while an ambush waits outside. As the parade passes by, the Bunch enters the crowd (We’ll join ‘em) and a deadly crossfire ensues. Alcohol and guns are the overlaying themes here, symbolizing the townspeople and the Bunch, but both devices are only inanimate objects, endued with the power and responsibility only a person can give them (see, Shane [1953]). Are the Bunch any different from the townspeople, who seek to legislate righteousness?

There is also the theme of idealism vs. pragmatism. Angel is clearly the idealist of the Bunch, but he is also the man who would murder his lover, rather than see her with Mapache. Pike is no sentimentalist, having sacrificed Crazy Lee to make his escape early in the film and Dutch will later abandon Angel to Mapache.

Are guns, alcohol, idealism, or pragmatism evil in and of themselves? Or is it perhaps that without a moral compass, man is akin to a rudderless ship or a car without a steering wheel?


I had to chew on what you said for a day or two.

So that moral compass has to balance pragmatism with idealism.... and choose the lesser of two evils?

But what I get from your post and from the movie is that there are gradations of evil...while the robbed townspeople are victims of the Bunch, the temperance folks are "victims" of "The Man" and also represent "the Man" - the powers that be, who are supposed to protect. Those powers would rather see those townsfolk they are "protecting" dead than see the relatively harmless Bunch go free. That is a "morality" that is hard to get behind or justify. There is a whole other victimization going on in the betrayal of The Bunch. Victimization on victimization on victimization.....It's one thing to be a mere sinner - like Pike or Dutch or even Deke, but it is far worse to be a hypocritical corporation or a bureaucracy, a group that systematically weeds out the folks who oppose it or that it simply doesn't like.

This movie is a regular Mexican Standoff - Deke is working for The Man, who wants the Bunch dead. but The Man also doesn't care if anyone else is killed, and in fact, would like it if Deke was got out of the way at the same time as The Bunch. Yeah, and maybe those damn Temperance folks and the Mexicans too, as long as it's seen as "random" violence. This seems a highly modern viewpoint of the complete corruption of our world.

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » August 19th, 2010, 7:57 pm

I might need a day to think about what you've posted! :wink:

You will have to forgive me, as I've been trying to shorten my thoughts because I'm pressed for time. Mr. ChiO also found it a bit muddled.

Actually, I was trying to respond to the original idea of Peckinpah presenting us with contrasts. My point was that none of these contrasts are good or evil in and of themselves. It is the ethical or unethical person that uses them for good or evil (Thus the Shane reference: “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that." ). Peckinpah wants us to realize that good or evil exists in the heart of man—not in objects or ideologies.

As I said, The Wild Bunch is a film about a world without morality. We see this in the children who are slowly becoming corrupted, the railroad boss who thinks nothing of shooting up the town and its inhabitants (who seek to impose their moral views on others), the hedonism of the Mexican border town, and the Bunch who are wanted criminals. Only Angel’s village is an oasis of serenity, and this last flower in a barren wasteland (note that it is the only place of vegetation) is being threatened by Mapache.

Despite this, Peckinpah establishes clear standards of good and evil. Pike has a nagging conscience, and through flashbacks, we see that what he preaches and how he actually lives are two very different things. Pike’s speech of sticking together is quickly contrasted with the realization that Crazy Lee was Sykes grandson, who he left to die. Earlier in the film, Dutch and Pike have a long discussion about pride:

Pike Bishop: [talking about the railroad] There was a man named Harrigan. Used to have a way of doin' things. I made him change his ways. A hell of a lot of people, Dutch, just can't stand to be wrong.
Dutch Engstrom: Pride.
Pike Bishop: And they can't forget it... that pride... being wrong. Or learn by it
Dutch Engstrom: How 'bout us, Pike? You reckon we learned - bein' wrong, today?
Pike Bishop: I sure hope to God we did

This scene is intercut with Thorton discussing the Bunch with his ragged bounty hunter squad where he tells them that Pike was: “The best. He never got caught.”

Both of these scenes fade in and out of a flashback where Thorton is captured, specifically because of Pike’s pride (Being sure is my business!). Pike escapes by sheer luck because he was not standing by the door.

In these examples, we see a fallen man conflicted by his nature and the realization that there are standards (his standards) that he has failed to live up to. In light of this, we realize there is hope for him and Peckinpah’s film is the story of how he finds that redemption.
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on August 19th, 2010, 9:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Postby JackFavell » August 19th, 2010, 9:59 pm

Ah!

I did get the general gist of what you said the first time, but I really like how you fleshed it out here. And talk about muddled...I can barely understand my own post in response, or what I was trying to say!


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