Wild Bunch, The(SE)  A, B+

Warner/1969/145m/WS 2.35

     Film rhythms can invite viewers into another world. The Wild Bunch is director Sam Peckinpah’s master class in the perfection of film rhythm. Peckinpah must have set new records for the number of cuts in The Wild Bunch, but it is a composition worthy of a genius. The camera lingers in close-up or long shot with perfect timing.  Whether catching the glint of steel in the eyes of Pike Bishop or recording the blown up bridge from multiple angles, Peckinpah’s   edits are executed to precise effect. The Wild Bunch is Peckinpah’s mesmerizing masterpiece. It’s seductive force never fails to blow me away .  
      The Wild Bunch is, of course, Sam Peckinpah’s paean to the changing world. This last ride for Peckinpah’s surly brood bunch2.jpg (4131 bytes) represents a simpler time, a time of honor among thieves that is quick disappearing with the new West. Death is dealt out on wholesale terms and men like Bishop are a thing of the past.  Pike Bishop leads his bunch to a last big job, but the bank robbery is a set-up and bounty hunters, led by former partner Deke Thornton lie in ambush. The bunch flees to Mexico through a storm of carnage only to wind up in an even wilder conflagration with the soldiers of despicable general Mapache.  
       The actors don’t get the credit they deserve for The Wild Bunch. William Holden is brilliant in the role of Pike Bishop. His former matinee looks beginning to dissolve into dissipation,  Holden captures the essence of  Bishop. The laconic Robert Ryan captures a self-loathing propped up by a distant respect for some truth.  Ernest Borgnine as Dutch gives Holden great support and Ben Johnson and Warren Oates are down and dirty as the Gorch brothers. Edmond O’Brien, Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones round out the cast of actors having a field day south of the border. 
       Peckinpah’s command of this film is never in question. It’s his great cinema moment, but his collaborators give him everything he asks of them and more. Walon Green’s screenplay creates a set of memorable characters with perfect lines like “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”   Lucien Ballard’s cinematography is magnificent. Jerry Fielding’s score propels the action decisively.  Lou Lombardo’s editing is an awesome achievement.  
       With this latest edition of The Wild Bunch, this time on DVD, “Bunch” aficionados get the bonus of a documentary on the making of the film. While the 35 minute film is very entertaining, it left me wanting more. It was a tasting glass of a spectacular wine. The inspirational way the   amazing walk to confront Mapache was put together is a revelation  
       While The Wild Bunch DVD is  a welcome catalogue addition, it burns my backside that this important 2.35:1 film was not delivered  anamorphic. Warner chose to windowbox The Wild Bunch to compensate for overscan on most televisions.  The widescreen presentation is sharp, but not devoid of grain. Colors are accurate and controlled.  Visually, this is as good as it’s going to get for many years.  Dialogue is crisp and Jerry Fielding’s dynamic score comes to glorious life in the Warner DVD of The Wild Bunch.     



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