October 8, 2010
Warner Home Video
- Director's Cut
- Runtime: 145 minutes
- NTSC (Canada and USA)
- Originally in English
Pike Bishop is the leader of a small clan of outlaws confronting the closing American frontier. The year is 1913 and the prairie crew, disguised as US soldiers, ride into a dusty Texas town and rob the railway office. A bloodbath ensues with innocent people caught in the crossfire. The gang leaves town but the railroad boss' hired gunmen pursue them.
Escaping to Mexico, the posse joins forces with the merciless anti-revolutionary dictator Mapache, agreeing to hijack a US ammunitions train. When Mapache double-crosses them and tortures youngest group member Angel upon discovering he's a revolutionary, the gang is caught between bounty hunters and Mapache's troops.
This widescreen (Panavision 2.35:1) reissue of the original director's cut of Peckinpah's violent masterpiece has been digitally restored. The CAV laserdisc version features interviews, the original trailer and more.
"The Wild Bunch," released in 1969, brought issues of violence and morality in cinema into the forefront of American film criticism. Instead of appreciating the film's critique of brutal violence, many critics responded by rejecting what they saw as a superfluous spectacle of decimated bodies. As author Brian Garfield wrote, Peckinpah's "excesses... no matter how well motivated, distracted audiences and obscured the fact that it is a towering movie, with a flavor of tragic grandeur hardly matched in the history of the Western film."
Peckinpah himself had a response for those who decried the film's violence: "Well, killing a man isn't clean and quick and simple -- it's bloody and awful. And maybe if enough people come to realize that shooting somebody isn't just fun and games, maybe we'll get somewhere."
Peckinpah, who died in 1984, is well known for some of the most controversial films of the late 1960s and 1970s. However, he began putting his imprint on the film world a decade earlier as the dialogue director for many of Donald Siegel's films, the first of which was "Riot in Cell Block 11," released in 1954. While working with Siegel, Peckinpah was a jack-of-all-trades who wrote screenplays (including "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" 1956), and learned to direct action films.
Shortly after working with Siegel, Peckinpah began writing for the prime-time television shows "Gunsmoke," "Broken Arrow," and "The Rifleman." Successful, he went on the direct low-budget films. "Major Dundee" would have been the artist's breakthrough project had the producer not shortened the film, almost ruining picture and director in the process. Fortunately, he made a comeback with "The Wild Bunch," which projected Peckinpah to the top. Based on a story by producer/director/writer Walon Green and actor Lee Marvin, later distilled by associate producer Roy Sickner, the film's screenplay actually has less of Peckinpah's authorial influence than many believe.
The original Peckinpah cut ran 152 minutes. For practical reasons he cut the theatrically released print to 144 minutes (a version now available on video, laserdisc, and 16mm CinemaScope). Producer Phil Feldman was responsible for creating a 35mm wide-screen print that was 134 minutes. Another shorter version, distributed in Europe was 127 minutes, in 70mm film, and allegedly contained sequences never included as part of the American product.
Color by Technicolor; filmed in Panavision.
Emilio Fernandez, who played Mapache, was one of Mexico's foremost actors and directors. Interestingly, in some of his most famous Mexican films, such as "Enamorada," Fernandez was cast as the revolutionary hero -- the complete opposite of his role in "The Wild Bunch."