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This review is from: The Wild Bunch [DVD]  (DVD)
This is among the classic westerns, one which must be seen only in the 145-minute director's cut version to be fully appreciated. Yes, it is an exceptionally violent film but none of the graphic violence seems to me gratuitous, unlike in some of director Sam Peckinpah's other films. Pike Bishop (William Holden) heads a gang which robs banks and trains. Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) is a former member whom railroad owner Harrigan (Albert Dekker) arranges to be released from prison on the single condition that Thornton lead efforts to kill or capture Bishop and his gang. If he fails, he will be returned to prison. The quality of all performances is outstanding, as are Peckinpah's direction and the cinematography provided by Lucien Ballard.
The primary plot involves Thornton's efforts to complete his assignment but there are several interesting sub plots, notably one involving Coffer (Strother Martin) and his fellow scavengers. (Martin once observed that he and Dub Taylor specialized in portraying "prairie scum.") The opening scene shows a scorpion being consumed by fire ants. Coffer and his motley crew hope to have a similar opportunity to feast on what remains of the Bishop gang. I was also fascinated by the interaction between the Bishop gang and the Mexican federales (headed by General Mapache played by Emilio Fernandez) who also pursue them. Time eventually runs out. Bishop and his associates must decide: Either quietly depart with their tails between their legs or take a stand and probably be killed.
In my opinion, the final sequence justifies all of the violence which precedes it. Many of those who have seen this film are offended by its especially graphic portrayal of bloodshed. They have a point unless they take into full account the frontier culture in 1913 in which Bishop and his associates challenge all manner of conventions (as does Peckinpah) while fulfilling their destiny as robbers and killers. They are what they are. They have no self-delusions. None. Thornton is the only sympathetic character, Bishop's reluctant and weary adversary. In the last scene, his body language is especially eloquent. He and we feel spent. Enough. No more. It's over.
Question: Given the recent advances in technologies of various kinds, why does the visual and/or audio quality of DVDs often vary so much? Why can't "they" get it right every time?
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Initial post: 27 Aug 2012 20:52:06 BDT
Spot on I have been intoxicated with this film since the mid 80,s and get goose bumps when ever I see it. Why is main stream tv afraid of showing this western. Wild to see it screened on family time tv. Kids need to understand this message.
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