THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

   William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Sam Peckinpah (director)
   The bloodiest Western ever made; with this film Westerns changed forever—these are the usual talking points for The Wild Bunch. Perhaps the most memorable scene is the first. Agroup of United States Army soldiers, dressed in World War I–era uniforms, rides slowly into a prosperous Texas border town. ASalvation Army parade is in progress. Children are playing everywhere. We find out that the soldiers are actually about to rob a bank, but they are riding into a trap. Gunmen are at the top of every building. The shooting starts, and the Salvation Army band is caught in the middle. Tubas and bass drums fly everywhere. Children are trampled. Gatlin guns tear through everything. In graphic slow motion, we see bullets hitting flesh and blood spurting out. We see bodies torn to shreds slowly and in clear vision Technicolor. That is just the first 10 minutes of The Wild Bunch. The narrative is based on the exploits of a historically real outlawgang at the turn of the 20th century. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), produced the same year, is a feel-good movie version about a different element of the Wild Bunch.
   Nobody in this film represents the values of classical Westerns. The gang is ruthless and evil, being chased into Mexico by quasigovernment agents who are every bit as ruthless and evil as the Wild Bunch. There is no moral center in this film because Peckinpah questions whether a moral center even exists anymore. The film resonated perfectly with a generation that was questioning and rejecting every value it had ever been taught. One of the cultural artifacts of that generation’s past had been the classic Westerns and the B Westerns of their childhoods, which now seemed to have been based on superficial and false assumptions about human nature and about social value.
   See also ANTIMYTH WESTERNS; VIOLENCE.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

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