'THE WILD BUNCH' RETURNS

By EW Staff
Updated March 17, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST
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The Wild Bunch

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  • Movie
genre

John Travolta wasn’t the first sleepwalking star revived by a bad-guy hero role-director Sam Peckinpah cast William Holden as outlaw Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch. And Waterworld’s ballooning cost and delays are nothing new- Peckinpah doubled his $3 million budget and took a full year to edit and mix his ”blood ballet.” Yet the studio nightmare of 1969 (60 percent of preview cards were negative) is now a classic rereleased in all its gory wide- screen glory. When The Wild Bunch debuted, it provoked exhilaration as well as discomfort. Many critics and filmmakers understood that Peckinpah was aiming to go beyond Arthur Penn’s 1967 Bonnie and Clyde, beyond mere realism in film violence. His slow-motion shoot-outs-and the rectitude of his outlaws-pushed the ironies lurking in Western heroics. ”Listen,” the director told Time, ”killing is no fun. I was trying to show what the hell it’s like to get shot.” But audiences didn’t always appreciate it, and Warner Bros. trimmed eight minutes after the film had already appeared in theaters. More than 25 years later, some still don’t get it. The restored print initially earned a dreaded NC-17 before David Weddle, author of If They Move Kill ‘Em! The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah, reminded Warner that the full- length director’s cut had been rated R in 1969. After the studio delivered archival evidence to the ratings board, it got its R. What would it take to remake The Wild Bunch? According to some of its biggest fans, clout: *Walon Green, coexecutive producer of NYPD Blue, who wrote The Wild Bunch with Peckinpah: ”Clint Eastwood could play the William Holden part. (Y)ou’d have to have a major star and a pretty strong director, like Paul Verhoeven or Martin Scorsese, to avoid having the studio streamline it. To do the number of scenes and setups today would cost $70 million.” *L.Q. Jones, upcoming in Scorsese’s Casino, who played a bounty hunter in The Wild Bunch and made nine movies with Peckinpah: ”The stuff they call Westerns today, all you have to do is change the horses for Ferraris and you’d be doing Wall Street. I love Clint Eastwood, but he couldn’t make a Western if it bit him on the ass. Unforgiven is not a Western.” *Ernest Borgnine, who played Holden’s sidekick, Dutch: ”Twenty-five years later, I don’t think they could get that caliber of acting in there. I’d cast De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, and Robert Duvall, but none of that younger set that they rely on these days. Maybe that’s why I’m not working.”

Episode Recaps

The Wild Bunch

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • R
runtime
  • 134 minutes
director
  • Sam Peckinpah

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