A few months before World War I, an aging band of outlaws led by Pike Bishop rob a Texas bank intent on using the money to retire. When the robbery goes wrong, the gang is forced to flee to Mexico with Bishop's reformed ex-partner, Deke Thornton, in hot pursuit. With nothing to show for the failed robbery, Bishop's gang agrees to steal a shipment of guns for General "Mapache" Juerta, to restore their fortunes. With Thornton closing in, and their association with the evil Juerta trying their conscience, Bishop and co. prepare for their lawless past to catch up with them.
William Holden ... Pike Bishop
Ernest Borgnine ... Dutch Engstrom
Robert Ryan ... Deke Thornton
Edmond O'Brien ... Freddie Sykes
Warren Oates ... Lyle Gorch
Jaime Sánchez ... Angel (as Jaime Sanchez)
Ben Johnson ... Tector Gorch
Emilio Fernández ... Gen. Mapache (as Emilio Fernandez)
Strother Martin ... Coffer
L.Q. Jones ... T.C
Albert Dekker ... Pat Harrigan
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Nominated for 2 Oscars
Codecs: XVid / MP3
Probably one of the most controversial films ever made, the Wild Bunch was equally hated and admired upon it's release over 30 years ago. Even today, as proof of it's staying power, it is still widely debated if Sam Peckinpah made a masterpiece or a monstrosity. Personally, I'm of the firm belief that Peckinpah contributed one of the finest American films of the last century.
The chemistry that Peckinpah was able to put on celluloid for this film is brilliant. William Holden and Ernest Borgnine as the leaders of the Bunch, play their roles with conviction and tenacity. Robert Ryan, once an outlaw with Holden, and now forced to hunt him down, portrays the tortured individual caught between an old friendship and the threat of incarceration in a vicious prison. Ben Johnson and Warren Oates are solidly believable as real life brothers as they depict their roles as Tector and Lyle Gorch, and finally Jaime Sanchez rounds out the gang as the fiercely patriotic Mexican, Angel.
Also a Peckinpah movie wouldn't be complete without L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin portraying the cowardly, scheming, body robbing bounty hunters eager for the money on the heads of the Wild Bunch.
This is a film that you can re-visit time and time again and relish the depth of the characters and feel their desperation as the west that they once knew has now become a distant memory.
Apart from the great casting, the tight scripting , exciting stuntwork, wonderful cinematography, gripping dialogue, and first class editing of the gunfights, this movie will be continually looked upon as one of the most important films of American cinema.
See it, enjoy it and experience great movie making!!
"The Wild Bunch" is one of those movies people don't agree on, even those that agree it's great. It's definitely complex, entertaining in a disturbing way, and manages to be at once nihilistic and moralistic, not an easy trick, especially for a cowboy film.
The first problem we have to deal with when watching this film is the fact there's very quickly a gunfight going on and, against all movie convention, no one to root for. There's an all-star cast on one side, including William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, and Warren Oates, but against all expectation, they turn out to be a pretty black crew. About the first thing out of Holden's mouth, said about a cowed group of innocents, is "If they move, kill 'em," and before the battle is over, we've seen him and his team commit all sorts of savagery. About the only reason we don't immediately see them as evil is that the people they battle are no better.
Over time, we are encouraged to find something of value in Holden's Pike Bishop and his ruthless confederates, as they ride away, lick their wounds, and try to figure out how to get something else going, anything. The only problem is its 1913 and these outlaws are running out of time and options. "I'd like to make one good score and back off," is how Pike says it, to which Borgnine's faithful buddy Dutch exclaims: "Back off to what?!"
Chasing the bunch, and offering the viewer the film's one sympathetic character, is Robert Ryan as Deke Thornton, a former partner of Pike's who doesn't want to go back to jail and for whom killing the bunch is the one unpleasant means of securing his freedom. Ryan, who died in 1973, is probably not as recognizable as the other leads today, but he lends a sad, elegiac presence to his on-screen moments that give the film much of its grace and warmth.
The final star is director Sam Peckinpah, who made a truly revolutionary film that not only pushed the art of film forward but holds up today as a cinematic experience. Time has been kind to this film in a way it hasn't to other ground-breaking auteur moments from the same era, like "MASH" and "Easy Rider." When "The Wild Bunch" came out just as the 1960s were ending, people were truly shocked by the violence and cruel characters. Today, of course, such things are so common, and so mindlessly celebrated, that we find ourselves admiring what Peckinpah does for the surprisingly subtle and restrained way he goes about presenting us with mayhem and carnage, and his refusal to glorify it, however exciting and entertaining the overall package.
Surprisingly for a director who had trouble getting work at the time, Peckinpah landed three Oscar winners in the cast, and a fourth, Ben Johnson, who'd win his a couple of years later. Obviously, the acting is strong, each player investing his spare lines with the right degree of space and spirit, but it's probably worked even better that the movie game in 1969 was in the process of passing the fuddy-duddy likes of Holden, Borgnine, and Edmond O'Brien behind. This makes them very believable as a group of hard-nosed has-beens. In that light, it's kind of cool how hip this film so quickly became when it was released.
It's such a good film it's easy to overlook minor weaknesses. There's a nice bit of symbolism in the beginning, now famous, where the gang rides past a group of children tormenting scorpions and ants, but the point, once made, is beaten into the ground. There are some bits of convenience that stick out, like when a gunned-down outlaw rises and mows down his attackers with a few too-precise shotgun blasts. The general dislikeability of just about everything and everybody does feel a bit of a weight after a couple of viewings.
But what's great is just awesome, especially that opening sequence and the final showdown at Bloody Porch. Such terrific punch-drunk ambiance, it's almost a shame to watch it sober. The feeling of a new era coming upon us, which we see in everything from the doughboy uniforms at the outset to the car General Mapache rides around in, is redoubled by the glorious splendor, even clarity of this picture. Is it too much to praise a movie for the quality of the film stock itself? This is a paradox film, one about obsolescence and growing old that remains startling new-looking and fresh 35 years on.
* According to editor 'Lombardo, Lou' the original release print contains some 3,643 editorial cuts, more than any other Technicolor film ever processed. Some of these cuts are near subliminal, consisting of three or four frames, making them almost imperceptible to the naked eye.
* Body count: 145
* According to Sam Peckinpah biographer Marshall Fine, there was concern on the set over the bridge explosion. Bud Hulburd, the head of the special-effects crew, was not particularly experienced, having ascended the ranks after Peckinpah fired his predecessors. Stuntman Joe Canutt appealed to both Hulburd and Peckinpah to no avail, so finally, out of concern for the other stuntmen, Canutt enlisted the help of screenwriter Gordon T. Dawson, who was instructed to stand behind Hulburd with a club. If the stuntmen began to fall before the final charge was set off, something that would've resulted in death, Dawson was to club Hulburd unconscious before he detonated the last charge. Luckily, the stunt went off without a hitch.
* Supposedly, more blank rounds were discharged during the production than live rounds were fired during the Mexican Revolution of 1914 around which the film is loosely based. In total 90,000 rounds were fired, all blanks.
* Ernest Borgnine's limp wasn't acting. He broke his foot while filming The Split (1968) and had to wear a cast throughout the Mexican location shoot.
* Before William Holden was cast, the role was turned down by Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone and Robert Mitchum. Marvin actually accepted the role but pulled out after he was offered a larger pay deal to star in Paint Your Wagon (1969).
* Seven identical costumes were made for each main actor. All of them were ruined during filming.
* The shootout/massacre in the end took 12 days to film. When completed, about 10,000 squibs (simulated bullet hits) had been used.
* The budget went from $3.5 to $6 million and from 70 to 81 shooting days.
* The climatic gun battle sequence took 12 days to film. The crew nicknamed it the "Battle of Bloody Porch."
* There were not enough uniforms for all of the stunt people and extras in the gun battle. If someone was filmed getting shot, the costume people would repair a uniform by washing off the fake blood, taping and painting over the bullet holes, drying the paint and sending either the same or a different performer out to get shot again.
* The image of the scorpion being dropped in the ant hill was suggested by Emilio Fernández because he and his friends used to do that as children. The image was not in the script.
* The train robbery itself was not in the script. All scenes were improvised on the spot, the same day. Same thing with "the walk" for the bunch to help "Angel".
* Last scene to be completed was the exploding bridge over Rio Nazas (substituting for Rio Bravo). Five stuntmen, each paid $2,000, one take, six cameras. One camera was lost into the water.
* WILHELM SCREAM: During the post office escape in the beginning, when one of the horsemen is shot in the face.
* This film was adapted from a short story written by Roy N. Sickner, an actor and stuntman. Writer Walon Green wrote the script, which was then rewritten by Sam Peckinpah. Green argued that Peckinpah's changes did not warrant his getting a screenplay credit. After this dispute the Writer's Guild changed the rules and now a finished script must have at least 60% of it written by the director before he or she can claim a writer credit. Green, Sickner and Peckinpah all shared Academy award nominations for best screenplay (the only Oscar nomination Peckinpah ever received in his entire career.) They didn't win.
* The famous "Last Walk" was improvised by Sam Peckinpah during the shoot. Originally, the scene was to begin with the Bunch leaving the whorehouse and immediately cut to the confrontation with Mapache. Once the decision was made to lengthen the scene, many of the Mexican extras were choreographed by the assistant directors while the scene was filming.
* The name "The Wild Bunch" originally came from real-life western outlaw Butch Cassidy. At age 30 he started his own gang of outlaws, who were quickly christened "The Wild Bunch" by the press.
* After filming the scene where Ernest Borgnine and William Holden sit by a campfire and their characters vow they "wouldn't have it any other way", it was hard for director Sam Peckinpah to yell, "Cut!" because he was crying.
* During the opening robbery sequence, two children are seen holding each other, and watching as one of the robbers rides by on horseback and scoops up a bag of money laying on the ground. The boy in that scene is Matthew Peckinpah, director Sam Peckinpah's son.
* Sam Peckinpah's first two choices for the role of Deke Thornton were Richard Harris (who had co-starred in Major Dundee (1965)) and Brian Keith (who had worked with Peckinpah on "The Westerner" (1960) and The Deadly Companions (1961)). Harris was never formally approached, but Keith was, and turned the part down. Robert Ryan was ultimately cast in the part after Peckinpah saw him in The Dirty Dozen (1967).
* Excluding the start and end credits, this film contains about 2,721 edits in about 138 minutes of action. This equates to an average shot length of three seconds. The "Shootout at Bloody Porch" contains about 325 edits in five minutes of action, for an average shot length slightly under one second.
* The role of Gen. Mapache was first offered to the German-Italian actor Mario Adorf. Adorf declined the offer when he learned that his character would cut a boy's throat, but regretted his decision three years later when he saw the movie.
* The "modern" sidearms (the film setting is 1913) that the Bishop gang carries in the film are Colt M1911 automatic pistols and Winchester M1897 pump-action shotguns. The water cooled heavy machine gun is the Browning M1917. US and Mexican soldiers use M1903 Springfield rifles. All of the aforementioned weapons were used in World War 1 by the U.S. Army.
* According to L.Q. Jones, he and Strother Martin approached director Sam Peckinpah with an idea to add more depth to their characters (T.C. and Coffer). The idea was to add a hint of a homosexual relationship between their characters. Peckinpah liked the idea and the footage made it into the final release version.
* This was Albert Dekker's last film role.
* John Wayne complained that the film destroyed the myth of the Old West.
* The movie's line "If they move, kill 'em." was voted as the #72 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
* In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #79 Greatest Movie of All Time.
* Before filming began, William Holden and Sam Peckinpah argued over the mustache Peckinpah felt the Pike Bishop character would wear, because Holden reportedly did not like his image on film with one. Director Peckinpah won the argument, and Holden wore a false mustache during filming.
* Following the film's production, it was severely edited by the studio and producer Phil Feldman (in Sam Peckinpah's absence), cutting its length by about 20 minutes - remarkably, none of the excised film was violent. Due to its violence, the film was originally threatened with an "X" rating by the newly created MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), but an "R" rating was its final decision. The film was restored to its original "director's cut" length of 143 minutes and threatened with an NC-17 rating when submitted to the MPAA ratings board in 1993 prior to a re-release in 1994, holding up the film's re-release for many months. The reinstated scenes (including two important flashbacks from Pike's past, and a battle scene between Pancho Villa's rebels and Gen. Mapache at the telegraph station) depicted the underlying character and motivations of the leader of the Bunch. With numerous, elaborate montage sequences with staccato shifts, the film set a record for more edits (3,643 shot-to-shot edits at one count) than any other Technicolor film up to its time.
* At least three names from this film have been used in the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997). In addition to starring a vampire character named Angel, the series also had an episode that featured two vampire cowboys named Lyle and Tector Gorch.
* Emilio Fernández plays Gen. Mapache, who is continually defeated by the forces of Pancho Villa. In real life Fernandez actually fought against Villa's rebels in the Mexican civil wars of the early 1900s, and was forced into exile in the US when Villa defeated the general Fernandez was fighting for.