Academy Awards 1970 -
Best Adapted or Musical Song/Score: Jerry Fielding
USA Today - 03/07/1995
"...There's never been a greater movie about loyalty among men than this..."
Entertainment Weekly - 08/18/1995
"...Engrossing entertainment." -- Rating: B+
Variety - 02/27/1995
"...Virtually every character in THE WILD BUNCH is a fully fleshed-out, complex portrait of humanity....It's a tale that is just as important and pertinent as ever..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 03/17/1995
"..It represents its set of sad, empty values with real poetry....Seeing this restored version is like understanding the film at last..."
Entertainment Weekly - 01/20/2006
"[A] flawless masterpiece....Peckinpah refined the use of slo-mo violence and graphic bloodshed here, but the deeper artistry was how such actions revealed character..."
Ultimate DVD - 07/01/2006 5 stars out of 5 -- "It's not light, it's not trivial: it hits you hard, and leaves a lasting impression..."
Empire - 03/01/2008
"Vital, visionary and very, very violent....That it still seems relevant after 40 years is testament to its uncompromising power."
As a counterpoint to the heroic horde of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, the aging gunmen of Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece break the very laws of honor which bind them in this bloody and meditative tale of the American West--widely considered to be the self-conscious nail in the coffin of the genre. William Holden, Robert Ryan, and Ernest Borgnine star as the leaders of a grizzled crew of Texan bandits who ride to Mexico, where, one by one, they are unceremoniously slaughtered by a Mexican revolutionary.
The western, a genre steeped in legend and the concept of loyalty, was a dying breed when Sam Peckinpah unleashed this amoral and violent opus. Along with BONNIE AND CLYDE, it ushered in a new breed of Hollywood film, depicting a harsh reality where lines between right and wrong became blurred. Peckinpah brilliantly used aging Western stars such as Ryan and Holden to convey this passing of the cinematic torch. The film brought issues of violence and morality in movies to the forefront of American film criticism. Instead of appreciating the film as a critique of brutal violence, many critics responded by rejecting what they saw as a superfluous spectacle of dead bodies.
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.
THE WILD BUNCH was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1999.
Peckinpah 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."
The original Peckinpah cut ran 152 minutes. For practical reasons he cut the theatrically released print to 144 minutes. 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.
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.
Alfonso Arau, who directed the Mexican love story LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, made his American acting debut as the bandito Herrera.