The Wild Bunch - Vastly Overated?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Douglas R, Feb 8, 2006.

  1. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I'm always reading what a great film and, in particular, what a great western The Wild Bunch is. Personally I've never liked the film. I disliked it when it was first shown theatrically and have not changed my opinion. It's typical of most Sam Peckinpah films; amoral, delighting in extreme violence and in showing man's inhumanity to man. The photography and direction are mediocre. The final shoot-up is ridiculously over the top. Give me The Searchers or She Wore a Yellow Ribbon anyday. Now those really are great films! Unfortunately The Wild Bunch also helped put the nail in the coffin of tradional westerns such as those personified by John Ford.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Everyone's welcome to their opinion, though I disagree with this one. Personally, I think there's room to love this film as well as Ford's great westerns.






    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

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    I also disagree with your opinion although I understand it. Things have not really changed much over the last 37 years. There were those who loved the film as well as those who hated it. There is a certain amount of prevalance in all Peckinpah films where you have to "root" for the bad guy. However, you root for the bad guys who are not as bad as the other bad guys you are rooting against. This is also true in The Getaway where "the boys" are the badder bad guys so you root for the bad guys who aren't as bad (McQueen and McGraw). I definitely understand where you are coming from as I tend to have a problem with Tarantino films as his main characters are so disliked by me that I really don't care what happens to them. I don't know if this is the same feeling you had with The Wild Bunch. This is in my top 10 westerns of all time.
     
  4. willyTass

    willyTass Supporting Actor

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    Well it is very hyped and I bought the wild bunch largely because people I respect recommended it so highly

    Quite frankly it bored the shit out of me

    William Holden is perfect for swishing martini's with Audrey Hepburn but here he was hopelessly miscast. And I am a huge Holden fan.

    and Ernest Borgnine as a bandit? Nah he'll always be Marty for me!

    Yet when i watched One eyed Jacks I was riveted

    I will revisit The Wild Bunch in a few years and see what it means to me then

    After all, as a teenager i thought Lawrence of Arabia was boring

    Many a movie gets rave reviews on sites like DVD beaver. L'avventura, pickpocket etc. I remember one reviewer said it's a bit like modern art: you know it's shit but you tell your friends it's a materpiece so your convinced your an intellectual.

    I ordered L'avventura and FMD if ever there was a cure for insomnia this is it. What left wing 1960's pseudo-intellectual Italian drivell. If crap like this is an example of the pinnacle of Italian cinema any wonder Italian cinema died in the arse.

    I can see the mastery in Lean but after watching The wild Bunch I now know why I've never heard of Sam Peckinpah
     
  5. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    "Give me The Searchers or She Wore a Yellow Ribbon anyday"

    To eacht their own. Personally I cant stand these 2 films.
     
  6. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    Well said willy! [​IMG]
     
  7. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

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    I watched The Wild Bunch for the first time last year and must admit to being a bit underwhelmed by it...

    It wasn't related to the violence though. I thought the opening and ending shootouts were just terrific. "Over the top"? Well, maybe. But they were exciting and different. It was the rest of the film that didn't work for me. The story and character development in between the big shootouts felt, well, blah. I don't know a better way to describe it than that. It just didn't feel like as much thought was put into the rest of the film. The "camaraderie" between the men during campfire scenes, for example, just seemed forced. Part of it too was the casting - I didn't really like Holden or Borgnine in their roles (like willy, this could be because of previous roles I've seen them in and preconceptions of how they should be).

    I'm generalizing of course. I expect if I rewatched it there would be other sections of the film that stand out. But in the end, I'm not really left with much of an appreciation for The Wild Bunch except for the bookending shootouts. Perhaps I'll rent the recent version and rewatch. I won't have the high expectations this time.
     
  8. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Everyone has different opinions about westerns. I agree with the original poster about The Wild Bunch (and Peckipah), though I'm also not too fond of most of John Ford's westerns (My Darling Clementine and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are the only two of his that I think live up to the hype).

    I tend to prefer westerns like High Noon, Good Bad & Ugly, Butch Cassidy, Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven.
     
  9. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    I'm with Crawdaddy on this one. There is room for John Ford and Sam Peckinpah in this world. Plus, The Wild Bunch has the greatest 'slow walk' in film history.
     
  10. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    I don't know if The Wild Bunch is vastly overrated. Maybe... slightly overrated. I prefer The Searchers myself, although I don't agree about She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, which I think is overrated too.

    The Wild Bunch does have some terrific performances, and there's that Peckinpah "ballet" of gun violence, which must have been very startling to audiences in 1969.
     
  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    It was to me, but in a positive way which cause me to take better notice of this Peckinpah guy. I knew of him from some of his television work and a couple of films like "Major Dundee" because like many American boys growing up in the early 1960s, I was heavy into western films and television shows. All of the westerns mentioned in this thread are films I'd viewed either as a youngster or in the case of "The Wild Bunch" in high school, so I have a deeper emotional investment in each of them, thus my appreciation of them runs much deeper than some.






    Crawdaddy
     
  12. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    I very much like The Wild Bunch, although I will agree that it can be a bit of a slog in the middle portion of the film. I'm also a big John Ford fan and I like the European westerns, too. I'm selfish that way.
     
  13. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    Top 10 all time western for me. And, there is ample appreciation room for Ford, Leone, Peckinpah, Hawks, Eastwood, and others in my lexicon.

    If you don't like it...everyone has an opinion. But, calling Peckinpah's direction 'mediocre' is careless, at best.
     
  14. willyTass

    willyTass Supporting Actor

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    I just don't think Peckinpah ever had a really great script or casting to bring out the greatness that lurked within

    On a lighter note:
    (cue southern Italian control-freak mother)
    "hey Marty, whenna you gonna getta married?"
     
  15. Stan Rozenfeld

    Stan Rozenfeld Stunt Coordinator

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    Personally, I prefer Peckinpah's Ride The High Country to Wild Bunch. It's not amoral at all. I think it's one of the great films about integrity. But it's been a while since I watched it, so I might have to revisit it soon and see if my opinion holds up.
     
  16. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Crawdaddy said it for me.
     
  17. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    Vastly overrated?

    Not to me.

    The movie is so important, such a milestone on so many levels. Obviously the depiction of violence, but also the level of non-verbal interaction, staging of scenes, and most of all, editing throughout. People must have thought he was crazy to so many setups for any given scene. I was studying editing for several months in preparation for a film of my own, and pretty much all we talked about, every day, was either Eisenstein, Dede Allen, or The Wild Bunch. And on top of all that, William Holden's a complete badass.

    Regards,
    Nathan
     
  18. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

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    To me this is a very romantic view of things but I don't see how it really is supported.

    Take the Wild Bunch, tell most directors they are going to be 'saddled' with Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine and William Holden for a cast and I think they will be sleeping pretty easily at night.

    Great script? Well Peckinpah is the scriptwriter so if he was saddled with a poor script it is his own doing.

    For anyone that watched that very interesting (but sobering) documentary on the Straw Dogs DVD about Peckinpah it is hard not to reach the conclusion that the dude had 'issues.'

    So, at the end of the day, is he a second flight director because of Sam Peckinpah or because of not getting the breaks in life? Each can judge for himself.

    I think The Wild Bunch is an interesting film ... is it overrated? No idea.

    However, I do think that SOME of the attention that Peckinpah gets is due to human nature. There is always that 'what if' factor when an artist's life is cut short. Often, things that are perhaps a bit so-so are elevated as the notion of the 'genius cut short' theory gets played out.
     
  19. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    I'm more of a 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid' fan myself, but The Wild Bunch has some set pieces that rival any western ever made. I feel it's too long, but it's still right up there with any other western mentioned.
     
  20. Elijah Sullivan

    Elijah Sullivan Supporting Actor

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    This film actually gets more powerful for me each time I see it. The opening is riveting, shocking, and tragic. The ending is riveting, shocking, tragic. And if there is one thing Peckinpah is able to do well, it's to show that there is no such thing as "clean" bloodshed. All violence belongs in the same camp: butchery.

    There are very, very few movies that show violence in a way that strikes me as wrong inside my guts. Usually my head tells me something is bad and yet my guts - my base instincts - find something enjoyable in the intensity of bloodshed.

    Not so in The Wild Bunch. At the end of the film there are moments so very wrong that I wanted to cry out for the whole thing to stop.

    And it's because Peckinpah shot it the way he did.

    That said, I think John Ford did art a disservice when he made things as clean and socially offensive as The Searchers. As a young man of the new generation, I think the film is horribly, ignorantly racist and that the John Waybe stereotype personifies Americana at it's most obscene. I can't stand John Ford films for this reason - although, like Willy Tass said, I sometimes go easier on the guy because others tell me he's important.

    He's important in that he informed Kurosawa and Leone and Scorsese... but I'll take a film by any of those guys over Ford any day of the year.
     

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