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Turner Classic Movies
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Wild Bunch, The
Written by Diana Saenger   

The Wild Bunch,  by Sam Peckinpah,  stars William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien and Ben Johnson. The story is a forceful tale of desperados bound together by the same greed. The men exist by a code of honor, but in their own violent and dishonest world.

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Deke and his hombres
  © Warner Bros. Pictures
Aging outlaw Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his bunch of hooligans - Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson - arrive in a Texas town in 1913 in disguise before they plan to rob the bank. Unbeknownst to them, Pike's former friend, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), has been hired by the railroad to end Pike's run. Thus begins a long and vicious chase with lot's of bloodletting.

The opening scene is very violent, and during the initial showing, there were many fans uprising against the violence, which only made Peckinpah more excited.

Even the critics were widely divided about liking or disliking the movie.

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Ben Johnson - Scene from "The Wild Bunch" © Warner Bros. Pictures

The digitally remastered film is beautiful and pays homage to Lucien Ballard's extraordinary eye behind the camera. Part of the unique opening sequences move from black and white title sequences that intersperse with the color images. Credit also goes to the art direction by Edward Carrere - who made every location seem real and a bearer of its past.

The characters are richly drawn and quite intriguing, and it's often hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Edward O'Brien is truly unique as Freddie Sykes, an oldster who joins the wild bunch after they find out their moneybags are filled with washers and not gold. Sykes has a riot laughing at the men and O'Brien nails the scene. Dutch Engstrom, Pike's right-hand man, is played brilliantly by Ernest Borgnine.

Also joining the group at this time is Angel (Jaime Sánchez), a somewhat unlikely character to be hanging with these guys. He takes them back to his village where they enjoy some downtown with the villagers. or as some may say, the peace before the storm.

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Pike's wild bunch © Warner Bros. Pictures
Meanwhile Deke's group doesn't seem to want to cross the border to pursue Pike's men, but Deke can't let them leave. He's been threatened by the railroad. The Mexican Revolution is just beginning and soon both sides are embroiled in three different fights. Nothing is predictable, and you can only imagine what happens by watching. By you learn there are good and bad men in both of the groups.

"The Wild Bunch" was nominated for two Oscars, Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical)- Jerry Fielding and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay based on material not previously published or produced, Walon Green, Roy N. Sickner and Sam Peckinpah.

Whether you find Peckinpah's work enjoyable is a matter of taste, but no one can deny his mark on filmmaking and the Western film as Americans know it.  

Ben Johnson - Scene from The Wild Bunch © Warner Bros. Pictures

 



                       

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