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58 Wild Bunch, The 1969 
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Post 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
From Zeppelin on the cinematic journey

Apparently, When Sam Peckinpah made No. 58, The Wild Bunch, his intent was to create a film so disgustingly violent that people would never want to do something violent again. Obviously, someone up there didn't like Peckinpah, because instead The Wild Bunch became a touchstone in cinematic violence, the film that made it exciting and interesting to see. Even today it's considered one of the most violent films ever made, and while that's most definitely not true, it is true that The Wild Bunch still holds a visceral power. It's a tour de force of amorality, a film filled with nothing but anti-heroes and villains killing each other while the eyes of children look on.

Having seen a few other Peckinpah films before this one, I've noticed a recurrent element to all of them. They all seem to glorify violence and at the same time are horrified by it. Peckinpah always seems to be saying the same thing. He wants us to abstain from violence, but at the same time makes it look so stylish we become conflicted. It's one of the many ironies saturating The Wild Bunch. The corpse-looting, conscience-less bandits are the "good guys" chasing the loyal, tormented "bad guys." The wild bunch is always seen laughing, if only to keep from crying. The bunch spends the whole film thinking of ways to get away with the perfect crime, but in the end gives up a chance to escape in order to go out in a blaze of glory. Every element of The Wild Bunch is at conflict with itself, and in a perverse kind of way it's absolutely fascinating.

The Wild Bunch is an absorbing experience, even if it is twenty minutes too long. Not only is one of the most influential films of the new age of nihilism which reached its peak in the 70s, but it's also a great film, perhaps the greatest of Sam Peckinpah, the most conflicted director to ever pick up a camera. Whether you look at it as a manly action movie or as a pacifist parable, The Wild Bunch just works. 9/10


Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:49 am
Post Re: 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
Rob, I just have to comment that I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on Sam Peckinpah. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: all of Peckinpah’s films are about violence and our reaction to how he presents it on screen.
Robert Holloway wrote:
Apparently, When Sam Peckinpah made No. 58, The Wild Bunch, his intent was to create a film so disgustingly violent that people would never want to do something violent again. Obviously, someone up there didn't like Peckinpah, because instead The Wild Bunch became a touchstone in cinematic violence, the film that made it exciting and interesting to see. Even today it's considered one of the most violent films ever made, and while that's most definitely not true, it is true that The Wild Bunch still holds a visceral power. It's a tour de force of amorality, a film filled with nothing but anti-heroes and villains killing each other while the eyes of children look on.

Having seen a few other Peckinpah films before this one, I've noticed a recurrent element to all of them. They all seem to glorify violence and at the same time are horrified by it. Peckinpah always seems to be saying the same thing. He wants us to abstain from violence, but at the same time makes it look so stylish we become conflicted. It's one of the many ironies saturating The Wild Bunch. The corpse-looting, conscience-less bandits are the "good guys" chasing the loyal, tormented "bad guys." The wild bunch is always seen laughing, if only to keep from crying. The bunch spends the whole film thinking of ways to get away with the perfect crime, but in the end gives up a chance to escape in order to go out in a blaze of glory. Every element of The Wild Bunch is at conflict with itself, and in a perverse kind of way it's absolutely fascinating.

I think if we’re going to be honest about the reality we inhabit, then we have to admit that violence is often aesthetically appealing— and sometimes powerfully so. It’s not a peculiarly American fascination by any stretch of the imagination; nor is it peculiar to cinema as a medium. So far as I can recall, every realistic visual art is saturated with images of violence, pain, and human suffering. Sophocles’ Oedipus comes on stage, eyes gauged out, blood streaming down from his empty eye sockets. At least in a visual sense, Quentin Tarantino could probably deliver a really ripping version of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. More threateningly, states, nations, and armies are notorious for representing power and violence in aesthetically pleasing but often sanitized forms. I’m becoming long-winded, but my point is that I don’t think we should overlook the influence of the Vietnam War on this film. In fact, because of when the movie was released, the subject is almost unavoidable. Part of Peckinpah’s program for The Wild Bunch is to confront how well-presented and clean violence looks in traditional westerns (like the ones on TV, already mentioned above) and how they affected America’s attitude going into the war. In this sense, Tarantino’s escapism might not be a good comparison; the more appropriate analogue might be Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist or even Michael Haneke’s Funny Games.

Personally, I have no problem accepting The Wild Bunch as a having a pacifist message. I think Peckinpah knew he had to acknowledge that violence can be appealing and exciting before exposing the brutality and dirtiness of the whole thing. He wouldn’t have been able to do this if he didn’t also give the devil his due, if he hadn't, the film would have come across as corny or ersatz. How successful Peckinpah was in achieving his aims is, however, debatable. Had this much violence been depicted in a more intimate medium, say theater, the affect would probably be cathartic. But I’m unsure if a movie like The Wild Bunch (or even the more visceral Antichrist or Funny Games) accomplishes this.


Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:43 am
Post Re: 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
One thing that came to mind while I was watching The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah has balls. Look...I can't wax poetic...so I'll just list some things.

Things I Liked

-The shootouts...the way they were shot and edited together. The mix of slow motion, fast speed, quick cuts...places you in the chaos.
-The scene where they blow the bridge. WOW! Horses and riders on the bridge. I'm wondering what the American Humane people thought...
-Children are present everywhere. Not that I "liked" it...but it shows us how this violence it is perpetuated.
-The conflict these characters have...specifically Pike Bishop and Deke Thornton.

Things I'm Curious About

-When they come back to Mapache's, after Angel has been captured and tortured, three of the four remaining in the bunch go to the brothel. Meanwhile...Dutch is outside whittling. Why? I mean, it could as simple as he didn't want to have sex...but I'd like to think there's more to it. These guys are about to head into certain death...and he's just whittling away.
-The film I watched had absolutely no subtitles. Is this by design? I have to say...the Spanish that was spoken was done well. They're in Mexico...and they were definitely speaking Mexican. I read that the actor playing Mapache was a Mexican director. I pretty certain he might have had a lot to do this.

Another thing I just have to mention...one of the actors had a face and voice that seemed so damn familiar to me. Turns out it was who I thought it was, El Guapo from Three Amigos.

Hell of a ride this movie was. Truely enjoyed it.


Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:32 pm
Post Re: 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
Nice thoughts, ram. Zeppelin (via Rob) and Ratel have 2 excellent posts as well. I think all 3 posts touch on what's so fascinating about the movie - the contrast between violence as appealing and violence as horrific.

I don't think the 2 can be separated and I think that's exactly why this film has always been a subject of controversy. A lot of people try to say it's either a comment on our obssession with violence or a glorification of violence, when the 2 can't be separated. It's both, which is why it's so affecting, because that's real. That's actual insight into the minds of human beings. We're both enthralled and appauled by violence. I think this concept is shown in how the beginning credits and ending shootout mirror each other. In the opening credits the children are spectators. They're watching a small group of scorpions getting killed by an enormous swarm of ants. They aren't participating, but you can see how compelled their faces are while watching. By the end of the film, the children have become active participants in the same event, with the Wild Bunch being the scorpions and Mapache's men being the ants.

Allllll the way back in the late summer of 2009, when Tarantino released Inglourious Basterds, I was initially struck by the similarities between how Tarantino and Peckinpah portrayed violence. After a few more viewings, I realized my mistake. Tarantino doesn't glorify violence the slightest bit in IB. He's condemning it throughout. The violence in that film is purposely made to unsettle the viewer. Peckinpah stylizes his violence so much that it's almost impossible not to enjoy it. He's not just condemning violence, he's showing us how pleasing it can also be. I've seen the movie close to 10 times and I still get goosebumps when the bunch makes their long walk to face Mapache and his men. It doesn't get cooler or more bad-ass than a couple of men loading and cocking their guns and walking to face certain death.

Zep said this:

Zeppelin wrote:
Every element of The Wild Bunch is at conflict with itself


I couldn't agree more. If I had to narrow the movie down to once sentence or theme, this would be it. It's a movie about confliction, both in the world and within people. It can be seen literally all over the film. That's why we have the setting on the US-Mexico border and during the Mexican Revolution. The main characters are group of outlaws/killers/thieves that are bound by a code of duty. They're also relics of a past time trying to survive in a world that's moved on. They are chased by the "law" which is made up of another group of morally suspicious/incompetent members. Characters laugh to keep from going crazy or breaking down. In the completely conflicted world the movie creates, the contrast between stylized, appealing violence and the ugliness of that violence works perfectly. It's just another confliction. It's as accepted as it is vilified.

My favorite moment in the movie is just after Holden has killed Mapache. Everyone is looking around and no one seems to know what to do. Holden, and by extension the Wild Bunch, decide they've had enough and they're seeing this through to the end. It's almost as if you can hear him sigh and say, "fuck it." They're tired of the constant conflict. What's the point? Deciding to go out in a blaze of glory is seen as a legitimate, almost admirable, decision. You're firmly on their side and rooting for them even though their decision is basically to try and kill as many people as possible. Then the kids pick up guns and start shooting and the whole thing feels dirty.

A few more things before I end my way too long post:

ram1312 wrote:
-The film I watched had absolutely no subtitles. Is this by design? I have to say...the Spanish that was spoken was done well. They're in Mexico...and they were definitely speaking Mexican. I read that the actor playing Mapache was a Mexican director. I pretty certain he might have had a lot to do this.


Interesting. What do you mean by Mexican? Like a sort of slang version of Spanish that's spoken in Mexico? That makes sense, and it's really cool that the movie would go to such lengths.

If I ever were to make a Top 100 or Top 50 or something, The Wild Bunch would reside somewhere in the Top 20. Probably in the 12-16 range. Point being its an absolutely amazing film. Peckinpah isn't a great director overall, and I plain dislike a few of his movies, but ram's right, he has balls. Gigantic balls. He may have had elephantiasis. I love the guy because he always made his movies, however fucked up they may have been. The fact (well, opinion) that he gave us one of the greatest American movies ever made to boot is icing on the cake.


Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:23 am
Post Re: 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
Effing great post Pete. Geez man. I get so much more out of the movies I watch after reading your guy's posts. Goes for all the posters here.

PeachyPete wrote:
Interesting. What do you mean by Mexican? Like a sort of slang version of Spanish that's spoken in Mexico? That makes sense, and it's really cool that the movie would go to such lengths.


It's kind of like this Pete. Let's use for example the United States. There are differences in the English language in say California than there are in Louisiana. Differences in accent, words used, slang, and how they're all put together.

Same thing in the Spanish speaking world. I'm Mexican and my wife is Costa Rican. Any time I'm in Costa Rica speaking Spanish...those Ticos immediately know that I am Mexican. Hell...I had a 9-year-old boy call me out when I said five words.

In The Wild Bunch...you can distinctly tell that they are in Mexico by the Spanish alone.


Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:45 am
Post Re: 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
Thanks, ram. For both the kind words and answering my question. So its like a regional dialect kind of thing. That's awesome. Like I said, it's really cool that the filmmakers would go to such great lengths considering it was an American movie. There's really no reason to do that other than principle. What are the chances a honky like me picks up on something like that? Zero percent chance. Great stuff.


Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:18 pm
Post Re: 58 Wild Bunch, The 1969
Great thread guys. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Peckinpah, but The Wild Bunch is easily my favourite of his films.

ram1312 wrote:
-When they come back to Mapache's, after Angel has been captured and tortured, three of the four remaining in the bunch go to the brothel. Meanwhile...Dutch is outside whittling. Why? I mean, it could as simple as he didn't want to have sex...but I'd like to think there's more to it. These guys are about to head into certain death...and he's just whittling away.


I certainly noticed that too and took it to mean that he's gay. He also did a lot of unusual smiling, but then I guess Ernest Borgnine did like to smile a lot.


Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:51 pm
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