THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
Original Japanese B1 (28x40)
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Artist: Bill Gold
Condition: Very good. Folded.
NOTES: One of the three defining Westerns from my youth (the other two being The Outlaw Josey Wales and Young Guns…sue me), I was first made aware of Peckinpah’s poetic ode to the outdated through an interview preceding its 90’s Director’s Cut release with the legendary Lou Lombardo.
“Every frame we took out of that film was pure gold.”
A comment that’s clung closely to me ever since. Because it’s true. Only that gold is tarnished, and therein lies the beauty of The Wild Bunch.
I’d seen The Getaway: never really felt like it cooked on the gas it should have.
I’d seen The Killer Elite: a middling actioner buoyed by Caan and Duvall (the latter of whom once yelled at me down the phone in a case of mistaken identity).
This, however, was the beginning of my love affair with Uncle Sam. Big time.
The vicious sadness of the opening scorpion versus ants battle, partnered with the slightly “out of time” score (like the Bunch themselves), perfectly set up the chaos to come, exploding into the most immaculately crafted display of true violence I’d ever seen. Mean. Selfish. Gutting.
Yet, within that opening massacre, a moment: Pike and Deke, exchanging first a glance, then a bullet , each missing the other… with intent. With love. Knowing full well that – somehow - they’d both sealed their own damned fates.
For me, no other film comes close to speaking so honestly about friendships, loyalty and honour dissolving with time and age.
Over the years, I’ve read everything I can on the film and amassed a collection of LDs, Vinyls and this incredibly rare, beautiful Japanese B1. Incorporating Bill Gold’s iconic, shadowy image, some beautifully lurid Japanese copy and the heartbreaking visual of Pike’s last stand among his doomed and bloodied brethren, this really was a gorgeous and emotional find for me.
Peckinpah’s best has been a frequent mainstay for me: a go-to totem of not just the end of the era within the film but of the kind of film itself. Brave, brazen, bleak and bloody. Just how I like ‘em. And just like Uncle Sam used to make.