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The Wild Bunch  

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  1. 1. Does "The Wild Bunch" belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes.
      5
    • What I like and what I need are two different things.
      3

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  • Poll closed on 01/31/20 at 08:00 AM

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Paul & Amy light up 1969’s rebellious Sam Peckinpah Western The Wild Bunch! They marvel at the stunts the volatile Peckinpah pulled, praise his inventive flashbacks, and debate the film’s use of laughter. Plus: Director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) talks about why The Wild Bunch is one of his favorite films.

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This was my first time watching The Wild Bunch from start to finish and before I get into it, for as good as it is, I’m not sure it’s Top 100 worthy. But it is indeed a strong film with some solid and interesting performances. Robert Ryan is wonderful in this! Definitely a performance in which he’s able to show a few different layers of the character. Thornton isn’t just an automaton hell bent on fulfilling a mission. He’s driven by things that aren’t necessarily explicit.  It’s also impossible to not notice Peckinpah’s almost too heavy handed use of children. A google search quickly reveals that a few smarty pants film historians have noted that children seem to be very close to pretty much every act of violence. Of course their childhood innocence stands juxtaposed to sinful adults, but from the very opening scene in which a group of children are gleefully, torturing a scorpion by dropping it into a writhing sea of ants, eventually, setting the scorpion and ants on fire, to the terribly young soldiers that are assigned to Thornton as they pursue Pike and his men. And let’s face it, The Wild Bunch themselves are the scorpions, being attacked by ants, only to be to burned down in a way.

So before I type more clunky paragraphs on my phone, TWB is incredibly influential and probably does have a Simpsons moment but I love that The Three Amigos, stole some themes and even more fun is the Sam Peckinpah sketch on Monty Python. I also don’t want to forget the incredible work of the DP, Lucien Ballard. So good!

Edited by DanEngler
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Hey @Scottcarberry, could you add the standard poll to the thread?

If memory serves you do so by clicking the link that says "content", it'll give you the option to choose either "poll" or "question", and if you do so, it'll show you the options for creating a poll.

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Oh, by the way, I take back what I said before, this movie DOES belong on the Afi top 100!

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Only 24 minutes into the episode, but wanted to say this before I forget -

Paul said when he saw Reservoir Dogs, he'd never seen something like the earcuttung scene before. That came from Django, which, well, was a (Spaghetti) Western set in Mexico that involved a machine gun.

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No Simpsons clip, but in honor of the late Terry Jones let's have a look at Monty Python's parody of Sam Peckinpah.

 

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7 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

No Simpsons clip, but in honor of the late Terry Jones let's have a look at Monty Python's parody of Sam Peckinpah.

 

Came here to do exactly this.

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Anyway, this was a VERY close vote for me, but ultimately I went with no. I think it's a quality film, well-made and engaging. Stylistically it does seem to have been an influence on later work, but at the same time I find it hard to disentangle this from the influence coming from a bunch of other movies from the same year: Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Midnight Cowboy. Seems like collectively all of these films had a big influence on the subsequent decades, and if we have those on the list already, do we need this one too? I guess the big stylistic difference here is the use of slow-motion violence, but honestly . . . that goes all the way back to Kurosawa and Seven Samurai.

One argument in its favor would be that it's the only Peckinpah. True, though I'm not sure Sam Peckinpah quite rises to the level of a filmmaker that absolutely HAS to be represented. It's nice if he is, but not a requirement. Is it the best "revisionist" Western that actively forces audiences to confront the violence inherent to the genre? I think you can make an argument that it is, but for me this film's take on the idea has since been eclipsed by Unforgiven, which IMO feels like a much more laser-focused critique than the relatively scattershot thematic approach in The Wild Bunch. So I think we keep that and let this one go. This is something I could change my mind on in the future!

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The Wild Bunch absolutely belongs on the AFI top 100. It's certainly one of the most influential films on the list, but I don't want to write an entire essay on my phone listing all of the filmmakers that wouldn't be who they are without it. I will push back on the idea that Unforgiven is a better critique of the genre. I love Unforgiven but it dedicates a lot of time to characters literally saying, "this is how the West really was" whereas The Wild Bunch just throws you into it. By comparison Unforgiven is ridiculously heavy handed (and yet it still ends on a saloon massacre out of a Spaghetti Western). Peckinpah was not interested in demythologizing the Western. Lesser Westerns that came in its aftermath tried to do that (and Unforgiven was written in the 70s when that was in vogue). The Wild Bunch creates a new, harsher myth to tell the truth in a way that simply saying "this is how it was" never could. You will also not find a Western that lays bare its creator's soul the way The Wild Bunch does (outside of Peckinpah's own Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid). It belongs on the list.

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As for Simpsons references, there is one where they talk to an Wild West Show stuntman who mentions his many film credits, one of which was The Wild Lunch (yeah, it's not a great joke). Also, on the "Behind the Laughter" episode Homer directs a TV pilot and is referred to as a "Penniless Peckinpah"

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