The Wild Bunch (1969)

wildbunch_2Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sánchez, Ben Johnson, Emilio Fernández, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Albert Dekker, Alfonso Arau

Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Expectations: High. It’s The Wild Bunch.

fourstar


When I was a teenager I loved The Wild Bunch because it was bloody and violent in ways that I had never seen in a classic western. This violence — and the way it was edited — would forever change the course of American cinema. Re-watching the film in my 30s, I am struck by how the violence is never presented as entertainment. It is instead meant to affect the viewer, and while 45 years of violent, bloody filmmaking have definitely softened its impact a bit, it’s still incredibly brutal and hard to watch at times. The violence also makes the film feel a lot more modern than its contemporaries, which I’m sure is a huge reason why this film has continued to resonate with audiences over the years.

On the surface, The Wild Bunch is about a gang of bandits who are looking to make one last score before getting out of the game. On their tail is the calm, mild-mannered Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), who was once a trusted member of the outlaw group. It’s a rather simple and often-used story, but The Wild Bunch never feels simple or clichéd. One of the first images on-screen shows a group of children huddled around a colony of red ants attacking a small group of scorpions. This image is not only striking, but it is representative of the rest of the film and the struggles of the main character Pike (not to mention our own fascination with watching violent struggles).

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Straw Dogs (1971)

Straw Dogs (1971)

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, T.P. McKenna, Del Henney, Jim Norton, Donald Webster, Ken Hutchison, Len Jones, Sally Thomsett, Robert Keegan, Peter Arne, Cherina Schaer, Colin Welland, David Warner

Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Expectations: High. I’m very excited to see this.


Having just read The Siege at Trencher’s Farm, I was thoroughly excited to watch Straw Dogs for the first time. It’s a very well-regarded film of Sam Peckinpah’s and one that is always mentioned when talking about his best work. I knew going in that the film diverged quite a bit from the book, but I had no idea just how off the rails it got. Instead of the taut, thrilling tale that the book tells, Straw Dogs is mostly a very boring and meandering film, and one that simply does not do the book justice.

David Sumner and his wife Amy have temporarily moved to the English countryside of Amy’s youth so that David can finish his mathematics book. He’s working on some deep shit and needs the peace and quiet to sort out his thoughts. A few of the able-bodied townsmen, including one of Amy’s old flames, are building the couple a garage and clearing out the rat infestation in the old farmhouse. Tensions run high between David and Amy because David is focusing all his time on his work when she would rather have that focus pointed squarely on her.

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Book Review: The Siege at Trencher’s Farm (1969)

The Siege at Trencher’s Farm (1969)
by Gordon Williams
Re-published by Titan Books August 16, 2011

Filmed as Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah in 1971
and remade as Straw Dogs by Rod Lurie (opening Sept 16, 2011)


Lately my reading has been slacking. Books take me months to get through, as I fall asleep mere seconds after picking them up. When I sat down to read The Siege at Trencher’s Farm, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get through it in time to post this review. To my surprise I read the book in a couple of sittings and my eyes never drooped once, in fact, each chapter excited me to soldier on to the next as the sunlight dwindled and day turned to night.

George & Louise Magruder, along with their daughter Karen, move to Louise’s native England, in hopes that George can get some peace and quiet to finish his book. This isn’t a permanent move, it’s something more akin to an extended vacation, so they rent a farmhouse in the quaint village of Dando, where outsiders are not taken to kindly. Tensions run high from the beginning between the townsfolk and the newcomers, but also between the family members, with everything ultimately coming together in a feverish climax of stunning violence.

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