January 24th, 2011: The Wild Bunch

Cast and Crew:  Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Dub Taylor, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Alfonsu Arau

What It’s About: After a bank robbery goes horribly wrong, Pike Bishop (William Holden) leads his men across the border, pursued by his former partner Deke Thorton(Robert Ryan) and a band of cutthroats hired by the railroad.  There the gang becomes contracts with Mexican general Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) to steal a U.S. arms shipment despite the fact that one of their number, Angel (Jaime Sánchez), hates Mapache for stealing from his village (and more importantly, stealing his girl).

Why Watch it Today?: Ernest Borgnine, who plays Dutch, as close as this band of murderous crooks gets to a moral center, was born today in 1917 (in Connecticut, no less).  Borgnine is the consummate character actor, still making appearances in film and on television in his 90s.  Borgnine always gives a professional performance, but this ranks among his best.  The Wild Bunch is one of the best Westerns, director Sam Peckinpah’s meditation on the end of the West, obsolescence, what makes a good death, functional alcoholism, male bonding, and just how many squibs he can set off in a single sequence.

Where to Get It:  Netflix (rental only), iTunes, your local public library, or Amazon


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