In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the US, a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries and scouts.
In the Wild Bunch the movie opens with a group of aging outlaw's final score, a bank robbery. The event concludes with a violent and overtly bloody shootout that would generally mark the finale of a movie. This is correct in that it marks the finale of an era, for the characters and the world they live in. They simply can no longer keep up, the times are changing, technology advancing, and they're style of life is getting left behind in the dust that they spent so long galloping through. They abandon their careers for the simpler life of retirement. They enjoy this time, they live their fantasies. During this time the law is always on their tracks, bounty hunters. The further into their fantasy they get, the closer their demise seems to get. When one of their own is captured they are faced with the choice of escape or what is certainly a suicide mission to attempt and free their fallen behind comrade. For them it is not a choice. They all die in what can only be described as a ... Written by
The shoot itself went off surprisingly well. In all 79 days there were only two small accidents (Ben Johnson broke his finger on the machine gun and William Holden burned his arm with a misfired squib) but the dust and heat were relentless. According to legendary stuntman Joe Canutt, who also worked on Major Dundee (1965), "We were out in an area that was so dry the cactus had dried up and the horned toads carried canteens." Nevertheless, Sam Peckinpah insisted that the movie had to be filmed in Mexico. He had previously worked on the Paramount script for Villa Rides (1968) and had already worked Pancho Villa into the script, indirectly, through the subplot involving the stolen army guns. Some of the locations used were even evident in footage shot decades before during the actual Mexican revolution. See more »
The M1917 machine gun, out of place in a setting of 1913 as already stated, was a water cooled weapon. At no time during the firing of the machine gun is the water jacket hooked up to a source of cooling water. See more »
Do not drink wine or strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, least ye shall die. Look not though upon the wine when it is red, and when it bringeth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright at the last, it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder. Now folks, that's from the Good Book, but in this here town it's five cents a glass. Five cents a glass, now does anyone think that that is a price of a drink?
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Peckinpah has a rep and this is the film which provided most of it. I had the privilege of actually seeing this on the big screen once, in the late seventies. As the beginning credits end, Pike (Holden) tells his bunch "If they move, Kill 'em!" Then Peckinpah's credit appears. A woman seated behind me gasped, whispering "oh, no..." Oh, my. It sounded like the lady didn't know she'd wandered into a Peckinpah film and she knew what she was in for. When you enter Peckinpah-land, you need to be prepared. There are no punches pulled, no sidestepping the unpleasant aspects of life. Peckinpah's characters are tough men; I mean, really tough, not phony-Hollywood tough. In this case, they are coarsened by what seems to be years on the trail, blasted by the sun, snapped at by rattlesnakes, and harassed by bandits. And at this point, they've pretty much had it.
Not that they're complaining, mind you. They've lived their lives how they saw fit, this bunch, and they make no apologies for any of it. I believe the actual year is around 1913, just before World War I begins. Most of the action takes place in Mexico, where the Bunch becomes involved with a local general (Fernandez) with the usual delusions of grandeur. If you go by the name of the character Angel, the general can be viewed as a version of the devil. That would make the Bunch avenging angels at the end. But heroes? No, not at all. They have their own code, they know instinctively they're stronger together than on each own, but they reason this concept out also - Peckinpah wants to make sure it's clear these are not unthinking savages. They're just men, who've reached a point in history where they must make a crucial turn. History, it seems, has no real use for them anymore. It's quite simple
they either fade slowly or go out quickly. In a film such as this,
with its now insurmountable rep, you tend to wait for those big set pieces, especially the climactic battle. Wait for it, wait for it... here it is. Bam! - you're in Peckinpah territory. You're a part of history.
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