This nearly forgotten 1971 western drama from the late Blake Edwards was reportedly butchered by MGM, but eventually restored to road-show length by the director and is now available via the Warner Archives. “Wild Rovers” stars craggy William Holden and fresh-faced Ryan O’Neal as a pair of cross-generational buddies who have come to recognize why mommas shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys. Their not-smart solution: become wealthy bank robbers. The likelihood of tragedy grows even greater when their rancher boss (Karl Malden) sends out his loutish sons (Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker) in hot pursuit of the men who looted his payroll.
Edwards was a master of sorts, but on his first western as a director he tries much too hard to both pay homage to and outdo the competition. We have Howard Hawks-like dialogue scenes that go on forever, epic vistas shot in John Ford’s Monument Valley, and a few lifts from Sam Peckinpah. Blood squibs go off and characters writhe in slow motion a la “The Wild Bunch”; a lyrical montage about breaking a wild horse goes on and on like an outtake from “Major Dundee” or “The Ballad of Cable Hogue.” Considering the presence of “Wild Bunch” star William Holden and Edwards’ tendency to gentle wit, it’s impossible not to make the doubtless often repeated quip describing “Rovers” as “The Mild Bunch.” The problem, however, is not too much copying or excess affability, but Edwards’ undisciplined screenplay. It leaves an outstanding cast, and one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best scores, twisting in the wind like a horse thief on the end of a rope.
In all likelihood, this weekend’s likely #1 film, “The Expendables,” is not really a movie you need to see before you die. But if you are going to take that long, “Wild Bunch” style, walk to the multiplex, this totally entertaining 15 minute mash-up of numerous gratuitously violent, gun crazy, flicks from Steven Santos, Aaron Aradillas, and good ol’ Matt Zoeller Seitz, sponsored by The House Next Door, is just the thing to get you in the correct spirit.
Pretty magnificent. Also, Nice to Luke Wilson from “Bottle Rocket” in there. Fun coincidence considering the post below this one.
I guess it’s partly because of production code censorship, but it’s interesting that, while guns and movies have always gone hand-in-gunslinging-hand, the extreme fetishizing of the things seems to have begun about the time the production code truly died, paving the way for arguably the first truly ultraviolent big studio film, 1969’s “The Wild Bunch.” It also happens to be, I’m pretty sure, the second oldest film featured here (after ’66’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”) with one obvious exception from the birth of the movies right at the end. Or maybe I’m wrong. If anyone can think of a movie before 1966-69 in which guns were portrayed in the kind of tender loving detail we’re now used to, let me know.
Finally, get even more in the spirit of, er, gun fun, with this piece from the Bullz-Eye blog celebrating various multi-star manly action fests.
I like the late Kinji Fukasaku’s film of “Battle Royale,” but maybe not quite as much as some people.
Nevertheless, this item, about a coming and seemingly utterly random 3-D retrofit of the putative “gorefest” just makes me want to fly to Monster Island and pick a fight with Ghidrah. What next, “The Wild Bunch”?
Or perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe it’s time to just go utterly all-in with the ultimate cinematic process, predicted so many years ago by the Zucker Brothers, Jim Abraham, and John Landis in “The Kentucky Fried Movie.”
It’s time for me to take a moment to reflect a bit on what I learned from my rather hectic but definitely fun and enlightening time at the TCM Fest. As previously reported here and everywhere else, it turned out to be a fairly roaring success and is promised to be repeated next year in Hollywood. Because of time constraints and because I wasn’t able to enjoy the truly titanic number of films seen by, say, a Dennis Cozzalio — currently working on a detailed and sure to be great summary of the event — I’m going to limit myself to a few random observations covering material I have not mentioned in prior TCM-centric posts. (Here, here, and here.) Naturally, it’ll still turn out to be much longer than I originally intended.
Borgnine, Donen, Rainer
As someone with parents in their eighties and nineties, I’ve become especially interested lately in the way things work for people of a certain age. So it was with some some special interest that I listened to the words of 100 year-old thirties star Luise Rainer, 93 year-old star character actor Ernest Borgnine (“Marty,” “The Wild Bunch”), and 86 year-old directing great and one-time boy genius, Stanley Donen — best known for co-directing “Singin’ in the Rain” and other MGM musical classics with Gene Kelly but also an outstanding director in his own right of both musicals and “straight” films.
With “Kick-Ass” raising just a little bit of controversy, below are two trailers and a Siskel & Ebert review for the three movies for which the term “ultraviolence” was originally coined, though I suppose author Anthony Burgess might get the credit for the actual words. Though “A Clockwork Orange” and “Bonnie and Clyde” are both obviously more serious films than an action-black-comedy like “Kick-Ass,” its worth noting that, as is the case now, the juxtaposition of violence and humor in those films was a big part of what so disturbed some critics. As for “The Wild Bunch,” it was just the sheer savagery of the thing.