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The Wild Bunch laser disc review

                  THE WILD BUNCH 
                  Laser disc Box Set of Sam Peckinpah’s 
                  Masterpiece * Restored Director’s Cut * Definitive Widescreen 
                  Picture Transfer * 3-Disc CAV Version * Color * 145 minutes * 
                  Includes Oscar-Nominated Documentary * Includes Theatrical 
                  Trailers for 7 Peckinpah films * Includes Exclusive 76-page 
                  Peckinpah Tribute Booklet * Includes Exclusive Soundtrack CD 
                  of Jerry Fielding's Classic Score 
                  This complete package is not on DVD and is now Out-of-Print in 
                  All Formats
                  Directed by Sam Peckinpah * Screenplay by Walon Green and Sam 
                  Peckinpah * Starring William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest 
                  Borgnine, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sanchez, Ben 
                  Johnson, Emilio Fernandez, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Albert 
                  Dekker * Warner Brothers, Released 1969, Restored 1995

                  "It’s a traumatic poem of violence, with imagery as ambivalent 
                  as Goya’s. By a supreme burst of filmmaking energy Sam 
                  Peckinpah is able to convert chaotic romanticism into 
                  exaltation; the film is perched right on the edge of 
                  incoherence, yet it’s comparable in scale and sheer poetic 
                  force to Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. There are images of 
                  great subtlety and emotional sophistication: a blown-up 
                  bridge, with horses and riders falling to the water in an 
                  instant extended (by slow motion) to eternity; a vulture sits 
                  on a dead man’s chest and turns his squalid, naked head to 
                  stare at the camera. The movie is set in the Texas and Mexico 
                  of 1914, and, in Peckinpah’s words, ‘I was trying to tell a 
                  simple story about bad men in changing times. The Wild Bunch 
                  is simply what happens when killers go to Mexico. The strange 
                  thing is that you feeml a great sense of loss when these 
                  killers reach the end of the line.’ That’s accurate, as far as 
                  it goes. But Peckinpah has very intricate, contradictory 
                  feelings, and he got so wound up in the aesthetics of violence 
                  that what had begun as a realistic treatment – a 
                  deglamourization of warfare that would show how horribly 
                  gruesome killing really is – became instead an almost abstract 
                  fantasy about violence. The bloody deaths are voluptuous, 
                  frightening, beautiful.  Pouring new wine into the bottle of 
                  the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle; his story is too 
                  simple for this imagist epic. And it’s no accident that you 
                  feel a sense of loss for each killer of the Bunch; Peckinpah 
                  makes them seem heroically, mythically alive on the screen. 
                  With William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Ben 
                  Johnson, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Bo Hopkins, L.Q.Jones, 
                  Strother Martin, Jaime Sanchez, Emilio Fernandez, Albert 
                  Dekker, and Dub Taylor. With cinematography by Lucien Ballard, 
                  editing by Lou Lombardo, and music by Jerry Fielding. The 
                  script is by Walon Green and Peckinpah, based on story 
                  material by Green and Roy N. Sickner; the film was possibly 
                  influenced by Clouzot’s 1953 The Wages of Fear.” 
                  -- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

                  “His editing style – much imitated but never equaled – was the 
                  most revolutionary since Sergei Eisenstein’s use of montage in 
                  The Battleship Potemkin. ‘No one, even today, has mastered the 
                  art of multicamera, multispeed editing like Peckinpah has,’ 
                  says Paul Schrader. ‘He would have five or six cameras going, 
                  all at different speeds and in his mind he had figured out 
                  which camera had to be at which speed – which one is running 
                  at 32 frames [per second] and 24, and 96, and 48, and how 
                  they’re going to cut together.’ The Wild Bunch changed forever 
                  the way movies would be made and left its mark on an entire 
                  generation of film directors: Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver 
                  Stone, Michael Cimino, Walter Hill, Alex Cox, and John Milius, 
                  to name only a few. ‘There is no doubt when seeing his films 
                  that you are looking at one of the great masters of American 
                  cinema,’ says Martin Scorsese.’” 
                  -- David Weddle, If They Move…Kill ‘Em: The Life and Times of 
                  Sam Peckinpah

                  “[In March 1995 Warner Brothers released fully restored 70mm 
                  prints of Peckinpah’s original cut of The Wild Bunch to 
                  American theaters.]  Warners went through a nightmare retiming 
                  the print for its 1995 restoration...Whatever the problems of 
                  the release prints, Warner Home Video has accomplished a minor 
                  miracle in the transfer to laserdisc. Using the 1969 prints as 
                  a guide and the all-new digital technology available for 
                  visual restoration, Warners’ video technicians, headed by Ned 
                  Price, with Gregg Garvin doing the telecine, have come up with 
                  a transfer that for overall color balance and timing is far 
                  more faithful to the film as it looked in 1969 than in any of 
                  the 1995 prints. The stereo soundtrack of the laserdisc is in 
                  both surround and the new, all-discrete AC-3 format. Warners 
                  refurbished the original stereophonic dub for the 1995 
                  restoration, and that has been managed to perfection. Steven 
                  C. Brown, an archivist and film editor, spent weeks 
                  scrupulously gathering together and preparing the disparate 
                  sound elements for the chief mixer, Robert Litt, and his 
                  colleague, Elliot Tyson. It is thanks to their meticulousness 
                  (especially Litt’s as a dialogue mixer) that the film has 
                  never sounded better, with dialogue, background lines, 
                  atmosphere, and effects emerging with unprecedented clarity. 
                  This is one of the great dubs in the history of film, and at 
                  last the magnitude of the achievement is fully evident.”
                  -- Paul Seydor on the laserdisc restoration of The Wild Bunch, 
                  from Peckinpah – The Western Films: A Reconsideration 

                  "Fans of Sam Peckinpah are going to want to go to the well one 
                  more time, because Warner Home Video has released a wonderful 
                  new gift-sized Special Edition of The Wild Bunch 'Director's 
                  Cut' (WB 14035).  The color transfer is excellent and the 
                  stereo soundtrack, though an older and less elaborate mix, is 
                  fine, accompanied by a Dolby Digital track that is even a 
                  little livelier in places. On side six, however, Warner has 
                  included Paul Seydor's Oscar-nominated 33 minute retrospective 
                  documentary, The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage, which 
                  utilized uncovered black-and-white footage of Peckinpah at 
                  work directing the film as a back drop for oral reminiscences 
                  about the movie and about Peckinpah. The documentary was 
                  included on Warner's DVD release (Jun 97), but this is its 
                  first appearance on disc, and it gives you a genuine feel for 
                  what working on the location shoot was like. Both the film and 
                  the documentary are adequately closed captioned. Rounding out 
                  the side are seven theatrical trailers of the Peckinpah films 
                  under Warner or MGM/UA Home Video control. The disc comes in a 
                  large box jacket that also contains a new 76 minute CD, 
                  presenting a remixed and remastered recording of Jerry 
                  Fielding's musical score, along with a large 'commemorative 
                  tribute book' with terrific pictures and superbly written 
                  essays about the film and about Peckinpah. The fifteen 
                  articles in the 76 page book, by a variety of authors, are 
                  more elaborate than any disc still frame text supplement could 
                  hope to be, and include an elaborate look at the musical 
                  score, the final word on the film's 'restoration', and 
                  in-depth interviews with Peckinpah." 
                  -- Douglas Pratt, The Laser Disc Newsletter on the Deluxe 
                  Edition laserdisc of The Wild Bunch

                  Is this the greatest of all contemporary American films?  I 
                  can't think of a better one.  Psycho?  Nashville?  Bonnie and 
                  Clyde?  2001: A Space Odyssey?  Maybe.  MAYBE...
                  Here we have one of the crown jewels of the great 
                  movie-lover’s era – the deluxe box set edition of The Wild 
                  Bunch. I don’t remember any laserdisc release that was more 
                  hotly anticipated back in the mid-1990's. Following a wildly 
                  successful 1995 theatrical restoration of the troubled but 
                  irrefutably brilliant director Sam Peckinpah’s magnum opus 
                  (which several film critics have suggested is the most 
                  important American film since Citizen Kane), Warners put the 
                  film out on CLV laserdisc, promising that a deluxe edition of 
                  the film would soon follow.  
                  And then we waited...and waited..and waited.  The release date 
                  of the box set kept getting pushed back -- for almost two 
                  years, until this package finally came out in summer 1997, at 
                  the very tail end of the great movie-lover's laserdisc era. It 
                  was worth the wait. In addition to the 3 platters containing 
                  the movie (featuring a landmark picture transfer and sound 
                  mix, and presented in the unmatchably detailed CAV format, 
                  which looks considerably better than DVD in still frames), 
                  purchasers of the box set also got some wonderful extras: 
                  theatrical trailers for 7 of Peckinpah’s films; Paul Seydor’s 
                  impressionistic, Oscar-nominated documentary The Wild Bunch: 
                  An Album in Montage; a stunning 76-page tribute booklet 
                  stuffed with previously unseen stills, previously unpublished 
                  essays by noted Peckinpah critics and scholars, reminiscences 
                  from various cast and crew members, script excerpts, and 
                  interviews with Peckinpah (1969), composer Jerry Fielding 
                  (1978), and Warners head honcho Kenneth Hyman (who originally 
                  green-lit the production); and maybe best of all, an otherwise 
                  unavailable CD containing Jerry Fielding’s tremendous score, 
                  here restored and remastered for the first time. 
                  Warner Brothers had long had a reputation for not giving a 
                  damn about their considerable cinematic legacy and for 
                  ignoring their archives – this box set, a landmark laserdisc 
                  release, put that reputation to rest in a hurry. 
                  Unfortunately, 1997 marked the twilight of the great laserdisc 
                  era, and this box set ended up going out of print within a 
                  year. At this time the box set, which has become very 
                  difficult to find intact, remains the sole source for most of 
                  the bonus features -- most notably the booklet, several of the 
                  trailers, and the CD. 

                  "Peckinpah did it the only way he know how: from his soul 
                  and from his guts, as the obsessed, anguished, angry, 
                  passionate poet he was, descending into the maelstrom of his 
                  own darkness, the only control he was able finally to exert 
                  the artistic control of channeling all the rage and fury he 
                  found into this ferocious, apocalyptic poem, which is at once 
                  profoundly subversive and profoundly redemptive.” 
                  -- Peckinpah scholar (and award-winning film editor) Paul 
                  Seydor, excerpted from his essay on The Wild Bunch in the box 
                  set booklet