The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film

W.K. Stratton. Bloomsbury, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-63286-212-9
The process of making a great film is often as fascinating as the film itself, a point amply illustrated by Stratton (Backyard Brawl) in his behind-the-scenes look at Sam Peckinpah’s brutal 1969 masterpiece, The Wild Bunch. Stratton traces the basis for the film, about a band of American outlaws fleeing to revolution-era Mexico to escape changing times, not to a professional screenwriter but to stuntman Roy Sickner, who came up with the idea on the set of another film in the early 1960s. Stratton also recounts Peckinpah’s earlier career, including the debacle of his previous film, also a Mexico-set western, Major Dundee, and the career revival he enjoyed thanks to an acclaimed TV version of Katherine Anne Porter’s story “Noon Wine.” For preproduction, Stratton discusses casting decisions, notably Peckinpah’s then-unusual move to cast almost exclusively Mexican actors (with the exception of Puerto Rican–born Jaime Sánchez) in the film’s Mexican roles. Finally, he suggests that, over the course of the shoot, cast and crew came to resemble their own version of the Wild Bunch: Hollywood outsiders, up-and-comers, and fading studio veterans trying to find their way in a rapidly changing industry. Stratton’s thorough research yields a fascinating perspective on how Peckinpah created a western of unparalleled realism and intensity. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/2018
Release date: 02/12/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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