The Wild Bunch (1969)

R | 135 or 140 mins | Western | 18 June 1969

Full page view
HISTORY

News items in the 28 Dec 1967 DV and 1 Jan 1968 LAT announced that William Holden would star in The Wild Bunch, written and to be directed by Sam Peckinpah for Warner Bros.—Seven Arts, Inc. Holden’s salary was reported in the 10 Jan 1968 Var as “a mere $300,000 against a percentage,” and the overall production budget was cited as $4.2 million in the 10 Mar 1968 LAT, which stated that filming would begin that week. A production chart in the 29 Mar 1968 DV later listed 25 Mar 1968 as the official start of principal photography. Filming took place entirely in Mexico, in the cities of Torreon and Parras, as noted in various contemporary sources including the 1969 issue of Filmfacts.
       According to a 27 Jun 1968 DV brief, William Holden was accidentally shot in the arm during filming. Also, Ernest Borgnine’s hand was run over by a wagon and had to be stitched up. Borgnine later claimed in an interview published in the 18 Jun 1969 DV that he had stopped filming one morning after discovering prop bandoliers loaded with real bullets. Borgnine, who was a former gunner’s mate, identified the ammunition, which he claimed filmmakers had planned to use in place of blanks “just to hear the bullets zing.” An item in the 9 Jul 1968 LAT noted rumors that the shoot was tumultuous in general, and that Peckinpah had “fired everyone, including the first assistant director, the first production manager, [and] the first unit publicist.” Producer Phil Feldman denied the allegations, taking responsibility ... More Less

News items in the 28 Dec 1967 DV and 1 Jan 1968 LAT announced that William Holden would star in The Wild Bunch, written and to be directed by Sam Peckinpah for Warner Bros.—Seven Arts, Inc. Holden’s salary was reported in the 10 Jan 1968 Var as “a mere $300,000 against a percentage,” and the overall production budget was cited as $4.2 million in the 10 Mar 1968 LAT, which stated that filming would begin that week. A production chart in the 29 Mar 1968 DV later listed 25 Mar 1968 as the official start of principal photography. Filming took place entirely in Mexico, in the cities of Torreon and Parras, as noted in various contemporary sources including the 1969 issue of Filmfacts.
       According to a 27 Jun 1968 DV brief, William Holden was accidentally shot in the arm during filming. Also, Ernest Borgnine’s hand was run over by a wagon and had to be stitched up. Borgnine later claimed in an interview published in the 18 Jun 1969 DV that he had stopped filming one morning after discovering prop bandoliers loaded with real bullets. Borgnine, who was a former gunner’s mate, identified the ammunition, which he claimed filmmakers had planned to use in place of blanks “just to hear the bullets zing.” An item in the 9 Jul 1968 LAT noted rumors that the shoot was tumultuous in general, and that Peckinpah had “fired everyone, including the first assistant director, the first production manager, [and] the first unit publicist.” Producer Phil Feldman denied the allegations, taking responsibility for executing the dismissals, himself, and stating, “Of the 70-odd Americans connected with the movie, only eight, maybe nine, were fired.” James A. Paisley, who was named as the production manager in the 19 Jan 1968 DV, may have been among those fired.
       Principal photography was completed a reported twelve days behind schedule sometime before 27 Jun 1968, when a DV item announced that a film reel had been lost. The missing footage necessitated re-shoots that required Holden, Borgnine, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Edmond O’Brien, and others to return to Mexico for more filming on 29 Jul 1968.
       Although the practice had been outlawed, filmmakers were accused of “wire tripping” a horse at least once, according to an American Humane Association (AHA) representative quoted in the 8 Jan 1969 Var. The AHA member claimed he had been “tricked into leaving the location” before the alleged wire tripping took place. To his knowledge, however, crewmembers “tripped a horse with a ‘running w,’” a process described in the following manner: “they fasten wires to the horse’s front feet, the animal gathers speed with the wires running out behind. When he reaches an impressive speed, the wires stop and the horse crashes down.” Although the AHA planned to make filmmakers cut the scene from the final edit, no further charges were pursued since the representative had not directly witnessed the incident.
       The Wild Bunch was released on 18 Jun 1969 in Los Angeles, CA, and the following week in New York City. It was met with positive reviews in the 15 Jun 1969 LAT and 26 Jun 1969 NYT, which underscored the picture’s violence. LAT deemed it “the most graphically violent western ever made and one of the most violent movies of any kind,” and claimed that thirty-five minutes of footage had been excised after two sneak preview screenings that caused some audience members to flee and resulted in the picketing of one Kansas City, MO, theater. An article in the 20 Jul 1969 NYT later noted further cuts were made after the initial theatrical release. Without making an official statement, Warner Bros.—Seven Arts put into circulation new prints of The Wild Bunch which no longer contained four sequences seen in the first theatrically released version. Producer Phil Feldman claimed the cuts would have been made prior to the New York City opening if filmmakers had had the time to execute them. According to Filmfacts and the 20 Jul 1969 NYT, scenes that were cut included: the confession by "Sykes" that his grandson was killed in the robbery; a flashback in which "Thornton" and “Pike” are trapped in a brothel during an ambush; a “dreamy interlude” showing the “Wild Bunch” spending time in a small Mexican village; and "Mapache's" army fighting Pancho Villa's forces. As a result of the changes, the running time cited by reviewers varies between 135 and 151 min. A differently altered, longer version was being prepared for release in foreign markets, which was set to include a flashback scene absent from the U.S. version, showing how Pike’s “gimpy leg” had come to be when he was shot by an “irate husband.”
       The Wild Bunch was listed in a 7 Jan 1970 Var box-office chart as the twenty-third highest-grossing picture of 1969, with cumulative film rentals of $4.2 million. It received Academy Award nominations for Music (Original Score—for a motion picture [not a musical]), and Writing (Story and Screenplay—based on material not previously published or produced), and was ranked 79th on AFI's 2007 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, up from the 80th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Dec 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1968
p. 20.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1968
p. 10.
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1968
p. 18.
Daily Variety
2 Apr 1968
p. 14.
Daily Variety
26 Apr 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Jul 1968.
---
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1969
p. 2.
Film Daily
26 Jun 1969
p. 6.
Filmfacts
1969
pp. 217-221.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1969
p. 3.
Life
Jul 1969.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1968
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1968
Section P, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1968
Section E, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jun 1969
Section O, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jun 1969
Section O, p. 11.
New York Times
22 Jun 1969
Section D, p. 14.
New York Times
26 Jun 1969
p. 45.
New York Times
20 Jul 1969
Section D, p. 1, 7.
New Yorker
5 Jul 1969.
---
Newsweek
14 Jul 1969
p. 85.
Time
20 Jun 1969
p. 85.
Variety
8 Jan 1969
p. 19.
Variety
10 Jan 1968
p. 3.
Variety
18 Jun 1969
p. 6.
Variety
7 Jan 1970
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Phil Feldman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
1st asst cam
Still photog
Elec gaffer
Generator man
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop man
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus supv
Supv mus film ed
Mus film ed
SOUND
Supv sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Prod coord
Unit pub
Asst to prod
Secy to exec prod
Secy
Loc auditor
Ramrod
Driver
Driver
Driver
Transportation gaffer
STAND INS
Stuntman for "Angel" and "Sykes"
Stuntman for "Pike"
Stuntman for "Dutch"
Stuntman for "Lyle"
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 June 1969
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 June 1969
New York opening: 25 June 1969
Production Date:
25 March--mid July 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 June 1969
Copyright Number:
LP40894
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision 70mm
Duration(in mins):
135 or 140
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
21939
SYNOPSIS

By 1913, the outlaw gangs of the Old West are rapidly disappearing. Under the leadership of aging Pike Bishop, one such gang rides into San Rafael, Texas, to rob the local railway office. Though dressed in U.S. Cavalry uniforms, Bishop and his men--Dutch Engstrom, brothers Lyle and Tector Gorch, and a young Mexican, Angel--are ambushed by bounty hunters led by ex-convict Deke Thornton, a former member of Bishop's gang who must pursue his old friend or return to prison. When a group of temperance marchers are caught in the crossfire, the ambush turns into a massacre that ends when Bishop's men escape into Mexico and the bounty hunters stop to loot the corpses. At a rendezvous in Mexico with Sykes, an old, broken-down gunslinger, the gang discovers that the stolen railway bags contain iron washers instead of money. Accepting their bad luck, they ride to Angel's home village, where they learn that the bandit general Mapache, a sadistic opponent of Pancho Villa, has killed Angel's father and ridden off with the youth's sweetheart, Teresa. Though Angel kills Teresa in public when he finds her with the general, Bishop intervenes on behalf of the boy and makes a deal with Mapache whereby Bishop's gang will rob an army munitions train and sell its load of rifles to the bandits for $10,000. In spite of the presence of Thornton's bounty hunters on the train, Bishop's gang hijacks the vehicle and escapes with the army rifles. Angel, who has given a carton of munitions to the people of his village, is seized and held prisoner by the bandits. Because loyalty to one another is all that remains, the "wild bunch" demands Angel's ... +


By 1913, the outlaw gangs of the Old West are rapidly disappearing. Under the leadership of aging Pike Bishop, one such gang rides into San Rafael, Texas, to rob the local railway office. Though dressed in U.S. Cavalry uniforms, Bishop and his men--Dutch Engstrom, brothers Lyle and Tector Gorch, and a young Mexican, Angel--are ambushed by bounty hunters led by ex-convict Deke Thornton, a former member of Bishop's gang who must pursue his old friend or return to prison. When a group of temperance marchers are caught in the crossfire, the ambush turns into a massacre that ends when Bishop's men escape into Mexico and the bounty hunters stop to loot the corpses. At a rendezvous in Mexico with Sykes, an old, broken-down gunslinger, the gang discovers that the stolen railway bags contain iron washers instead of money. Accepting their bad luck, they ride to Angel's home village, where they learn that the bandit general Mapache, a sadistic opponent of Pancho Villa, has killed Angel's father and ridden off with the youth's sweetheart, Teresa. Though Angel kills Teresa in public when he finds her with the general, Bishop intervenes on behalf of the boy and makes a deal with Mapache whereby Bishop's gang will rob an army munitions train and sell its load of rifles to the bandits for $10,000. In spite of the presence of Thornton's bounty hunters on the train, Bishop's gang hijacks the vehicle and escapes with the army rifles. Angel, who has given a carton of munitions to the people of his village, is seized and held prisoner by the bandits. Because loyalty to one another is all that remains, the "wild bunch" demands Angel's release; but when the demand is made during a drunken celebration, Mapache slashes the boy's throat. Bishop kills the bandit chief in retaliation, thereby setting off a slaughter in which the entire gang, as well as hundreds of Mexicans, are killed. Thornton and his bounty hunters arrive to collect the bodies of the ransomed outlaws; but when all except Thornton ride out of town, they are shot down by Sykes and the peasants from Angel's village. As the Mexicans tie the sacks of gold to their horses, Sykes and the weary Thornton decide to become a team. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.