A Uniquely American Epic: Intimacy and Action, Tenderness and Violence in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch Screen Classics

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ISBN: 9780813178141; Hardcover
184 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 22 b&w photos
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

A Uniquely American Epic
Intimacy and Action, Tenderness and Violence in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch
Edited by Michael Bliss

Contributions by Garner Simmons, Gerard Camy, Jerry Holt, Kathryn Jones, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, Michael Sragow, W.K. Stratton, Cordell Strug and Steve Vineberg

One of the most innovative films ever made, Sam Peckinpah's motion picture The Wild Bunch was released in 1969. From the outset, the film was considered controversial because of its powerful, graphic, and direct depiction of violence, but it was also praised for its lush photography, intricate camera work, and cutting-edge editing. Peckinpah's tale of an ill-fated, aging outlaw gang bound by a code of honor is often regarded as one of the most complex and impactful Westerns in American cinematic history. The issues dealt with in this groundbreaking film -- violence, morality, friendship, and the legacy of American ambition and compromise -- are just as relevant today as when the film first opened.

To acknowledge the significance of The Wild Bunch, this collection brings together some of the leading Peckinpah scholars and critics to examine what many consider to be the director's greatest work. The book's nine essays cover an array of topics. Explored are the function of violence in the film and how its depiction is radically different from what is seen in other movies, the background of the film's production, the European response to the film's view of human nature, and the strong sense of the Texas/Mexico milieu surrounding the film's action.

Michael Bliss teaches writing, literature, and film at Virginia Tech. He is the author of Laurel and Hardy's Comic Catastrophes: Laughter and Darkness in the Features and Short Films, Dreams within a Dream: The Films of Peter Weir, and Justified Lives: Morality and Narrative in the Films of Sam Peckinpah, among others.

Michael Sragow is the movie critic for the Orange County Register and contributes regularly to the New Yorker. He edited Produced and Abandoned: The National Society of Film Critics Write on the Best Films You've Never Seen and two volumes of James Agee's work for the Library of America.

Book Reviews:

    "You had me at Cordell Strug's masterful introduction. The University Press of Kentucky has a history of high-quality books -- particularly those celebrating film -- and this work saddles up and rides tall with the best of them. This multiview assessment of Sam Peckinpah's enduring classic is a lasting and important contribution to the oeuvre."

-- Susan A. Compo, author of Warren Oates: A Wild Life

    "One of the most important American films, The Wild Bunch deserves reconsideration with each passing decade. This volume provides valuable information on how the film was made and helps define Peckinpah's ultimate achievement. Several of the individual pieces are among the best essays ever written on Peckinpah."

-- Robert Merrill, coauthor of Peckinpah's Tragic Westerns

    "An often misunderstood American masterpiece, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch is brilliantly lit up by critical voices that celebrate the movie's greatness. Fifty years after its premiere,  the film continues to reveal new complexity, power, and the surprising universality of its American-ness. It's way more than a western. If you love The Wild Bunch, this collection will expand and enhance your appreciation of Peckinpah's masterpiece.  If you don't, I defy you not to look at the movie differently after reading this book."

-- Ron Shelton, writer/director of Bull Durham, Cobb,  Tin Cup, and Dark Blue



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