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This review originally appeared in issue 13 of THE CINEMA LASER.


The Letterboxed edition of THE WILD BUNCH ($40) was one of the most eagerly awaited Laserdisc releases of 1995. When Warner Bros. restored THE WILD BUNCH to its original director's cut and then tried to reissue it theatrically, they met a road block in the form of the M.P.A.A.. The M.P.A.A. slapped THE WILD BUNCH with an "NC­17" rating, which put the entire reissue in jeopardy, and held up the release of the Letterboxed Laserdisc. Thankfully, the situation was resolved and THE WILD BUNCH received an "R" rating, which allowed Warner to go through with their theatrical reissue and make this Letterboxed Laserdisc edition a reality.

Director Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH is a certified masterpiece and among the premier American westerns. THE WILD BUNCH takes place just as "the old west" fades into legend, and cowboys become a thing of the past. William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Jamie Sanchez and Ben Johnson star as the members of the outlaw gang that holds their code of honor above all else. Robert Ryan also stars as a former member of the gang, now forced to help track down his former compatriots. When the gang undertake a train robbery to steal guns for a Mexican general, they get a lot more than they bargained for, which leads to the bloodiest showdown in history of westerns. Peckinpah's visual style turns the horrifying bloodbath into a filmic ballet. Every frame of film and every edit are like the musical notes of a great symphony. Peckinpah's virtuosity shows throughout the film, but his climax overwhelms the audience like a soaring aria from a grand opera. THE WILD BUNCH is a majestic work of art that defies categorization.

Warner has given THE WILD BUNCH a spectacular Letterbox transfer which allows it to be seen the way it was meant to be seen, in its full Panavision splendor. The transfer was generated from the newly restored film element, which makes THE WILD BUNCH look as good today, as it did when it was originally released in 1969. The colors are rich, and the image highly detailed. The digitally encoded surround soundtrack has a solid mix, one which will not belie the age of this film. THE WILD BUNCH is also AC­3 Digital encoded, without additional cost. The Pioneer pressing had only a modest number of inclusions.

THE WILD BUNCH is an American film classic that most collectors will want to add to their Laserdisc collections. Now with the restoration and Warner's excellent Letterbox transfer, they will have every reason to do so.


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright © 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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