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Greatest western film? 'Wild Bunch' book argues its case

19 Comments
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL

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Mel Brook's 'Blazing Saddles', a satirical look at westerns, is my favorite.

John Ford's movies were great entertainment, especially when he used Monument Valley as backdrop, but they added to the mythification of the US West.

Many Americans still believe in the good-guy-with-a-gun myth because of Ford (and other's) saloon shoot-em-ups where only bad guys fall.

Though there are exceptions, in too many westerns there's the portrayal of the various Indian peoples as savages and the European as good guy and victim.

Speaking of myths, "True Grit" starred John Wayne, a chickenhawk whose PR team made him a 'hero' in the minds of too many. Watch 'Trumbo' https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3203606/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

for a different look at Wayne.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

All this talk of great Westerns and not a mention of Clint Eastwood. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, at least the equal of The Wild Bunch, directed by Sergio Leone in 1966. The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976. And Unforgiven, 1992, imo easily the best film to "try to recapture the magic of the western".

The Wild Bunch is a bit flaccid in its pacing sometimes, and Robert Ryan and William Holden aren't the most charismatic of performers. Greatest Western? Apart from the above, what about earlier movies like The Searchers (1956) with John Wayne, a real down and dirty look at racism in the Old West? Or High Noon, with Gary Cooper in 1952, a masterpiece of tension and editing? And there are more. Wild Bunch is about a 4 out of 5 in my opinion - quite a few Westerns would score higher.

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Big Yen - I agree - The Spaghetti Westerns of Leone / Eastwood created the character of a brooding lone hombre that possibly has never been equalled. And Josey Wales and Unforgiven are excellent examples of the genre.

In recent years for me the Best Westerns have been the Coen Bros True Grit with Jeff Bridges. Covers all the bases of what a Western is imho; and similarly the Coen Bros Netflix production of "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs". Wraps up the genre entirely.

And I'd add The Revenant. Some may say it's not a True western, pehaps a survival movie, but I'd say it probably reflects the era more faithfully than a slick hollywood film, with all it's grit, hardships, blood, cowboys/hunters, soldiers, Native Americans and wilderness. A remarkable movie.

And i saw The Wild Bunch a few years back on cable. It was kinda fun, but I never would have thought of it as the best western - not by a long shot.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Wild Bunch is great but I'd say The Ballad of Cable Hogue is Peckinpah's best western. David Warner's rogueish preacher is clearly a major influence on Johnny Depp's Captain Jack, I reckons.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is my favorite. Drama, comedy, war, greed, betrayal, vengeance, humanity and brutality are all touched upon themes. The score is also exceptionally good.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good shout outs for the Dollars trilogy. Although, imho, Once Upon a Time in the West just about tops them. Possibly Leone's finest western.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Once Upon A Time In The West

There is no equal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976

Josey Wales: I'm just giving you life and you're giving me life. And I'm saying that men can live together without butchering one another.

Ten Bears: It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life. Or death. It shall be life.

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Once Upon A Time In The West

There is no equal.

In complete agreement, there.

The actors, the score, the story. Epic, sweeping and essential. The man with harmonica motif was sampled so often back in the 90s, Dub Be Good to Me and Little Fluffy Clouds spring to mind. So, quite a legacy, film and music wise.

Aside from True Grit and Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the other recent western I enjoyed was Godless. It's a miniseries on Netflix and is well worth a look. Jeff Daniels, in particular, is a revelation in his role.

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Another vote for Once Upon a Time in the West. Really an incomparable film. I suppose Hateful Eight could be called a western (with a touch of Agatha Christie). The music and the wide outdoor shots were very much taken from Once Upon a Time.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The music and the wide outdoor shots were very much taken from Once Upon a Time.

Yeah, QT is a big fan of Leone and he hired Moriconne to do the score.

I also think the score for Dances With Wolves is one of the finest. John Barry at the height of his powers, I think. It's not a traditional western but I could watch it again and again.

Same goes for Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. Decidedly odd and delicious. Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop and Johnny Depp in the same movie!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always like The Sons of Katie Elder as well. Great score.

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I also think the score for Dances With Wolves is one of the finest. 

Saw that on the big screen when it was released. Epic!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Saw that on the big screen when it was released. Epic!

Lucky you, I would have loved to seen it but had to make do with ropey old VHS repeated viewings.

I don't think Costner has made a finer film.

Have you read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian? There's been talk of a film production for years. It would be interesting to see a book once described as unfilmable to get the big screen treatment.

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I prefer the old westerns. Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Warlock, The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, The Fastest Gun Alive, El Dorado. The only "recent" one I really liked was Unforgiven.

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I prefer the old westerns.

You've got some good ones there. I was wondering whether anyone would give a shout-out to The Magnificent Seven. What about going back a bit further - Red River with John Wayne and Monty Clift? Shouldn't have worked but it did.

What stands out for me in the comments is the lack of support for The Wild Bunch!

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As a kid, I liked The Magnificent Seven. I still have a fondness for it but after seeing The Seven Samurai, I feel that it's inferior to Kurasawa's masterpiece. Tbf, he himself was influenced by John Ford westerns. It's all cyclical, I guess.

Also a big fan of Peckinpah's The Deadly Companions and others from that era like The Last Sunset and a zillion more I've forgotten.

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I still have a fondness for it but after seeing The Seven Samurai, I feel that it's inferior to Kurasawa's masterpiece.

Agree, Seven Samurai is a better film but then not much gets any better than that movie, and no director gets better than Kurosawa at his best.

I just read something elsewhere this morning that described the Western as America's greatest contribution to film culture. I think there's something in that, but much more importantly, so did Kurosawa. That's what's so great about film and other culture, that cross-pollination of influences and ideas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

1959 The Human Conditon Trilogy is the Greatest Epic Masterpiece ever made in the History of Cinema.

All Kurosawa films are behind of this trilogy.

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