Much has been written about the revolutionary filmmaking of the late 1960s...but Stratton...has added a crucial piece of the puzzle with this 50th-anniversary history ... Stratton paints a wonderfully full portrait of director Sam Peckinpah and his quest for a more realistic depiction of violence at a time when the brutality of the Vietnam War was increasingly penetrating American living rooms ... This engaging, well-researched book belongs in every library and in the hands of every student of cinema.
... an ambitious and lively history ... At the heart of Stratton’s book are dozens of informative and colorful interviews, conducted with everyone from screenwriters and stuntmen to Hollywood producers and Mexican film stars. Stratton follows the cast and crew to the film’s primary location, the dusty Mexican state of Coahuila, where Sanchez quickly realized that something special was happening ... Stratton also places the movie in its historical context ... Stratton convincingly argues that the film, far from being nihilistic, is in fact a tragedy.
Stratton does a fine job of putting the film in its historical context—even a handful of years earlier, the movie would probably never have been made—and in exploring the many facets of Peckinpah, a no-nonsense director who always knew what he wanted but was, almost paradoxically, unafraid of letting inspiration and serendipity guide his hand. The book is a valuable addition to the literature of American film history and will be greeted by Wild Bunch devotees with adoration.
... detailed and passionately argued ... Stratton collects the kinds of elements required for a lively movie backstory: a talented if irascible director, quirky cast and crew members, a difficult location shoot and a controversial reception by moviegoers and critics. Best of all, he recounts how an idea becomes a film and the creative, economic and fate-driven roadblocks it faces ... Stratton's most interesting perspective comes in recounting how Mexican culture influenced the look, sound and feel of The Wild Bunch.
... lively, massively informed ... [Stratton is] so deep inside its world that there’s a bit of a Rip Van Winkle effect in his unwillingness to come to grips with how, half a century later, Peckinpah’s devotion to machismo at its most elemental might look damn near obscene, if not demented, to people with sensibilities different from Stratton’s own ... To his credit, Stratton does cite actor Ricardo Montalban’s complaint that watching the Bunch 'annihilate the Mexican army' was bound to make Latino children say, 'Gee, I wish I were an Anglo.' But it’s not an observation he’s got much interest in pondering. He’s even more evasive about The Wild Bunch’s gleeful misogyny ... Here’s where you could wish that Stratton had enough critical acumen to recognize that, in this day and age, his love of The Wild Bunch had better be a case for the defense ... While [Stratton's] enthrallment with his subject may have its blinkered side, he makes up for that with, among dozens of informative nuggets, the best portrait we’ve yet had of a filmmaker whose insurrectionary impulses were only equalled by his immersion in tradition.
Stratton’s chronicle of 'The Wild Bunch' is a fascinating and detailed history of the making of an iconic movie that portrayed the West in a fashion far different from previous Westerns while still maintaining their natural artistic progression ... Stratton’s account is mesmerizing. Countless details of the movie industry and 'The Wild Bunch' are included in the fascinating history he presents ... The Wild Bunch is essential reading for film buffs everywhere.
The process of making a great film is often as fascinating as the film itself, a point amply illustrated by Stratton ... Stratton’s thorough research yields a fascinating perspective on how Peckinpah created a western of unparalleled realism and intensity.