It is also one of the most controversial, because it falls squarely into the category of ‘revisionist’ Westerns, so called because they totally demythologise the genre as it had always been portrayed.
No wonder that John Wayne is said to have detested this film! It is set in 1913, when motor cars are just appearing and German military men are advising corrupt Mexican Federales. Against this backdrop, Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his ‘bunch’ of ageing, dissolute outlaws, eke out a living by robbing increasingly well-defended targets in the old-fashioned way, with rifles and horses. The brilliant cast also includes Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien and Warren Oates.
“There are many directors that have made great Westerns that I admire, among them Anthony Mann, John Ford, Howard Hawks and Sergio Leone, but Peckinpah’s film was always one of my favourites. I always appreciate the incredible editing and, looking at that opening gun battle with all the cross-cutting, it was pure Eisenstein montage, while the slow-motion deaths followed Kurosawa’s example. I first saw this with my father, who also enjoyed the genre, but he had difficulty in understanding the flashbacks and I realised how film language had moved on. This is the last of my ten favourites, but I could easily come up with another ten! This is being presented in the main auditorium as Peckinpah’s masterpiece really needs to be shown on the largest screen to fully appreciate the full sound and stunning ‘scope’ visuals”.” - RG