The Wild Bunch - William Holden
The main theme of this movie is on violence, the director has used brilliant yet provocative graphics to portray violence. The movie is a tale about scroungy and aging outlaws who are bound by friendship, camaraderie and a private code of honor. The band of men under their leader William Holden (Pike Bishop) has reached the end of line and can no longer be held by the rules of the old west. The “wild bunch” is continuously stalked by bounty hunters, one of the hunters Robert Ryan (Deke Thornton) is a former friend of pike and prefers to side with the hunters as opposed to going back to Yuma prison. According to the director the use of violence is allegoric of the war by America against the Vietnam. The use of women as shields and the slaughter of bystanders who were innocent are used as counterpoints of the display of violence by the media in the 1960s, urban riots, assassinations and the war in Vietnam.
The secondary theme is on betrayal, the characters left a friend to his fate and betrayed him and hence broke the code of honor when it was to their advantage. This theme leads to the complex oppositional views and results in the violent conclusion of the film.
William Holden acts as Pike Bishop, the leader of a band of aging outlaws, he is seeking to finance his retirement with a final score of robbing the railroad office which has a hoard of silver. However Pike and his gang are ambushed at the railroad office by a group of bounty hunters led by Robert Dylan (Deke Thornton) who was a former friend of Pike. The confrontation led to a shoot out which led to the death of a number of members. Pike, Angel, Dutch Engstrom, Trector Gorch and Lyle are the only survivors. Pike realized that the loot they had was fake and the gang then reunites with Freddie Sykes, the other remaining gang member and decide to head for Mexico.
Pike and the gang take refuge in an old village where Angel used to live; in the village the Mexican revolution is evident. A corrupt warlord, Mapache who is a general in the Mexican army, he has been stealing food to feed his troops. Pike wanted to trade his horses and headed to the base town of Mapache, on reaching there, Angel meets his former girlfriend who is part of Mapache’s army and shoots her instantly. To calm this situation pike, proposes that gang could work for Mapache by stealing arms from a US train belonging to the army for $10,000 in gold. These Arms are used by Mapache to appease the German army who wanted to acquire the Weaponry of the Americans.In the end, Deke and the hunters finally catch up with pike, however they find the body of pike only and he gives the other members the body of Pike to take it back home and claim the reward money.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Robert Redford
This movie is about the amusing, charming and entertaining drama and comedy of the camaraderie and friendship between two humorous and handsome buddies, Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford). The theme of the movie is to portray the outlaws who defy and mock the establishment and authorities. The movie is a story of two bank robbers which is based on historical events. (Berardinelli, 2001)
The movie can be separated into three parts; the preface, the chase by the posse and the adventures in Bolivia. In each segment the mood is different, in the beginning we are introduced to Sundance and Butch where they are robbing the train, this enables the audience to know the main characters. Paul Newman (Butch) is introduced as a witty, funny, smart-ass, handsome and Egoistic person. The Sundance kid (Robert Redford) is introduced much later in a sepia-toned close up. The place is Macon’s saloon and a black jack game is ongoing, Butch’s partner, the Sundance kid is a mustached, silent, dim-witted, and dark-hatted card sharp. The second section is the posse chase; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid are the leaders of a gang called the hole in the wall.
The two are planning a bank robbery, as they are going back to their hideout, they find a new leader, Logan Harvey has been appointed as the head of the gang. Logan dares Butch to a knife fight, using a ruse, butch wins the fight. Butch after defeating Logan embraces the idea by Logan to rob the union pacific flyer, the gang plans that the second attempt is likely to involve more cash and should be unexpected as compared to the first. The first attempt is successful; however the second attempt goes wrong. Butch use a lot of dynamite in blowing the safe, also a second train with a six man posse arrived; the man had been specifically contracted by Harriman to hunt Sundance and Butch. The gang run in different directions, however the posse is focused on Sundance and Butch. The two had attempted to hide in a nearby town in a brothel, but they were betrayed. Butch and Sundance finally leave the country. The third section is on the Adventures in Bolivia, this section is full of comical and dramatic sequences. At one scene, Sundance and Butch rob a bank however they face communication problems due to their inability to speak French clearly. Later in the movie, Sundance and Butch go straight but they are involved in a gunfight with bandits, Butch who had all along avoided killing in his entire career as a bank robber that he is forced to kill the first person ever. The movie finally ends in a shoot out in San Vicente.
As compared to the Role of William Holden in the Wild bunch, Robert Redford as the Sundance kid plays a supporting role. Robert uses lesser violence as compared to the wild bunch, in as much as there are many deaths; they are not as gruesome and graphic as those in the wild bunch.
The Magnificent Seven - Eli Wallach
In the Magnificent seven Eli Wallach (Calvera) is a leader of a bandit group that raids a Mexican village for a number of times. The villagers become desperate and go to a border town where they buy guns so as to defend themselves, the villagers approach Chris who is a veteran gunslinger for help. However Chris declined to offer them help, he argues that guns alone wont enable them to fight, the villagers then plead with him to become their leader but he refuses saying that one man is not enough. With time Chris eventually agrees and he recruits a team to assist him. Chris assembles a team of seven made up of Harry Luck, Vin, Bernardo O’Reilly, Britt, Lee and Chico who had been initially rejected but followed the team and finally is allowed to join.
Calvera’s bandits outnumber the seven and the group knows that it will be hard to defeat the bandits. However, the team is steadfast in its efforts and expects that once the bandits realize their existence, they might decide top leave the Mexican village and go to other villages which are unprotected rather than fight the magnificent seven. The group upon reaching the village, it starts to train the residents. With time the villagers and gunmen start to bond, the gunmen then realize that the villagers have been sacrificing their food so as to ensure that the gunmen have had enough. From this realization they begin to share their food with the villagers. Chico one of the magnificent seven falls in love to an attractive woman, Petra. And Bernardo becomes friends with the kids of the village. On the hand lee, is having nightmares because he fears that he might loose his gun fighting skills.
When Calvera return he is disappointed because of the hired gunmen, after a short fight the bandits decide to run away. Later in the movie, one of the magnificent seven who is a Mexican, Chico intermingles with the members of the bandit camp and goes back to the village with the information of plans by Calvera to attack because the bandits are starving and broke and need to rob the villagers for their survival.
The magnificent seven decide to stay on and wait for the bandits to come, the group goes further and decides to attack the bandits. However they find the bandits camp empty, when they return to the village, they are captured by the bandits. Calvera’s men had been let in by villagers who feared the impending fight. Calvera however decides to spare the magnificent seven because he feared the consequences that they might face from the reprisal by the Americans and he also wanted the seven to see that the villagers were not worth fighting for.The theme of the movie similar to the wild bunch is on betrayal, this is portrayed by the villagers move to allow the bandits into the village and capture of the magnificent seven.
The Searchers - John Wayne
The theme of the movie is on the bitter fights between the settlers and the Indians after the civil war. The movie is seen as the first film to deal with the conflict of cultures and the racism that led to the mass killing American Indians.
In the movie John Wayne acts as Ethan Edwards who has just returned home from the civil war after three years. He goes back to Texas where his brother Aaron and his wife used to live, it is clear that the wife and Ethan share an unspoken and deep bond. Ethan is lured into a Comanche raid that involved the attack on a neighbor’s cattle and he together with the Texas rangers pursues the raiders. The Indians take advantage of their absence and kill Aaron and his son; they abducted the two daughters Debbie and Lucy, and raped and killed the wife. This raid led to the epic search for the daughters of Aaron, together with Martin an Indian boy who had been raised by Aaron’s family the seek to attack the Indians.
This is one of the best performances by Wayne, and he cannot be compared to the other lonely outsiders who have acted in other American Westerns. In the movie he is devoted to his family, but never becomes a part of it. He passionately hates the Indians, but he has come to learn their ways and has adopted their lifestyle. He dislikes and abuses Martin, but he sees him as a son. Wayne was in love with the brother’s wife, and takes the lost daughter as his own. Nevertheless after many years of searching he wanted to kill her for she had adopted the ways of the Indians. Wayne acts as a man who has no home and cannot find either peace or justice in his life. The balancing act by Wayne in this movie leads to the view that perhaps this movie is the best he ever acted.
American Film Institute (2008): AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres. ComingSoon.net. Retrieved on March 9, 2010 from http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=46072.
Berardinelli, J (2001): Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Retrieved on March 9, 2010 from