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Monday, 9 July 2012

The Death of a Wild One

Actor Ernest Borgnine died today at the age of 95 - the actor who when interviewed on a daytime television show back when he was a sprightly 91 put the secret of long life down to the fact that he bashed his bishop on a regular basis. The crack brought both the audience and interviewer to hysterics - check out the embedded video at the end of this article.

They sure don't make em like Ernie anymore.

In tribute to the great actor, The Archive takes a fresh look at one of the finest westerns ever made - The Wild Bunch in which Ernest starred alongside several other Hollywood legends.

The movie, of course, was directed by another legend - Sam Peckinpah and was released in the same year as both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the original and best True Grit. It was met with both awe and horror and whilst some critics called it an unrelenting bloodbath there were other more perceptive critics who took it for the romantic masterpiece that it is.

Set in 1912 the film mourns a West that had all but vanished and the story is seen through the eyes of a group of past in outlaws who are in Mexico in order to score one last haul, before resting their aged bones. However things go wrong when they are betrayed by an ex-member of their gang played by Robert Ryan.

It's an intense film that still holds its own today and remains as powerful as it ever was. It is full of shocking moments -  William Holden, the outlaw leader, is shot in the back by a woman and he coldly turns and blows her away, the children laughing as a scorpion is devoured by hungry ants are just two of the scenes that dig deep into the viewers gut. Peckinpah had five cameras going to shoot the all action finale and then edited the shots together later which makes the bloodbath that follows all the more visceral.

The two disc director's cut is the only DVD version worth having - you get a 139 minutes 16.9 digital transfer of the movie as well as a host of special features on the second dics. It includes the famous and Oscar nominated 1996 documentary, An Album in Montage as well as several other documentaries and a brace of deleted scenes.

 I can think of no better way to remember Ernest Borgnine than to watch this movie again.


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