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Sam Peckinpah's style of filmmaking became the model for on-screen violence after The Wild Bunch was released and the careers of writer-directors like Quentin Tarantino cannot be imagined without Peckinpah's influence or this groundbreaking work.

"I want to be able to make Westerns like Kurosawa makes Westerns." - Sam Peckinpah

Walon Green based the character of Freddie Sykes on Howard, the prospector played by Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).

Peter Bogdanovich recalled talking to director Howard Hawks shortly after the release of The Wild Bunch and the Hollywood veteran told him, "I can kill ten guys in the time it takes him to kill one."

The very look of a death by gunshot has been enormously influenced by The Wild Bunch. Previously, gun shots didn't even cause a hole in the shirt. Gradually, filmmakers added a spot of blood, maybe even a drip. By Bonnie and Clyde (1967), there were squibs to discharge small bursts of blood but The Wild Bunch went all the way: Long, violent spurts of blood from every wound. Two years later, when Popeye Doyle shoots a man in the back that he's chasing in The French Connection (1971), the blood spurted out like a fountain.

The opening credits style of freezing the movement for each new credit became a standard in television and movies in the seventies after The Wild Bunch.

The film's music score was different too. In Film and television scores, 1950-1979: A Critical Survey by Genre, Kristopher Spencer says, "Fielding's score marks a break with the past and attempts to create a fresh interpretation of the genre."

Prior to The Wild Bunch, slow-motion action sequences had been featured in Bonnie and Clyde, the John Derek-directed war drama, Once Before I Die (1966) and John Boorman's Point Blank (1967).

The movie's demystification of the west was its largest pop cultural influence. Even the great westerns of Sergio Leone had romanticized the notions of the man with no name (Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy) and the cold-blooded villain (Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West, 1968). In The Wild Bunch there was no romanticizing. The outlaws and those pursuing them seem indistinguishable ethically. Everything is dusty and there are no bold colors. The West of Sam Peckinpah was a very real place where desperate men led desperate lives. Before The Wild Bunch, westerns inhabited a more distinct good vs. evil universe. After The Wild Bunch, it was a lot harder to tell the difference between the two.

by Greg Ferrara






















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