How ‘Wild Bunch' Director Sam Peckinpah Made the Quintessential Western

To W.K. Stratton's way of thinking, The Wild Bunch is the perfect movie Western.Well, almost perfect.The Austin-based author of The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film (Bloomsbury, $28) is obsessed with every nuance of the 1969 classic -- even the boneheaded mistake."The film's big faux pas is when the gang crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico," Stratton says. "In all of those scenes, the river is flowing in the wrong direction. If you go from Texas to Mexico, one thing will always be true: The Rio Grande will always be flowing from right to left. In The Wild Bunch, it flows from left to right!"Peckinpah, the perfectionist director, died in 1984 so Stratton never got the chance to question him about the goof. Maybe it's just as well, because Peckinpah, known for his short temper, probably would have bitten his head off."Still, I would have loved to have asked," Stratton says. "I'm sure it vexed him."The blood-soaked film about aging members of an outlaw gang and their last big steal was a controversial groundbreaker 50 years ago. Never before had movie Westerns been so violent, so callous, so real. The Wild Bunch rewrote many of the rules about Westerns and about filmmaking overall.Stratton's anecdote-packed book explores when, why and how The Wild Bunch was made.The author -- a frequent Dallas Morning News freelance contributor ("starting in 1989 with a review of a new book called Friday Night Lights") -- talked by phone about the film and his book.  Continue reading...

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