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Sunday, 25 October 2009


Butch and Sundance, directed by George Roy Hill sees the western invent the buddy movie. It is also the western that non western fans can most enjoy.

Made in 1969 it is as much counterculture chic as western adventure and the pairing of Newman and Redford defines screen chemistry between male leading men. It is far more contemporary than any western has the right to be - with its hippie values, catchy soundtrack and humour it is very much a 60's West Coast Western.

The film starts with the caption: Most of what you are about to see is true.

But it's not - screenwriter William Goldman spent years researching his subject and then threw that research out of the window in favour of a comedy adventure with the bad guys as good guys. It's still a brilliant film and one of the most mainstream westerns in history. Sure the story and characters have hardly any relation to historical fact but that's not the point. And this is probably a far better movie than it would have been had the makers been concerned with making a realistic biopic.

It was filmed on a budget of $400,000 and on its initial release grossed $46 million in the US alone. The film was highly influential on the genre films that followed- on TV the comedy western Alias Smith and Jones even went as far as using the aliases Butch and Sundance used while in Bolivia - Pete Duel was Joshua Smith and Ben Murphy was Thaddus Jones. And the long running Starskey and Hutch owed much to Butch and Sundance.

There was a prequel made - Butch and Sundance: The Early Days but the film suffered without Newman and Redford to carry off the roles. And an interesting TV movie spin-off was Wanted: The Sundance Woman in which Katherine Ross reprised her role of Etta Place for a look at the characters adventures after her time with Butch and Sundance. Elizabeth Montgomery (best known for TV's Bewitched) also played Etta in 1973's Mrs Sundance.

This is the western to try if you're not a particular fan of the genre - the comedy action buddy movies of today have this film buried deep within their DNA - an excellent movie.


David Cranmer said...

Hands down in my top five.

Laurie Powers said...

I've enjoyed it in the past immensely - the whole "who are these guys" scenario still makes me laugh.