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Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid: Reserve Edition

4

"I've spent 15 months of my life on this movie. If the audiences don't take to it, I'll go out of my fucking mind."

So closes director George Roy Hill's voiceover on the 1969 documentary The Making Of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Totalling 45 no-nonsense minutes, it yields many such glinting nuggets... Hill on Conrad Hall's washed-out, over-exposed, back-lit visuals: "Christ, we have dust and smoke in every scene. But it's much sexier to see a naked woman half-veiled than stare at her ass dead-on." On Paul Newman and Robert Redford: "They worked hard to become friends. That meant Redford having to laugh at Newman's godawful jokes and Newman having to put up with Redford being late all the time."

The doc is already available on 2001's Special Edition. The same goes for the frank interviews (Newman, Redford, Katharine Ross, screenwriter William Goldman and composer Burt Bacharach) and seamlessly stitched together commentary (Hill, Hall, lyricist Hal David and Associate Producer Robert Crawford). This Reserve Edition's new material is of equal quality, though, the highlights including a 90-minute doc examining the lives of the real Butch and Sundance, an additional commentary by Goldman (the man talks so tough he should be in a Bogart movie) and a crucial deleted scene, where our antiheroes foresee their own deaths in a silent movie.

Which leaves the film. Originally titled The Sundance Kid And Butch Cassidy, a project intended for Newman (Sundance) and Steve McQueen (Butch), its casting hiccups were nothing compared to the critics' bilious reception. But while outraged hacks balked at the movie's buddy banter and jaunty, anachronistic score, late '60s audiences identified with outlaws sticking it to The Man. Now, of course, it's considered a classic.

Which is stretching it. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid should be cherished for its stars' chemistry, 27-minute chase sequence ("Who are those guys?"), climactic shootout, freeze-frame-and-pull-out final shot, warm photography and fresh take on a weary theme - civilisation overtaking the wild men of the West. But it's also a movie that tails off before rousing itself for a Wild Bunch-style finale, Goldman's storytelling nous faltering and Hill's breezy visuals huffing and puffing as the boys attempt a new start in, of all places, Bolivia. F Scott Fitzgerald claimed there are no second acts in American lives. There are. They just don't possess quite the same brio as first acts... in comedy Westerns, at least.

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