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FILM CLIPS MAIL CALL : Another View of 'Wild Bunch'

March 21, 1993

As someone who has seen Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" more than 50 times (including several screenings of the director's personal cut with Peckinpah himself), I must first say that the current sound and fury being generated by Warner Bros.' attempt to re-release the film is only fitting (Film Clips, March 14). In his lifetime, Sam courted controversy. And this film, like much of Sam's best work, is nothing if not controversial.

Peckinpah made challenging films that dared to confront the violence he found in the human condition in an honest, dramatic and cathartic way. He was a true original, an American artist whose work must be preserved for future generations.

This cannot be accomplished by denying parents the opportunity to take their children to see one of Peckinpah's most powerful works. Such a film demands a discussion of the intense feelings it produces in us all--a discussion parents must have with their children if we have any hope of harnessing the violence in man's soul.

Ironically, it is children who stand at the emotional core of "The Wild Bunch," as in the brilliant moment where the Gorch brothers (Warren Oates and Ben Johnson), arguably the two most violent members of the Bunch, play cat's cradle with a young Mexican girl in a small village. When Pike Bishop (William Holden), who leads the Bunch, is surprised by this, the village elder (Chano Urueta) notes: "We all yearn to be a child again, even the worst of us." Realizing he's right, Holden adds: "Perhaps the worst of us most of all."

Is there violence in "The Wild Bunch"? Absolutely. But unlike the countless slasher films that routinely receive an R rating from the Motion Picture Assn. of America, its violence is not gratuitous. It is intrinsic to the story it is telling.

As a parent of children ages 12, 14 and 16, I strenuously object to the MPAA and the "parents" who compose its ratings board arbitrarily imposing their own fears and insecurities on us all.


Westlake Village

Simmons is the author of "Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage."

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