Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Rating:

Okay, I’m Done Drooling Now

Main Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin

Director: George Roy Hill

My husband and son love their “cowboy” movies. In fact, I purchased several VHS versions of old (1930s, 1940s) John Wayne movies that they will watch over and over. Me, I prefer something with a little more plausibility than these old chestnuts, although they can be fun to watch in small doses.

One of my all-time favorite movies just happens to be a “cowboy” movie, so when I saw the Digitally Remastered (isn’t everything, these days?!) version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at Target, I grabbed it off the shelf and couldn’t wait to watch it. The “boys”, while doubting (a cowboy movie that MOM likes?!) watched it with me, and enjoyed it as well.

Even after 30 years (has it really been that long?!), the film has charm and humor. From the introduction of the central characters, Butch (Newman) and Sundance (Redford), to their supposed demise at the hands of the Bolivian Cavalry (read your history books, I don’t consider this a spoiler), we share their lives in this somewhat fictionalized account.

Okay, so it probably wasn’t exactly like this. While Butch and Sundance were real people and weren’t unattractive, they didn’t have the poster-boy, eye-candy appeal of Newman and Redford. And I have to be honest, although I really do like the story behind this film, old Paul and Bob are my main reasons for watching it. Call me a **** if you will, I like to look.

Nobody likes “the song”. I can remember even my mother commenting that Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head was a stupid song, and didn’t fit the movie at all. How about if I explain why I think it’s in there? The song IS stupid, but it represents happiness and sunshine and a lighthearted look at life. When Butch and Etta are cruising around on Butch’s bicycle and Raindrops is playing, it represents the last moments of happiness, sunshine and lightheartedness that the trio will experience in the States. While I agree that Bacharach could have found a better song, I do see some reasoning behind the scene.

After the film is over, be sure to stick around for the documentary on how the film was made, including outtakes (these are NOT bloopers) and interviews with the cast and crew. If the kiddies were watching this flick with you, you might just want them to leave the room first, George Roy Hill uses some colorful language.

Quick Plot

Here we have the bad guys as the good guys and the good guys as the bad guys. Get it?

Main characters Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are outlaws in the Old West. They rob banks, trains, and Butch heads up the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, a band of outlaws who live on a hidden ranch in the bowels of Wyoming.

After robbing the Union Pacific Flyer, the president (the never-seen E. F. Harriman) of the UP hires a posse comprised of the best of the best lawmen to chase the boys. It’s a temporary gig; the posse is together just until they kill Butch and Sundance. Deciding that the States are getting too dangerous and “civilized”, Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place (Sundance’s woman, rumored to have been shared by Butch) head to Bolivia to start anew.

In Bolivia, they rob, go straight, and, well, read your history books or watch the movie.

Film Techniques (aka Cinematography)

There are several scenes in the film that use sepia-tones to convey the feel of the Old West. In the opening scene, after we are introduced to Butch and Sundance, they ride from town to Hole-in-the-Wall, and the sepia transitions to color, a little at a time. It’s much the same effect used in The Wizard of Oz (you’ll remember Kansas is all black and white, and Oz is filmed in color) and works quite well for authenticity and transition.

Sepia-tones are also used in the still photography that documents the trio’s trip from Wyoming to Bolivia (stop in New York). In the “Making of” documentary, Hill talks about how the stills were made, cutting and pasting photos of Newman, Redford, and Katherine Ross (Etta) into actual period photographs. Since this film was made in 1969, it was probably closer to real “cutting and pasting” than what we call cut and paste today.

Return to sepia-tones as the film ends, when the outlaws emerge for a final shoot out and the film freezes. Again, techniques that were used in ’69 are archaic compared to what could probably be done today, but Hill and his crew were quite creative. I had no idea this final scene was so difficult to put together, but it’s all explained in the documentary.

Music, Or Lack Thereof

Being a part-time musician, and having studied music for a good portion of my life, I notice soundtracks.or when one is missing. The sound of this film is unique; the opening theme, Not Goin’ Home Anymore is played in a couple of different scenes (opening credits, New York trip, closing credits) using different instruments (piano, clarinet) and wide-ranging layers of harmonizing (theme and variations). It is simple and beautiful.

The afore-mentioned Raindrops and interjected instrumental Bicycle Built for Joy are used during the bicycle scene and bear no further discussion.

A third instrumental is used for the bank-robbing sequences in Bolivia – it’s a contemporary (read 1969-contemporary) piece that is slightly Spanish-sounding with its acoustic guitar.

That’s it for soundtrack. Other audio in the film are the dialog (spartan and to the point), natural sounds – you hear hoof beats, bird chirping, etc., – and gun fire (this is a western, remember!)

What Else You’ll See

This film offers top notch acting by great professionals. Newman and Redford have great chemistry on-screen, (and off as well, according to Hill). As this film is more than thirty years old, it’s always fun to watch for actors you recognize in minor roles: Look quick to see if you spot Cloris Leachman (Mary Tyler Moore’s wacky neighbor Phyllis), Jaws from several James Bond movies, and other great character actors.

Good flick for a lot of different reasons. Still one of the best, in my estimation!

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