Pike's Peak Picks

→ in

Aren't you the person, Suspect, who gave me After Hours to watch in that Movie Trade Game? Someone did and I didn't watch it. I will have to correct this soon.

Not only does he share his favorite movies, but also few interesting facts.

After Hours was in my list of Fave movies on MoFo years ago. Only 2 Scorsese films make my favorite list, The other one is Taxi Driver. I wish Scorsese would do more Dark Comedies. Goodfellas could be considered a black comedy, but it was hardly Dark, bizarre and even surreal at times like After Hours.

Not to forget the Cheech and Chong cameo.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Holden's starting a reviews thread? Well that's just.....great. That makes me really.......happy. I'm not at all worried about the competition. I'm completely, absolutely fine with this.

I should probably just hand this award over to you right now, somehow I doubt I'll be retaining it next year.

I'll stick with JayDee.
Aww thanks Sexy. At least I'll always have you. (I think that may actually have made me even sadder)

Holden's starting a reviews thread? Well that's just.....great. That makes me really.......happy. I'm not at all worried about the competition. I'm completely, absolutely fine with this.
Yeah, well how do you think I feel?! Nobody even looks at my reviews anymore -- THANKS TO YOU. I should have won that award!

And everybody just FLOODS Holden Pike with positive rep. FLOODS.

He'll get 30 rep points just for posting a period. Everyone treats that m*****f***** like he's a God when he's not! I am!

But at least JayDee now has somebody around to make him feel like yesterday's garbage. Have fun!

Sorry Harmonica.......I got to stay here.
What do you look so shocked for? He
does this all the time. Fat bastard
thinks just because he never says
anything, that it'll have some huge
impact when he does open his ****ing

Why don't you shut up? Jesus! Always
yap, yap, yapping all the time. Give
me a ****ing headache.


Next up, I'll go with the film that gave me my internet nom de plume...

The Wild Bunch
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Screenplay by Walon Green & Peckinpah
Story by Walon Green & Roy Sickner
Score by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
CAST: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan,
Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Edmond O'Brien, Jaime
Sánchez, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Bo Hopkins,
Emilio Fernández, Alfonso Arau, and Dub Taylor
1969, approximately 145 minutes

So much blood. So much shooting. So much death.

That is the reputation of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. It was much of its initial reaction in 1969, and it's a reputation that endures, even today. Peckinpah's name itself conjures up slow-motion ballets of squibs and gunfire. And there is no denying that is a major part of The Wild Bunch's legacy. But if the movie were just five or six reels of pulpy cinematic violence it would be a footnote and nothing more. In an age where most cable series have two times as much profanity and much more graphic violence in any single episode than The Wild Bunch does in its full running time, Peckinpah's screen violence may lose much of its potency, out of the context of its day.

Why The Wild Bunch is immortal to me is not because of the celebrated/condemned violence, but due to its poetic odes to friendship, honor, and the futility of outrunning progress, all wrapped in an adventure story about laughing outlaws, daring robberies, and messy gunfights that helps to shatter many of the genre myths and attitudes that had been established in previous decades of film and television Westerns. And, yes, it surely is bloody, too.

1913, a dusty Texas town near the Mexican border. A handful of uniformed U.S. Cavalry men ride in on horseback and enter the post office and railroad office. But they are not there to protect anything. As they draw their weapons and subdue the customers and staff, their leader, Pike Bishop (William Holden), barks out a simple, "If they move, kill 'em!" These disguised outlaws are looking to make off with a haul of silver coins, hopefully a big enough payoff to be their last score. They're getting old and tired, and the new century is about to change the world to one full of automobiles and airplanes and there will be no need for rough bandits anymore. But their heist is no secret, and a band of mercenaries lay in wait for them outside. What follows is a bloody shoot out, indiscriminately taking out more townspeople than it does the would-be robbers or the bounty hunters hired by the rail road to stop them.

In addition to Pike, the surviving outlaws who escape the town are Ernest Borgnine's (Marty, From Here To Eternity) Dutch, Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show) and Warren Oates' (Stripes, In the Heat of the Night) Gorch brothers, Edmond O'Brien's (D.O.A., White Heat) Sykes, and Jaime Sánchez (The Pawnbroker) as Angel. They escape with their lives, but not the silver: they shot their way out of town for a bunch of metal washers. The men pursuing them are led by Robert Ryan's (The Set-Up, Crossfire) Deke Thorton, a former riding partner-in-crime who went to prison and is now working, reluctantly, for the railroad. He wishes he could be on the other side with them, but he has made a deal, and being an honorable old sumbitch, he aims to keep it. Even though the two-bit mercenaries he has riding with him, including T.C. (L.Q. Jones) and Coffer (Strother Martin), are a mangy gang of scumbags who wouldn't know honor if it took a dump on them, and even though he's riding against his friends, especially Pike.

Pike and the bunch cross into Mexico and hide out at Angel's small hometown, which they find being run by a dishonorable General Mapache (Emilio Fernández). After Angel insults the General, Pike tries to keep peace by hiring them all out to rob a train full of guns for the unscrupulous General. They know it is a deal with the Devil, but are massively outgunned and see no other way out. Plus, the General has promised them a decent amount of gold for their trouble, and they still need that score they didn't get.

What follows are tests of loyalty and some spectacular action, including a train robbery and the blowing of a bridge, all leading up to one last outrageous act of defiance that is not desperate, rather simply the right damn thing to do.

Unlike the classic Western archetypes, there are no clear "good guys" and "bad guys". Even our anti-heroes, though we root for them and they are played by familiar actors, are murderous thieves. They have a greater sense of honor than the scum around them, perhaps, but are certainly not simple white knights. They did not shoot only when shot at, they have little regard for anybody who gets in the way of their goals, and not only are they in this for the money, but they actually ENJOY robbing and living outside of the law and civilization. John Wayne was reported to have said that The Wild Bunch "destroyed the myth of the Old West". As the Vietnam War raged in Southeast Asia, Peckinpah thought some demythologizing was long overdue. Plus, so much of the popular Western, especially as it dominated the airwaves of the 1950s and '60s, was formulaic and decidedly unrealistic. With the '60s works of Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good the Bad & the Ugly, Once Upon A Time in the West) coupled with Peckinpah's, they turned most of those conventions on their heads...and then shot them in the face.

The Wild Bunch, in all of its revisionist, gory glory, is one of the towering achievements of the Western genre, and with its themes, performances and artistry, including Lucien Ballard's elegant cinematography and Jerry Goldsmith's perfect score, it transcends the genre and is a great film, period.

Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch poster 1.jpg
Views:	836
Size:	15.1 KB
ID:	12970   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch title card.jpg
Views:	859
Size:	13.3 KB
ID:	12971   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch pike pistol.jpg
Views:	2988
Size:	65.2 KB
ID:	12972   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch ryan.jpg
Views:	2961
Size:	48.1 KB
ID:	12974   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch borgnine.jpg
Views:	3248
Size:	60.6 KB
ID:	12975  

"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

The Wild Bunch odds and ends…

  • Similar themes and basic plotting as Richard Brooks’ The Professionals (1966), starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode and Robert Ryan as four aging guns for hire who go into Mexico to get the wife (Claudia Cardinale) of a rich American (Ralph Bellamy) who has been kidnapped by a bandit (Jack Palance).

  • William Holden was not the original choice to play Pike Bishop. Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone and Robert Mitchum all passed. Marvin actually accepted the role, but pulled out after he was offered a larger payday to star in the Western Musical Paint Your Wagon.
  • Brian Keith and Richard Harris, both of whom had previously worked with Peckinpah, were the original choices to play Robert Ryan's role of Deke Thornton.

  • For Ernest Borgnine's role of Dutch, Steve McQueen, George Peppard, Jim Brown, Alex Cord, Robert Culp, Sammy Davis Jr., Charles Bronson and Richard Jaeckel were all considered, at various stages.
  • Peckinpah cast Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine after seeing them in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen (1967)

  • Alfonso Arau, who plays Mapche’s second in command, would go on to play the Mexican bandit leader El Guapo in John Landis' Western comedy ¡Three Amigos! (1986).

  • Approximately 90,000 rounds of blank ammunition were used during the filming of The Wild Bunch, more than the estimated number of live rounds used in the actual Mexican Revolution.

  • Butch Cassidy's gang of outlaws was called "The Wild Bunch" in the press of the era, but in George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, released the same year as Peckinpah's film, they are referred to as "The Hole in the Wall Gang". Warner Brothers greenlit The Wild Bunch partially to compete with 20th Century Fox, who had won the bidding war for William Goldman's Butch Cassidy script. Peckinpah's film was released in June of 1969, George Roy Hill's in October.
  • Strother Martin appears in both The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

  • The brutal metaphor that opens the film, the children playing with ants and scorpions, was not in the original script. It was suggested to Peckinpah by Emilio Fernández (Mapache), who used to play the torturous game himself as a child.

  • Several of the films' most iconic scenes were not in the script, including the train robbery (which was originally done off-screen) and the final walk back toward the village center to get Angel. Those sequences were thought of on the day, quickly designed and staged, then captured by the cameras.
  • The film received two Oscar nominations: Adapted Screenplay (Peckinpah shares screenwriting credit) and Original Score. It lost both of those Oscars to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It wound up being the only Oscar nomination of Sam Peckinpah's career.
Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch professionals.jpg
Views:	2827
Size:	83.3 KB
ID:	12976   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch Paint Wagon.jpg
Views:	2432
Size:	69.8 KB
ID:	12977   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch Dirty Dozen.jpg
Views:	2724
Size:	211.9 KB
ID:	12978   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch bullets.jpg
Views:	2584
Size:	70.9 KB
ID:	12980   Click image for larger version

Name:	Bunch el guapo.jpg
Views:	3021
Size:	75.8 KB
ID:	12985  

I'm not a huge fan of Westerns in general, but The Wild Bunch is one of the greats. It was my father's favorite movie and will most likely be on my 60's list.

Sorry Harmonica.......I got to stay here.
Tell me, Holden, how does it feel? Getting paid for it? Getting paid to sit back and write awesome reviews... with the Mofos arms around you? How does it feel to be so godd---- right?

Pennies from Heaven
Directed by Herbert Ross
Screenplay by Dennis Potter
Cinematography by Gordon Willis
CAST: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper,
Vernel Bagneris, John McMartin, and Christopher Walken
1981, approximately 108 minutes

In 1981, Steve Martin took an artistic risk which might have drastically changed his then-new screen image and Herbert Ross tried to reinvent the Musical for a new, post-modern sensibility. The film was Pennies from Heaven, and it was a box-office flop. A few critics sang its praises, including Pauline Kael, but by and large it was dismissed. I think it is a brilliant movie that was so far ahead of its time, and still lies mostly undiscovered.

British television writer and novelist Dennis Potter ("The Singing Detective") had a long, successful career starting in the 1960s in the UK, and one of his biggest accomplishments was the 1978 BBC mini-series "Pennies from Heaven", starring Bob Hoskins. It tells the story of a sheet-music salesman in 1930s Britain who dreams of living out the lyrics of the songs he peddles. These rich fantasies are contrasted sharply with the darkness of his real life. Potter pared down and adapted his own eight-hour teleplay into a film screenplay, shifting the setting to Depression-era Chicago, which caught the attention of Herbert Ross, who had been on quite a roll in the 1970s, helming such projects as The Goodbye Girl, The Sunshine Boys, The Last of Sheila, The Turning Point, California Suite, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and Play it Again, Sam. Steve Martin, fresh from mega success as a stand-up comic playing to rock-and-roll-size crowds and distilling that wild and crazy persona first to the small screen on "Saturday Night Live" and his own specials, and then into The Jerk (1979), signed on to play the dark and complicated lead. Broadway star Bernadette Peters, who was Martin's co-star in The Jerk and at the time his real-life paramour, and Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Suspiria, My Favorite Year) would co-star, with Christopher Walken in film-stealing support.

Pennies from Heaven is the musical as psychotic episode. The numbers, often elaborate set pieces, replicating the styles if not the scenes of some classic cinema Musicals, and of which Busby Berkeley himself would have been proud, are delusions that have absolutely zero to do with reality. The usual conceit of the Musical is that the song interludes further the plot and/or give voice to internal emotions of the characters. But not here. Martin's character Arthur is a bizarre and almost irredeemably amoral man, who creates a pretend morality in the music he loves and envisions. He claims, certainly to himself and by extension the audience, to be a pure romantic dreamer trying to honestly make his way in the world, but his selfish and hurtful actions tell otherwise. It's a rather brilliant concept, and to me works even better as a movie than as a TV project (though make no mistake, the BBC version is also spectacular and a must-see). Many of the film's references are to the otherworlds created by movie magic, worlds that millions flocked to during the Depression in order to delude themselves into a fantasy for part of an afternoon or evening. As Fred Astaire was floating across screens in top hat and tails, much of the audience was wondering if they could find steady work, or keep the tenuous hold on their income and possessions. So in one of Heaven's best sequences when Martin and Peters actually enter Follow the Fleet (1936), the Astaire & Rogers classic, the circle is complete, and Arthur's fantasy blends with the larger societal fantasy.

Another stylistic risk/choice the film makes, carrying over from what was done in the TV version, is to have the actors lip-synch to the existing period tracks, rather than re-record them with these actors. Obviously stage star Peters could have done just about anything they asked, vocally, but this added layer of artifice is intentional, both making some of the song choices seem that much odder and funnier, being mouthed by the protagonists, and also not pretending these fantasies are to be taken in simple genre terms, but almost as if they were being done in front of a mirror in your attic, when nobody was home to catch you.

The look of the film is fantastic, with two basic palettes: the glitz of Hollywood and the dim of Edward Hopper. Several of his paintings are brought to life, including his most iconic, "Nighthawks". Gordon Willis, who was one of the most respected and imitated cinematographers of his era, having lensed The Godfather series for Coppola and Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men before becoming Woody Allen's go-to collaborator on Annie Hall, Manhattan, Interiors, Stardust Memories, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo and on and on, creates some stunning tableaus and homages.

Steve Martin has had an incredibly successful and quite diverse career in film, and while he eventually worked his way into some darker and sometimes intentionally comedy-free projects a couple decades later, it was probably too early and too bizarre a project for his fanbase to accept at the time, en masse. How might his career trajectory had changed if Pennies from Heaven wound up with multiple, high-profile Oscar nominations like Picture and Director? We'll never know.

This scene, in the next YouTube link, is a perfect example of what the film does. Christopher Walken only has one scene, really. At a particularly low point for the Peters character, she wanders into a bar on the bad side of town. The resident pimp, Walken, approaches her, buys her a drink, and offers her a job, on her back. It is tense and frightening, a cruel fate for this character who did nothing but trust the wrong man. And then, right when things look bleakest, Walken breaks into the Cole Porter tune "Let's Misbehave" by Irving Aaronson and His Commanders...

Dark and ironic eye-candy, this is Herbert Ross' masterpiece in my book, waiting to be rediscovered.

Click image for larger version

Name:	Pennies Hopper.jpg
Views:	3858
Size:	31.5 KB
ID:	13196   Click image for larger version

Name:	Pennies mirror.jpg
Views:	3578
Size:	33.7 KB
ID:	13198  

Pennies from Heaven odds and ends...

  • In the sequence that uses the title song, the "pennies" that are seen raining down from heaven mixed with the rain were penny-sized sequins. After filming, they blew out the stage door, and could be found in the corners in the streets at MGM studios for almost a year.

  • Fred Astaire, then eighty-two-years-old, hated the film, which used a clip from Follow the Fleet. He was quoted, "I have never spent two more miserable hours in my life. Every scene was cheap and vulgar. They don't realize that the thirties were a very innocent age, and that [the film] should have been set in the eighties – it was just froth; it makes you cry, it's so distasteful."

  • Bob Hoskins, who starred in the original television version, was reportedly upset that he was not seriously considered by MGM for the film.

  • MGM prohibited the broadcast of the BBC's original production of "Pennies from Heaven" for a period of ten years, from when the movie premiered. In February 1990, the BBC aired the original for the first time since 1978.

  • In an interview, Steve Martin said of the film's lack of box office success, in typical Steve Martin fashion, "I'm disappointed that it didn't open as a blockbuster and I don't know what's to blame, other than it's me and not a comedy. I must say that the people who get the movie, in general, have been wise and intelligent; the people who don't get it are ignorant scum."

  • Pennies from Heaven was nominated for three Oscars: Best Sound, Best Costume Design (Bob Mackie), and Best Adapted Screenplay, Dennis Potter's only nomination in his career. He lost out to On Golden Pond.

  • Nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture Comedy/Musical, Best Actor Comedy/Musical for Martin, and Best Actress Comedy/Musical for Bernadette Peters. Ms. Peters won the Globe, while the film and Steve both lost out to Arthur and Dudley Moore.

  • Christopher Walken had trained in the musical theater starting as a child, and is an excellent dancer, though it is a skill that has rarely been called upon for his big screen roles.
  • They may not have liked the film, but both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were very impressed by Walken's scene.
Click image for larger version

Name:	Martin jerk.jpg
Views:	2258
Size:	17.0 KB
ID:	13199   Click image for larger version

Name:	Pennies hoskins.jpg
Views:	2194
Size:	297.2 KB
ID:	13200   Click image for larger version

Name:	Pennies bern.jpg
Views:	2334
Size:	25.6 KB
ID:	13201  

Interesting to read about the Pennies from Heaven film, I've not seen it but the original series is brilliant. Dennis Potter was a genius. I still remember the last tv interview he gave to Melvyn Bragg - Potter was dying of pancreatic cancer and didn't have long to go, in fact he has to take swigs of morphine during the interview, but he still had a lust for life. Well worth trying to watch it if you can find it.

A system of cells interlinked
Well, it took over a decade, but my favorite thread on MoFo has finally appeared! If I had to choose a person not named Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, or David Lynch, who has taught me the most about film, it would have to be Holden Pike. With his seemingly endless vault of knowledge, vast film-watching experience, or never-ending passion for the art form itself, HP is a huge part of why this is THE best film site on the web. I count myself lucky to have met the dude, Ornery Sumbitch or not.

After Hours is one of my favorite comedies of all time. Great choice for a first review!

I've...never seen Pennies from Heaven.

I am ashamed.
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

After Hours was a long time one of my Dad's favorite flicks. I enjoy it too.
We are both the source of the problem and the solution, yet we do not see ourselves in this light...