With so many Sam Peckinpah experts out there (I just had to double-check my spelling of his name!), we are naturally a little reluctant to approach the lectern on that subject, but a few minor oddities might be worth mentioning. The recent DVD release of Major Dundee, and the spectacular appearance of his westerns in Warner’s new box set has, in any case, inspired us to dip our toe into Peckinpah water. No, this won’t be yet another review of the DVD box (for the best one of those, you should go HERE). We thought these few images from the file cabinet might be a little less familiar to the director’s fans ---
Here’s something I’ve not encountered elsewhere, a newspaper ad for Dundee’s Fightin’ Rebels (!?!!), which played the Center Theatre in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 21, 1965. Somebody surely revised Columbia’s campaign here, but who? Was it the Center chain's home office, the regional Columbia exchange, or did the studio panic and change its nationwide marketing in a last ditch effort to save a faltering release? The records reveal that Major Dundee earned 1.8 million in domestic rentals, 3.1 foreign, and final worldwide rentals of 4.9 million, which was pretty disappointing (especially when you compare it with the company’s own Cat Ballou, a spoof western that did a whopping 10.2). We’re guessing that Dundee’s Fightin’ Rebels was a purely regional phenomenon, as I don’t think that title would play in San Francisco, or the Manhattan art houses, but, to paraphrase Major Reisman, "us Southern boys" really dig them pitchurs 'bout Rebels. I’d love to know if the main title was modified for these bookings. Are there prints out there of Dundee’s Fightin’ Rebels? What about the pressbook, or at least an ad slick, for this campaign? Do they exist? We’ll leave these questions to the Peckinpah scholars in the hope that they can enlighten us.
Now this is a family webpage, but we couldn’t resist this naughty little snap of Ben Johnson and Warren Oates cavorting among the wine barrels with "Mexican feature players" (as they’re described in the caption). But wait a minute, shouldn’t this be one of those clandestine shots concealed in the coat pocket of some crew member departing for the night? To our surprise --- no --- it’s a duly authorized Warner publicity still for the initial release of The Wild Bunch, and for the sake of the record, we include the original back caption here ---
EARTHY REALISM ACCENTED IN SUPER FILM – Film director Sam Peckinpah, exponent of all out action pictures, has just completed for Warner Bros.-Seven Arts "The Wild Bunch", starring William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borginine, Edmond O’ Brien, Jaime Sanches, Warren Oates, Emilio Fernandez, etc. Important ingredients of the movie are some exciting servings of sex. Pictured here are Warren Oates and Ben Johnson frolicking with Mexican feature players amongst and in, the huge wine vats.
Now this still was presumably issued sometime in mid-1969. Could this have been one of the first, if not the first, instance of a major Hollywood studio using nudity in a publicity photo? I can’t imagine this in a mainstream publication of the time, but I do remember, as an adolescent, reading profiles of The Wild Bunch in various men’s magazines, and their imagery tended to be a little rawer than what we saw in Life or Newsweek. Chances are, Warners had a separate presskit to accommodate the editorial requirements of Adam, Nugget, and other such publications, whose readership would have certainly found The Wild Bunch alluring. Again, we call upon the experts to enlighten us here.
This last little item is the original – original, mind you -- local newspaper review that your humble correspondent wrote back in 1969 when he was the insufferably obnoxious, know-it-all fifteen year-old film critic for The Wilkes News (now in its thirty-sixth year of defunctitude). I was paid $1.60 for each review, 60 cents to get in the show, and one dollar for the column itself. Believe me, folks, 1968-69 was a bitter season for movies --- The Green Slime, Hellfighters (‘The hottest picture I ever made", said Duke in the TV spots), Lady In Cement, Skidoo, Charro, Angel In My Pocket --- it’s a wonder I didn’t give up on our great industry and start collecting airplane models. There were a few good ones though --- Bullitt, The Devil’s Bride, one or two others --- but none as good as The Wild Bunch. We called it a "masterpiece" then, and still stand by that review today!