So it’s 9:45, the baseball game hasn’t even started yet due to thundershowers, and I guess I’m in for the long haul.  Time to write up the first film of our (somewhat belated) BBQ from Saturday, 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, directed by George Roy Hill.  Hill apparently really enjoyed the experience, because he went on to direct Redford and Newman together again only four years later in The Sting – but this recap is about Butch Cassidy.

Look at that meme back there!

If you’re like me, and you probably aren’t (because let’s be honest, who is?), then somehow you never actually got around to seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid until last Saturday only a few days after first seeing Bonnie and Clyde.  That’s pretty much the ultimate double-header of 1960s lovable buddy outlaw films (and apparently Warren Beatty was offered a lead in this film and turned it down to avoid the typecast).  Frankly, neither film was what I would call amazing, but Butch Cassidy was probably the better film.

Plotwise, the movie really isn’t that special, honestly.  There’s an opening scene, shot in sepiatone, introducing our characters via a Wild West card game in which Sundance was suspected of cheating (he insisted he wasn’t).  After the opener, our title duo returns to Hole-In-The-Wall Wyoming, where due to their prolonged absences Harvey Logan has taken over as the new leader of the Hole-In-The-Wall gang.  Butch defeats Logan in a no-holds-barred knife fight (by kicking him in the family jewels) and re-takes control of the gang, but makes the mistake of taking over Logan’s ill-starred plan of robbing the Union Pacific Overland Flyer on both it’s outbound and return route.

I thought plastics were supposed to be the next big thing?

The first robbery goes fairly smoothly, and while Butch is getting his brothel on in town, Sundance sneaks out to his best girl Etta Place’s place.  Butch eventually catches up and gives Etta a handlebar ride on his newfangled bicycle, but eventually it’s time to rob that train again.

High-stakes training for the 110M hurdles

In principle, the idea was that they wouldn’t be expecting a second stick-up, but in fact Union Pacific was right on top of it, and had the Overland Flyer followed by a posse including intrepid lawman Joe Lefors and master tracker Lord Baltimore (a strange name for a Native American, but who’s counting?)  The gang splits up, but the posse continues to follow Butch and Sundance over untrackable territory, leaving them to continually exclaim “Who are these guys?” (“If you missed it don’t worry, they’ll say the line again and again and again”)

Little known fact: This cliff is known as “The Record Machine”

Finally the chase through the west leads our duo to a cliff overlooking a river, and lacking any other option, Butch suggests they jump.  Sundance refuses, finally admitting that he doesn’t know how to swim.  “Are you crazy?  The fall will probably kill you!” Butch argues, and that’s good enough.  They jump, they live, they body surf some class-3s, and eventually they make their way back to Etta’s place, where they finally commit to Butch’s long-neglected plan of going to Bolivia.  Lots of mining in Bolivia, see?  Lots of payroll to steal.  They decide to bring Etta along because she speaks some Spanish and because the authorities won’t be looking for two guys, a girl, AND a pizza place, and they head to New York where they catch a steamer for South America.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

So this is Bolivia.  It’s not exactly the richest place in the world, but if you can read through a Spanish script, you can probably rob a bank here just as well as you can back home.  After a while our heroes become known as The Yankee Bandidos, but seeing a man wearing the trademark hat associated with Joe Lefors is enough to briefly scare them straight.  They take on a job protecting a mining company’s payroll – which gets held up on the very first day.  They recover the money (killing their first victims in the film, and allegedly the first ever murder for Butch) and decide that going straight isn’t for them.  At this Etta decides to return to the U.S., having already said that she would follow them anywhere, but not to ask her to be there when they died.  Foreshadowing.

Livin’ On A Prayer?  Your love is like bad medicine?  Wanted: Dead or Alive?  I just KNOW there’s a Bon Jovi song in here somehwhere…

Finally the law (but NOT Joe Lefors) catches up with them when they ride into a town with a burro whose brand indicates it was part of one of their thefts.  They are ambushed by a large contingent of the Bolivian Army, and after having both been wounded and Butch characteristically making plans to go to Australia once they make it out, they emerge from teh building they are hiding in and the film goes freeze frame right before they go down in a blaze of glory.  The end.

So, yeah, the plot isn’t so great.  Dudes are robbers, dudes run away from posse, dudes go to Bolivia to rob some more, dudes get shot by Bolivian Army.  That’s about it.  The charm to this movie comes from the actors and the sarcastic one-liners.  The screenplay was written by William Goldman, who is responsible for both the novel and the screenplay for The Princess Bride, so that makes some sense.  (Also in Goldman’s bag: All The President’s Men, The Stepford Wives, Marathon Man, Misery, The Ghost and the Darkness, Fierce Creatures…)  So it’s basically a superficially simple movie that’s just a lot of fun to watch.  There’s a shortage of perfect screenplays in this world, it would be a shame to disrespect this one.

Advertisements