Pioneers of the Anti-Western

This series showcases a handful of remarkable and influential westerns from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when Hollywood reconsidered and re-formatted most of its previously successful genres. From the groundbreaking violence of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to Philip Kaufman’s revisionist take on Jesse James, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, these “anti-westerns” frequently offer bleak views of American history but they are bursting with renewed, creative energy. Collectively, they represent the last great period for the classic American western. The series will conclude with an ultra-rare screening of Blake Edwards’ beautiful and elegiac Wild Rovers, shown in its complete, uncut “roadshow” version in a new 35mm print from the Cinémathèque Française.

  • Sat., Sep. 1 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

In Peckinpah’s revered classic, a group of mostly aging bank robbers (led by Holden as Pike Bishop) head South to pull off one last heist for a volatile Mexican warlord…while a posse closes in. Violent, brilliantly edited, and brimming with tour-de-force action sequences that blend seamlessly with quiet, reflective moments, The Wild Bunch is a true masterpiece of cinema. “This is not the kind of film that would likely be made today, but it represents its set of sad, empty values with real poetry.” (Roger Ebert)

  • Sat., Sep. 8 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

The first Hollywood feature from director Kaufman (The Right Stuff, Hemingway & Gellhorn) is a revisionist western with a fresh take on the legendary James/Younger gang. As their outlaw band of thieves plan and execute the fateful bank robbery in the title town, Jesse James (Duvall) is depicted as a slow-witted degenerate, while Cole Younger (Robertson) is revealed to be the brains of the operation.

  • Sat., Sep. 15 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Attempting to go straight, Bickford Warner, aka the notorious train robber Kid Blue (Hopper), arrives in the tiny town of Dime Box, Texas and ultimately finds an unfulfilling job at the Great American Ceramic Novelty Company. Soon, however, the drudgery of his occupation and a personal scandal drive the Kid back into a life of crime. “A relaxed piece of work...[with] a meandering jug band sensibility. What's most impressive about Kid Blue as a statement and a western is its honest hatred of work.” (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.)

  • Sat., Sep. 22 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

An experienced but battle weary Indian scout (Lancaster) accompanies a U.S. Cavalry troop into hazardous territory in search of the brutal Apache leader Ulzana and his tribe of followers. The literate and concise script by Scottish writer Alan Sharp provides the backbone for one of the best films of the 1970s, and the finest western from director Aldrich (Vera Cruz, The Last Sunset).

  • Sat., Sep. 29 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Looking to get out of the cattle wrangling business, aging cowpoke Ross Bodine (Holden) and his sidekick Frank Post (O’Neal) decide to rob a local bank. Blamed for making off with the payroll of their cowboy colleagues, Ross and Frank are tracked down by their former ranch boss (Malden) and his two sons (Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker).  One of the most unfairly neglected movies of the early 70s, this rare foray into the Western genre from director Edwards is a nearly perfect hybrid of his rollicking farces (The Pink Panther, Victor/Victoria) and his tragic dramas (The Days of Wine and Roses). This newly struck print from the Cinémathèque Française restores the European release version, which was cut by 23 minutes for its original American release.