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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Action > Comedy > Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (The Ultimate Collector's Edition)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (The Ultimate Collector's Edition)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: A     Film: B



It's probably no coincidence that with all the changes that were happening in society in the late 1960s that both of the classic Westerns to come out in 1969 concerned outlaws trying to survive in a rapidly changing Old West.  Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch is the more brutal and realistic of the two, and truly deserving of its status as a genre classic.  On the other hand, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the more lightheaded of the two, but proved to be far and away the biggest hit of 1969.  But it's really more of a witty buddy movie in Western clothes -- which probably explains the film's wide-ranging appeal.


The sensational chemistry between its stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is also an obvious component to the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but the then up and coming Redford was only cast after more established stars such as Jack Lemmon and Steve McQueen passed -- McQueen demanded absolute equal billing with Newman, a problem which again would come up 5 years later when the two of them actually did star together in The Towering Inferno.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was such an enormous hit that Newman, Redford and director George Roy Hill (who later directed Redford in 1975's The Great Waldo Pepper and Newman in 1977's Slap Shot) would reunite four years later for an even bigger success, the Oscar-winning The Sting (1973).


A barely-remembered prequel starring Tom Berenger as Butch and William Katt as Sundance entitled Butch and Sundance: The Early Days was released in 1979, but proved to be a quick flop without the original stars.


While it's never quite been one of my favorite Westerns, there's no doubt that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a highly entertaining ride featuring two likable, charismatic stars who have tremendous chemistry together.  However, one gets the distinct feeling the real Butch and Sundance couldn't have been nearly as appealing as Newman and Redford.  After all, the real guys didn't have the advantage of reciting dialogue penned by screenwriter William Goldman (All the President's Men, Marathon Man, Magic).


Taking place during the last couple years of the 19th Century, the film portrays Robert Leroy Parker (alias Butch Cassidy) and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (alias The Sundance Kid) as two witty, fun-loving bandits who don't want to hurt anyone.  Often arguing like an old married couple, Butch is the idea man and more of a clown, while Sundance is the skilled gunslinger.  After robbing a wealthy power broker one too many times, Butch and Sundance find themselves being chased by a relentless posse they just can't seem to shake, causing our outlaw heroes to famously wonder aloud, "Who are those guys?"


Realizing they'll never stop being hunted in the United States, Butch comes up with the unlikely idea of relocating to Bolivia, of all places.  Joined by Sundance's lover and mutual friend Etta Place (Katherine Ross), they do indeed travel to Bolivia, only to realize they'll have to learn a few phrases like "stick 'em up" in Spanish if they're ever going to successfully rob any Bolivian banks.


In addition to one of the most dynamic star pairings ever, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is helped immensely by Goldman's sharp writing and Conrad Hall's gorgeous cinematography, both of which won Oscars.  There's also that memorable sequence of Butch joyously riding a bicycle to B.J. Thomas singing Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s Oscar-winning Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head, and a wonderful sequence with inveterate scene-stealer Strother Martin.


My biggest gripe with the movie is a point in the middle of it where Hill spends too much telling the story through black and white still photographs.  I'd have shortened this part in favor of a few more minutes of screen time with Strother Martin.


Fox's new 2-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is an absolute must have for fans of the film.  The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has good picture quality (especially considering it apparently hasn't been remastered), but the Dolby Digital stereo sound taken from the original Mono is nothing to write home about.  What makes this DVD special are the plentiful extras contained on the 2-discs.  Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is included.  There are newly recorded interviews with Newman and Redford, two different audio commentaries, two featurettes, two documentaries, a deleted scene and three theatrical trailers.  One comes away wishing all of one's favorite films were given such a thorough treatment on DVD.



-   Chuck O'Leary


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