Monday, March 7, 2011

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

 After my trip to the House of Wax my VHS players wide open mouth had Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fed into it. This movie for me is in the mold of The Towering Inferno and Coogan's Bluff in that they were standard fare on television during the 80's. And like them I hadn't seen Butch Cassidy for the better part of twenty five years.I was really pleased to find this quietly lurking at my local video shop, and it was with anticipation I sat down to watch it. I always remember liking it as a boy and was keen to see if that still remained true as an adult.
 Well I'm pleased to report it did! And more! If you have been reading my posts on some of the movies I've watched in the past and recenty re-visited you'll find my memory of them isn't too flash. The only scene I could re-call from Cassidy was the famous cliff jumping, which surely is one of, if not, the most memorable stunts ever filmed. I would go so far as to say it is one of the most iconic and recognisable scenes ever filmed to. I can so remember Paul Newman laughing at Robert Redford when he tells him he can't swim. Yep, it is a classic scene that once watched is never forgotten.
 But the cliff jumping may have defined the whole film and embedded it in cinema lore, but it is a mistake to forget there is a whole film around it. The AFI has Cassidy in its top 100 films of all time. Last year they had it at 50. It has also been preserved in the Library of Congress. So this is regarded as one of the very best films ever made. After watching it several nights ago it is hard to disagree. 
 As stated I can't remember anything about this movie except the cliff jump. At first I thought the VHS was stuffed but then woke up to the fact that the opening acting scenes are in sepia!! It is briliantly done and when I clicked to it a big smile crossed my face. What an outstanding way to start a historically based film! It is the only time in the film moving sepia is used but it does start with sepia photos of Newman and Redford posed as their characters. Also it used again in the middle when they are in New York soaking up the pleasures. It of course ends in the famous scene when they both burst out of a doorway with guns blazing. ( See the poster above).
 One thing I found about this movie that even though it is now over fifty years old it hasn't dated visually. After watching the recent run of 80's horrors Cassidy is remarkably fresh looking for it age. The blood is obviously fake and there is none of the graphic bullet wounds we get today, but somehow it doesn't matter. In many respects it shows how far film makers have had to go to entertain patrons. After watching this I realised we don't really need all the 'realism' of the violence we subject ourselfs to today in modern cinema. Cassidy is a great film no matter if the bloodshed isn't what we are now used to. 
 Another thing that struck me was how far ahead in acting ability Newman was over Redford. To be sure Redford was a realative unknown when cast, but the gulf between him and Newman is vast. I have always liked and admired Paul Newman. He was one of the true greats of American cinema. You only have to look at his many Oscar nominations to see that. But Newman and Redford have just incredible chemistry together. In fact I'd say theirs is one of the most memorable 'partner' combinations ever filmed. It is a cinematic combination that would be hard to top.
 I again go back to a point I have made in several past posts, where I state a very good actor like Newman can lift one of lesser talent up. Newman does it here with Redford. Of course Redford went on to forge his own name and got better as he went along. The Sting being the obvious example, and is also a firm favorite of mine as Redford is at his best in it. While I'm on other films from this pair Cassidy is not my favorite Newman role. That distinction goes to Cool Hand Luke, which is another staple of television in the 80's. Who can ever forget his attempt to eat fifty boiled eggs?!!
 But what really amazes me about Cassidy is how I could possibly forget that the song "rain drops keep falling on my head' came from it!! The scene is the other classic from the movie where Newman does all sorts of stupid things on a bicycle to impress the beautiful Katherine Ross. I felt my foot tapping along and was singing the words, whilst all the time feeling foolish I had forgotten what movieit was from!
 This is a truely great film. Age has been very kind to it and in fact it felt better with its advancing years. Newman and Redford are brilliant together. The final shootout when they are surrounded and doomed produces some of the best banter you'll ever hear. The performances of these two legends is at the heart of this fim, and for all its memorable secenes, especaially the cliff jump, if they didn't gel then this fim wouldn't be the classic it is. I absolutely loved every moment of it, and when you watch rubbish like House of Wax beforehand it really highlights its deserved place amoung the greats of American cinema.
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  1. Good pick! I rewatch this one pretty often! A pretty near perfect movie experience. Newman and Redford really were great together!

  2. I should watch it more often myself. I really had forgotten how good it was. I think as I've gotten older and seen more and more films my eye for film has developed more and more so that the good really start to stand out compared to the rubbish. Well I hope it has!