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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (DVD, 2005, Special Edition) Reviews
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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (DVD, 2005, Special Edition)

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): Unforgettable Hijinks in the Old West

Nov 19, 2007 (Updated Nov 20, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Pervasive irony mixed with humor.

Cons:Reality is stretched almost to the breaking point in places.

The Bottom Line: This is one of the classics. If you want to see the Western that made Robert Redford a star and gave Paul Newman a great boost too, see this one.


I think one of the reasons that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was such a stunning, classic hit almost 40 years ago, back in 1969, was that it was a dance of sunlight for American audiences in the dark and gloomy days of the Vietnam War. It lifted spirits and made people believe that beyond the raindrops falling on their heads that somewhere the sun was still shining.

There were other reasons why it was a great movie, of course. For one thing it was an original twist on the genre of the Western; it laughingly exposed a lot of the truth behind a lot of the myths there. It was also one of the greatest “buddy” movies of all times, demonstrating that friendship, at least friendship between guys, is full of contradictions that are trumped by loyalty in the end. Irony upon irony pervades the script, and in the end we are left with one of those movies that is a friend to all viewers for generations to come.

Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy) had done magnificent work in other films before this one, so he had little to prove when he made the film, and could be at his best and yet still be relaxed and just give a rollicking good performance as easy as if he were rolling off a log. For Robert Redford (The Sundance Kid), the film was a star maker experience deluxe and as he made his way along his illustrious career he paid homage to the film and his role by naming his film festival after his character. The wondrous thing about the film where these two actors is concerned is the delightful chemistry they shared as they bantered their way across the Western landscape. The film was also a career-booster for Katharine Ross (Etta Place), and it certainly gave a new slant on the stereotype of the cool, bookish, puritanical Western schoolmarm.

The story is about two outlaws, drawn from true Western history, named Butch Cassidy and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, alias “The Sundance Kid”. The script of the film takes some degree of liberty with the true tale of these two men, but even so the tale is more-or-less faithful to the facts.

These men are robbers in the Old West, and they have a band of outlaws called “The Hole in the Wall Gang”, because their hideout is a place called Hole in the Wall in the remote Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. As the story starts, they are planning another bank robbery. However, one of the men suggests that they rob a train instead of a bank, and Butch decides that this is a good idea, and so they branch into trains instead of banks for their next caper.

The train robbery goes well, and when the robbers celebrate in a town near the robbery, and see that the local sheriff can’t scare up a posse, they decide that they have hit on a profitable new tangent in their nefarious career path. Along about this time Sundance’s girlfriend, Etta Place, is interestingly exposed into the story, and here the movie takes a pause as we see Butch and Etta taking a romantic bicycle ride while in the background B.J. Thomas sings “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”. We surmise from this interlude and the one preceding it that Etta has a place in her heart for both men.

This first train robbery, while successful, probably denotes the high-water-mark of these partners’ life of crime. The second train robbery is botched when Butch uses too much dynamite to blow the safe, and the railroad sends a posse of what we might call Western Special Forces operatives after the gang. The outlaw gang splits up into all directions, and Butch and Sundance now embark on a “chase scene” that goes on and on as the relentless posse trails them. Only a daring leap of faith allows them to escape, and now the two desperadoes probably wish they had stuck to banks.

In fear for their lives, Butch and Sundance grab Etta and decide to go, literally, out of the country. This third part of the story takes us to the end of their daring and often ill-fated adventures. All along the way we are treated to genius and stupidity, wisecracks galore, and a few serious moments where reality bends into legend.

One of the things that makes the movie work, along with a compelling story, great humor, many surprises, fine acting, and beautiful photography, is the music. The background score almost steals the plot away, at times, it is so poignant and fine.

Another interesting thing about the movie is that we, normally law-abiding citizens (most of us anyway) in the audience feel drawn to root for these criminals. Perhaps it is because we sense that what we are seeing unfold is in many ways like a great cartoon, it is not real, and yet it is ironically based, as noted, on a true story. Yet we are spirited away for a time into a world where it is fun to be outside the law, a la' Robin Hood, outfoxing those in authority. Perhaps, in 1969, in a slice of American history where real authority was being questioned, that too made the story attractive. And the legacy of the story makes it attractive still in our own time.

This is an “old” movie now, yet one with a lot of newness for young viewers who have never seen it. It broke a number of molds in its day, and those broken molds let some sunshine in for streams of creativity in movies that followed it. It’s a keeper.

Five Stars/*****


Recommend this product? Yes

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