Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Jeff Corey, Ted Casscy, George Furth, Donnelly Rhodes
Director: George Roy Hill
NYU Tisch '07
"...And hey, I met you. You are not cool." -Almost Famous
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Review By: Michael Dance
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Let’s get right to it: this movie is a classic. We all know that already. More importantly than that, though, it deserves to be. Aside from practically inventing the buddy movie and creating one of the most significant pairings in movie history, Paul Newman (Butch) and Robert Redford (Sundance), it’s a darn good movie that stands the test of time. In fact, it barely even shows its age. The only big hint that this was made forty years ago is that it's a western. You don’t see many of those anymore, but watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid makes you want to.
Dozens of pages have no doubt been written about this movie already, so the main thing I can say about the film itself is just that if you haven’t seen it, you should. For diehard fans, this Collector’s Edition DVD is like a gift from the heavens, but even for the uninitiated, it’s worth the money for the movie alone. Both a comedy and a tragedy, both hilarious and poignant, both exciting and thoughtful, it defies true categorization. Newman and Redford star as two career outlaws nearing the end of their careers, realizing that the world is changing and that there’s not much room for cowboys for very much longer.
It’s a tale of epic proportions, spanning from the West to New York to South America, but it doesn’t feel epic; instead, it’s an intimate portrayal of two fascinating men. They’re chased by lawmen they can’t outrun and consider fleeing to Bolivia rather than staying and fight. At one point, they try to go straight, to ironic and moving effect; the scene involving the Bolivian bandits is layered with brilliant subtext and is one of the best in the film.
Along with them for most of their travels is Etta Place, played by Katharine Ross. She’s Sundance’s girlfriend, but really, this is a trio in which everyone loves each other equally, and the movie wisely avoids any tedious love-triangle plot. (Butch: “I’m stealing your woman.” Sundance: “Take her.”) She’ll go with them wherever they want and even help them when they rob banks, but she has one condition: she won’t watch them die.
Between all the poignancy, of course, is some of the best, funniest, and wittiest banter you’ve ever heard. Neither Redford nor Newman specifically go for laughs, instead trusting the script itself and their own deadpan delivery. Written on the page without the benefit of their chemistry would almost cheapen it. But trust me; you’ll be laughing. It’s not only a cliché to say a movie “has it all”, it’s also almost unbelievable in a script this clean and tight (written by William Goldman). Yet somehow,
As for the Special Features, this two-disc DVD set throws us everything and the kitchen sink. Vintage documentaries and trailers, interviews from 1994, plus a host of new material is all thrown on here. The main downside to this is that there’s a very real threat of overkill; usually I like as many extras as possible, but because of the sheer number of things they include, there’s a good amount of information that begins to repeat itself. A short documentary on the real-life Butch and Sundance, for example, is rather unnecessary when you also include the 1994 documentary that spends about forty-five minutes covering the same material. And if you watch all of these, by the end you’ll see some scenes replayed a seemingly endless amount of times.
Still, there’s so much content that any fan will find plenty to love. One of the freshest features, ironically, is a vintage documentary narrated by director George Roy Hill, with an impressive amount of on-set footage. A man completely devoid of any need to spin things into the boring platitudes that most filmmakers are forced into (“it was a dream to work with everyone blah blah blah”), Hill’s narration is frank, interesting, and sometimes hilarious. You’ll find out bits like which scene of the movie he hates, which actor he got along the worst with, and how they performed a stunt with a horse that’s illegal in the U.S. because there’s a chance you can snap its neck (it survived fine, by the way).
Most of the other special features are more routine but nevertheless genuinely interesting, and include plenty of interviews with the two stars themselves. Also of note is the one deleted scene, which we’re told was so hard to find that the audio track from it has been lost entirely.
The biggest standout, however, is the “production notes” section, usually an area I steer clear of on DVDs. These, however, are fantastic: not general routine notes on the film, but vintage documents between the producers and filmmakers over the course of making the film. We’re able to read firsthand arguments, through letters and notes, over everything from the budget to the script, and from our vantage point it’s especially entertaining. “I will simply not allow the gambling scene to be shot,” one producer says of a scene that ended up very much in the movie. “I would also like to see more sex in the picture,” another letter bluntly reads. Also included is a hilarious letter from the MPAA about misgivings over the scene in which, as written in the script, “Butch delivers the most aesthetically exquisite kick in the balls in the history of the modern American cinema”. The real star of this DVD — besides Butch and Sundance, of course
Movie Grade: A-
DVD Grade: A
Overall Grade: A