George Roy Hill’s take on the story of the Wild Bunch was a stunning success, a $100 million crowd pleaser that was snubbed by the critics and some Western fans who maybe thought it had an excess of twinkle or resented the jaunty Bacharach-David musical interlude.
It probably didn’t help that Butch & Sundance was up against Sam Peckinpah’s apocalyptic vision of the same gang with his film The Wild Bunch (1969), released the same year. Actually, Peckinpah and Hill’s films are not so terribly dissimilar and would make an interesting double bill.
The new package is pretty much the old package, which was already pretty solid, but with several new additions, including a second voice track commentary by the curmudgeonly William Goldman, who refuses to pass up any opportunity to vent his displeasure with the Hollywood machinery while patting himself on the back as the film’s screenwriter, for which he won an Oscar. But Goldman is also canny and more often right than wrong. New documentaries feature interviews with Paul Newman (Butch), Robert Redford (Sundance Kid) and Katherine Ross (Etta Place), and include comments by producers, players, Hollywood insiders like Lawrence Kasdan and Western historians. It’s a hefty collection of material and in spite of some unavoidable redundancies, it’s worth the investment.