Steve McQueen is JR Bonner, rodeo rider who has left his prime behind. Thrown by a bullas the film begins, he returns to his home town for a rematch with the same animal. Hisfamily is a bit of a mess: brother Curly (Joe Don Baker) is a greedy businessman takingadvantage of his parents; father Ace (Robert Preston) is a drinker and a dreamer; and mother IdaLupino stands strong through it all, stoically dealing with the stupidities of the men in herlife.
If one were…to choose one word to describe the film, that word would be “laconic.” The bulkof the film takes place of the single day of the rodeo, leading up to McQueen’s attempt toregain his pride by riding that bull. There are broken dreams and bitterness aplenty, but no oneever stays too upset for long, and there is an undercurrent of caring and decency runningthrough all the characters. Anyone expecting a Peckinpah bloodbath would do well to lookelsewhere, but his slow-motion multishot ballets are still here, now in the service of rodeo eventsor the demolition by heavy machinery of Ace’s old home. Peckinpah is the poet of the death ofthe West, and that death happens in The Wild Bunch. By the time of JuniorBonner, the West’s corpse has been mummified and turned into a tourist trap, but Peckinpahstill finds romance in the low-key machismo and bonding of his male characters, who keep goingthrough the motions long after the dream is dead.
The sound is the original mono. I’m not a fan (as may be obvious) of most stereo remixes,since the result is usually a surreally inappropriate surround, so I don’t miss the remix here. Themono is clean and undistorted, and features no hiss. The overall volume level is a rather low,however.
The 2.35:1 image is not anamorphic, which is disappointing, especially for a disc comingfrom MGM. The picture starts off quite soft, with facial features blurring into indistinct pinksmudges even in full shots. The colours initially look rather faded too. There is no grain or edgeenhancement, however, and the sharpness and contrasts do improve. There is occasional slightflicker and little bit of print damage, and one or two moments where the picture shudders a bitas well. No speckling to speak of, however.
The only extra here is a commentary, but it’s a good one. Peckinpah experts Paul Sseydor,Garner Simmons and David Weddle are moderated by Nick Redman, and their discussion isintelligent, and expects an equally intelligent, informed audience. The menu is basic.
The picture could be better (though it certainly could be worse), but it is nice to see a strongcommentary on a DVD that is otherwise very bare-bones.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary