Over the Family Day long weekend, I watched a lot of westerns and horror movies. It had been awhile since I got to wallow in worlds with tons of death and no indoor plumbing. There’s something fantastically liberating about going into a movie and knowing that at least ninety percent of the cast is not going to make it to the end credits. I won’t list everything that I watched, but The Wild Bunch and Bone Tomahawk were on the list.
Seriously, what’s the deal with Bone Tomahawk? It’s great! I really liked it, but that PG rating lulled me into a false sense of security. “What’s the worst that could happen, little bit of blood, little bit of swearing?” Nope! There have been countless horror movies that I’ve sat through. So many that I’d started to think I’d seen it all. That was until I bolted up right on the couch. I won’t spoil it, but it really made me wonder what the criteria for getting a rating above PG is.
Anyway, The Wild Bunch – which got an R rating like it should and didn’t make me turn on all the lights in the house and start re-watching The Strange Calls after – was also great, better than great. One of those westerns from the 60’s and 70’s. A time when people knew how to make westerns. The films would transcend the genre and convey a deeper meaning through metaphor. Everyone was bad and wrong, none of that John Wayne hero crap. Also, I loved how the first fifteen minutes is an argument against gun carry laws and having guns in school. It’s practically a left wing funded PSA.
After the first half hour, I started to realize a few things. Some similarities between The Wild Bunch and The Three Amigos. At first, I thought it was just coincidence or wishful thinking on my part – then I would be able to write another New Viewing Context. Yet, after awhile the coincidences turned into homages.
The same songs permeate the background sounds of both movies. The locations look very similar, as they should because both movies take place in Mexico. Not only are the settings similar, but both films take place in nearly the same time*, with maybe five years separating them. This conclusion is based on a Wild Bunch conversation surrounding the car and how there is a flying one. Airplanes are a bit of a mystery to the characters. However, in the Three Amigos, we see a plane and it’s fairly common. Lastly, two suit-wearing Germans show up to strike deals with the main villains of both films.
There was a lot of potential for a blog post just from the homages and similarties. Then came the big one and with it, a little spoiler. Alfonso Arau is a bad guy in both movies. In the Wild Bunch he is Herrara, some tertiary right hand guy. In The Three Amigos he’s El Guapo, the crazy bandit leader. We never learn El Guapo’s true name and Herrara’s fate is, somewhat open to interpretation. Sure, he’s shot in the shoulder, but seriously how fatal is that in movie logic? Not only that, but many people in The Wild Bunch tend to roll saving throws against succumbing to bullets, no matter where they are hit.
So, here it is.
Herrera’s shoulder was on fire where the god damned gringo had shot him. Yet, it didn’t stop him from standing up and looking at all the death the surrounded him. The compound was in shambles, Generalissimo was dead, and it would take a good week to clear out all the bodies, even more for the blood.
In other words, the society he had been a part of, had crumbled. The easiest thing to do would be to follow the line of survivors out the door and into the desert. That’s what he did, making sure to keep his head down as he passed the remaining gringos.
He walked for days, maybe even weeks. During that time, he was able to figure out where it had all gone wrong. Generalissimo had gotten too big and gone national. If he’d only stayed local and terrorized a few villages everything would have been fine. Everyone would still be alive.
Herrera remained lost in a daze of thought until, he passed a bush that was manically singing songs. He realized that he could not recall what happened to the people around him and that he was alone. Then he came upon the invisible swordsmen. They had a nice chat and Herrera laughed deeply when the swordsman sarcastically said that Herrera was, “Muy Guapo.” He had needed a good laugh.
The next day he arrived at the village of Santo Poco. Herrera strode into the cantina, introducing himself as El Guapo and recruited all the near do wells to his new army. Then they went back to the fortress and cleaned it up as best they could and began a reign of terror.
Go watch a movie!
*Both movies take place in 1913.