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Your September Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: The Days Before The Fame When Fun Was The Name Of The Game.

PRESHOW ENTERTAINMENT: Movietone News, 1930-1932

Pizza: Numero Uno (I think that means "Number Uno.")


I remember when I first moved to NYC. I took the subway everywhere. And I remember that poster. It haunted me at nearly every stop, especially at my 8th Street stop on the Double R (now the R). I adored BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, so I was torn. It was my curiosity more than anything. The poster was advertising a prequel about how Butch and Sundance met. But I just couldn't bring myself to go. I mean, you just know it's going to stink. I suppose the deciding factor for me not going was right there on the poster: Tom Berenger and William Katt were playing, well, Newman and Redford.

That curiosity never faded, for one day, a cable station that had nothing better to do ran BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS, and I recorded it onto a Digital Versatile Disc. And tonight, it came up randomly, as if the fates said, "Rich, you're going to watch this movie even if it kills you." For the record, the fates were almost right, for BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS is a garbage dump. If only this were a sequel, beginning with their bullet-riddled bodies being consumed by flies and maggots. That would have given us so much more bang for the buckeroo.

We all know what happened (in the movie world, at least) to Harry Longabough (alias The Sundance Kid) and Robert Parker (alias Butch Cassidy), and if you don't, well then shame on you. But what happened before they met is another story, or should I say, lack of story. I'm guessing "Early" in BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS is a euphemism for "really shitty."

Missing is the fun, the flavor, the repartee (replaced here with bickering), essentially, the entire essence of what made the original so...original. This is a Stepford movie, and worse (if that's possible), it was written like a sitcom, with "outs" at the end of each and every scene. Sure enough, sitcom writer extraordinaire Allan Burns was the culprit here, odd, as I adore the hell out of Burns. His body of work includes GET SMART, THE MUNSTERS and co-creating THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (I actually watched one of the episodes he wrote last night). But everyone needs a NORTH, meaning; Elvis Costello made a bad record called NORTH, Rob Reiner made a bad movie called NORTH, so maybe this was simply Allan Burns' NORTH.

BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS, or if you're into initialisms - BASTED, was directed by Richard Lester, who made HELP! and A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, as well as the sleeper ROBIN AND MARIAN (starring The Dumb Bastard) and the underrated comedy THE RITZ. He also did SUPERMAN II, reshooting original director Richard Donner's footage. So how do Burns and Lester, two guys with such great work behind them, come together and muck it up? Perhaps it's a bit unfair to judge a film based on its predecessor. But my argument is, that's what they're selling us. So there.

We first meet Butch as he is being pardoned by the governor (Arthur Hill, in a bit part). See, he's such a righteous criminal that he can be released if he promises not to commit crimes in Wyoming. Free, he buys a jacket (I think it's the one he'll wear later in life, in the original movie), and gets his picture taken, bargaining the photographer down to $2 by using a gun. See? Righteous. He could have stolen it and not paid the $2 at all.

So the credits are over and Butch stops into a saloon where he witnesses an idiotic Sundance Kid pull a moronic robbery. Well, the two meet up later to discuss a partnership which doesn't take, at first. And even when it does, it feels like they're at worst, your neighbors who fight every night, and at best - The Odd Couple with guns. I suppose they could have called this movie SPATS.


So Butch meets up with his ol' friend O.C., and things go awry. The law arrests O.C., who now believes Butch set him up as part of his early prison release.

There's no real reason to go on. It's just painful for me, and will be for you as well. But just to give you an idea, we'll learn that one is married...with children, one kills a man, one gets diphtheria, and the whole shebang-bang culminates with a not-so-great train robbery which looks like they found film scraps to an unreleased episode of F TROOP. There's also a "coming up with a nickname" scene that went on forever. And there's Sundance saying he's smart, but he's not.

Butch-and-Sundance-The-Early-Days-1979-William-Katt (Sundance)

The original movie's semi-classic bicycle scene, which conveyed a love for the era and an inherent joy for the players, is replaced with a skiing scene (skis were new in the West, as bicycles were in the first movie). But the skiing scene is cheap, using bits like showing them skidding on their asses, an inability to stop and, you guessed it, getting hit in the balls with a ski. Also replaced, the "who are those guys?" posse is now O.C. and his men, and in an egregious error by O.C. or the filmmakers...or both...has O.C. finally locating Sundance and shooting at him. And then he...leaves?? After tracking him all this time, he just leaves? Yippee Kay HEY!!!

And there's dialogue that was hack, even for the late 1800s, like:

Sundance: "You know, I've been thinking..."

Butch: "That could be dangerous."

Katt and Berenger try their hardest to be "dry" funny, sort of like the original movie. But they too fail, again, because of the script. But I will say that a few times in the movie, it was almost uncanny how much they looked like they could have been Newman and Redford.

As far as the rest of the cast, great actors do pop up throughout the movie, but they all suck, stuck in this silly movie. The half-deaf O.C. is played by Brian Dennehy. Christopher Lloyd played Carver, John Schuck was Kid Curry, Jill Eikenberry was Mary Parker and Vincent Schiavelli was a guard. Just about all of these roles felt like Mack Sennett characters.

The whole movie is spent trying to make us sympathetic to the boys. Along with the opening "parole bargain" and "photographer shakedown" scenes, there's also scenes like the duo transporting diphtheria vaccine, Butch spending time with his wife and kids, and because he wants to go straight, Butch just stealing what he needs from the safe filled with money. But none of these things make either of them a likable person, because they actually transport the vaccine to get away from O.C. And why doesn't Butch live with his wife and kids? And stealing less is not noble, it's still thievery.


Here's a realization I just had. The original movie from 1967 was made not even 50 years after the real Butch & Sundance died. I don't know why that seems so wrong, it's not like they were from the Neanderthal Age. Anyway...

So there you have it. Butch and Sundance sucks. Surprise, surprise. Honestly, I've already forgotten this movie. But I'll never forget that damn subway poster.

PRESHOW ENTERTAINMENT: Movietone News, 1930-1932

Once a twice a year, I break out another year of newsreels (on video) from days gone bye-bye. This time out, 1931. Here are some of the highlights:

1) The Roosevelts. Four generations of them, actually. They were posing for a photo and trying to have fun. One of the little kids even chimes in that he's a democrat. It was probably Franklin's granddaughter.

2) Thomas Edison, right before he died, in what looked like home movies, with sound! Go figger. He died in '31, so this was the last footage of him, I believe.

3) Count Von Zeppelin, including stunning footage of the D-17177 over the Swiss alps. I believe this was the Graf's Polar Flight. About 16 years ago, I saw a doc at UCLA called AROUND THE WORLD WITH THE GRAF ZEPPELIN. I sure would like to get my paws on that movie.

4) World's largest plane lands (on purpose) in the Hudson river. Take that, Capt. Sulley! Here's some footage I found of the plane. Pretty cool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71D1S8-1kUY

5) Some Mahatma Gandhi footage, which pleased me to no end as I got to do my Indian hat check joke (Mahatma Coat!). Sadly, it didn't please anyone else.

6) Hitler building up in Germany, but he was still an "obscure figure" in the USA.

7) Japan invades Manchuria. (Just like in Risk!)

8) Gershwin performing I GOT RHYTHM (he sure did).

9) Marion Roberts, with her mother, in an awkward and probably rehearsed interview following the hit on her married boyfriend Legs Diamond. Her mom was glad to have her back. And Marion asked young women not to fall in with a bad crowd. Uh huh.

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