THE PROFESSIONALS
1966, Sony Repertory, 117 min, USA, Dir: Richard Brooks

Writer-director Richard Brooks earned a pair of Oscar nominations for this vastly underrated film. A Texas rancher enlists a team of mercenaries to rescue his wife, who has been kidnapped by a Mexican bandit. But the hired guns - Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode – soon learn that their employer hasn’t told them the whole story (the outstanding cast also includes Ralph Bellamy, Claudia Cardinale and Jack Palance). Beautifully shot by Conrad Hall, THE PROFESSIONALS is an irresistible mix of action, intrigue and humor that ranks among the very best Westerns of the 1960s.


ON DANGEROUS GROUND
1951, Warner Bros., 82 min, USA, Dir: Nicholas Ray

Violent, embittered metro cop Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan) gets sent upstate to cool off and investigate a small-town murder probe. The search leads him to a fateful confrontation with local blind woman Mary (Ida Lupino, magnificent) and his own black heart. Sterling contributions all around: writer A.I. Bezzerides’ savvy script, Ray’s vigorous direction and location shooting, Bernard Herrmann’s alternately brassy and soft score and Ryan’s ferocious performance make this one of the genre’s most affecting statements about anger and alienation in the big city.


THE WILD BUNCH
1969, Warner Bros., 145 min, USA, Dir: Sam Peckinpah

Saddle up for director Sam Peckinpah’s magnificent, ultra-violent Western, starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates and Jaime Sanchez as a band of doomed outlaws trying to outrun history. A film that forever changed the way violence was depicted and perceived in the movies. Co-starring Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, L.Q. Jones, Bo Hopkins and Strother Martin. “The movie was photographed by Lucien Ballard, in dusty reds and golds and browns and shadows. The editing, by Lou Lombardo, uses slow motion to draw the violent scenes out into meditations on themselves. Every actor was perfectly cast to play exactly what he could play; even the small roles need no explanation. Peckinpah possibly identified with the wild bunch. Like them, he was an obsolete, violent, hard-drinking misfit with his own code, and did not fit easily into the new world of automobiles, and Hollywood studios.” - Roger Ebert


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