After director Sam Peckinpah handed in his final cut of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, which he considered his finest film, the hierarchy at MGM saw fit to radically reedit it. The approximately 15 minutes cut from the film so drastically altered Peckinpah's structure and pacing that the
incensed director tried to get his name removed from the credits. A restored version of Peckinpah's original film was given a very limited rerelease in 1990, but the initial-release version remains the one that most viewers will be able to see and it is a very choppy affair.
James Coburn is Pat Garrett; Kris Kristofferson is Billy the Kid. Feeling that the time has come for him to settle down, aging desperado Garrett switches sides of the law and puts on a badge; he is assigned to hunt down his old friend Billy. Apprehended and sentenced to hang, Billy shoots his way
out of jail and hits the trail, accompanied by a former printer, Alias (Bob Dylan, who contributed the film's score). Back in New Mexico, Billy puts a gang together. Meanwhile, Garrett hires Alamosa Bill (Jack Elam), another former criminal, to help him, and the territorial governor, Lew Wallace
(Jason Robards), engages Poe (John Beck) to bring Billy to justice. The manhunt begins.
Among the important scenes cut from the initial release of film was an epilogue that reveals Garrett to have been killed by the same man who ordered the outlaw-turned-lawman to shoot Billy. A prologue was also cut, as were a scene between Garrett and his wife, and the roles of Barry Sullivan,
Elisha Cook, Jr., and Dub Taylor. Indeed, at those moments when the film begins to hit its stride, awkward edits undermine its development. Nevertheless the film is visually stunning, and Peckinpah makes great use of his Durango, Mexico, locations. He and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer (TWO-LANE
BLACKTOP; WALKER) also make cameo appearances.
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- Released: 1973
- Rating: R
- Review: After director Sam Peckinpah handed in his final cut of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, which he considered his finest film, the hierarchy at MGM saw fit to radically reedit it. The approximately 15 minutes cut from the film so drastically altered Peckinpah… (more)