Spring 2015

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75 SPRING 2015 / CINEMONTAGE From the moment Wurlitzer and Peckinpah began to work on the script and the film moved into pre-production with Carroll, there was trouble. Peckinpah was still shooting The Getaway (1972) and given that commitment and his ever-increasing alcoholism and erratic behavior, Billy the Kid received less than full attention. A nightmarish atmosphere was created by studio boss James Aubrey, a television executive who had no sympathy for film as art and was under pressure from MGM to produce big- name box office winners to generate quick cash for the studio's new venture: the MGM Grand hotel casinos. Peckinpah's film was not the only one to suffer from this misguided policy, but Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid became the most notorious. Seydor offers details of the complicated casting (the studio wanted big name stars, but would not budget for them — even Brando got involved again for a while), equipment malfunction (a days' worth of footage rendered useless because Aubrey would not authorize money for a camera tech, resulting in a cracked lens-mounting flange), debilitating flu that hit many of the cast and crew (including Peckinpah), and the sometimes violent clashes of personalities that characterized a Peckinpah shoot. He also chronicles the successes, such as the spectacular cinematography by John Coquillon and a consummate performance by James Coburn as Garrett. The production sections of Seydor's book are the least satisfying. What Authentic Death needs is a list of everyone involved: real people, the names their characters have in the novel, the various screenplays and the films; identification of the actors who played them, and the key crew members and executives. There are so many different names that the narrative becomes labyrinthian. The problem is made more acute by lack of an index. A good addition would be a chart like ones used to keep the names in War and Peace straight. Understanding the book also demands knowledge of the film — and the Peckinpah mystique. Seydor appropriately refrains from repeating sordid rumors of the director's behavior both on and off set, but many will not have heard those wild tales. This is especially frustrating when Seydor repeatedly mentions Peckinpah's misogyny, but never provides a concrete example. Fortunately, the book creates a desire to watch more Peckinpah films and learn more about the man himself. Authentic Death is best in describing the tortuous post- production process. The schedule for post was reduced, and reduced again by trouble on the set, to only 13 weeks, with a first cut to be delivered one week after shooting ended. The picture editors were to be Bob Wolfe and Spottiswoode — the team that worked successfully on Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971) and The Getaway. For unknown reasons, Peckinpah replaced Wolfe with Gareth Craven, who at that point had edited only sound. Nastiness abounded among Aubrey, Peckinpah and Carroll, who fought for Peckinpah's vision, but was under the thumb of the studio. Extra editors were hired and work went on around the clock. Adding to the confusion was the fact that composer Jerry Fielding walked off the picture because he despised Bob Dylan's song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" playing over an important scene. Dylan, who also acted in Pat Garrett, had never worked on a score, but ended up as the default composer, with little input from Peckinpah, who felt loyal to Fielding. This left Spottiswoode in charge of every aspect of post, an impossible load. Peckinpah's own behavior became more erratic. His contract allowed two previews of his director's cut, but by the time that came around, his animosity toward Aubrey and (unjustly) Carroll, was so great that he did not even bother to attend the previews, a true slap in the face to the editors. Eventually, Peckinpah simply walked away from the film. Spottiswoode — the white knight of the story — and team delivered a theatrical version, released with little success. Seydor devotes two chapters to dissecting the various "original" and reconstructed versions of the film. Here he excels; he is probably the only person who has seen every version available and he was key in creating the 2005 Special Edition DVD. He meticulously reviews each, even his own work, from a 2015 perspective. These chapters speak directly to readers who want to understand what editing can and cannot do. The comparisons offer extraordinary lessons in how material (good, bad and mediocre) can be edited in many ways to achieve various emotional, artistic and narrative results. Seydor concludes with deft personal and professional opinions: "Ten Ways of Looking at an Unfinished Masterpiece and Its Director." If anyone can speak authoritatively about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, it is Paul Seydor. His knowledge illuminates a strange and fascinating story that should interest everyone who makes and loves films. f History's Door CONTINUED FROM PAGE 68 Authentic Death is best in describing the tortuous post-production process. The schedule for post was reduced, and reduced again by trouble on the set, to only 13 weeks, with a first cut to be delivered one week after shooting ended. CUT/PRINT

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