One 'Wild,' gritty Western

The Baltimore Sun

Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (2 p.m., AMC), the story of a band of outlaws looking to make one last grand stand, brought to the screen a Western like no one had seen before.

Violent and dirty, with heroes whose distinctions between good and evil seem based on a sliding scale, it brought renewed energy to a genre that had been pretty much tapped out by the time of its 1969 release.

If John Ford's Westerns were all about heroes and mythology and the steady pace of civilization, Peckinpah's centered on what happens when ruthless men find themselves in ruthless times. Brutal stuff, though with a beauty that's almost disturbingly compelling.

Sidney Poitier's first Hollywood film, 1950's No Way Out (6 p.m., TCM), features the 23-year-old actor as Dr. Luther Brooks, a black resident forced to care for a pair of thieves brought to the prison ward of a hospital.

When one thief dies, his racist brother (Richard Widmark) is convinced Brooks murdered him and seeks vengeance by getting word out to his buds to wreak havoc on the black community. But Widmark's character isn't the only guy around who's angry and fed up. Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film, Oscar-nominated for its screenplay (co-written by Lester Samuels), was incendiary stuff in its day, and the performances by Poitier, Widmark and Linda Darnell, still pack a wallop.

Watch for uncredited performances by Ossie Davis (also in his film debut) and Ruby Dee.

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