Butch & Sundance – The Early Days and Death Hunt – DVD Review

There’s always a rush watching action in the Wild West. While cowboys chase each other around, they have to survive each other and an unforgiving environment. There’s always a chance of a rattlesnake or bear jumping into the fray. Their pursuit has no boundaries including going so far northwest to end up near the Arctic Circle. You have to be a special kind of man to survive the elements. Butch and Sundance – The Early Days and Death Hunt is a double feature DVD that lets men be men in the open frontier.

After the major success of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, the studio wanted to get another shot at the characters. It took nearly a decade. They couldn’t hire Paul Newman and Robert Redford to assume the roles once more. Plucky studio creative executives came up with a prequel so they could hire younger (and inexpensive) actors. They found two actors who would go on to have long screen careers. William Katt (The Greatest American Hero) took over for Redford while Tom Berenger (Platoon) became the younger Newman. The movie covers how the duo came together and learned their outlaw trade. There’s loads of slapstick as their early criminal endeavors don’t quite come off as planned. There’s a lot of future famous faces as part of their learning curve including Peter Weller, Brian Dennehy, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli and Jill Eikenberry. The director this time about is Richard Lester. He had a comedy action background having helmed The Three Musketeers and A Hard Day’s Night. It might not be an Oscar winner, but it’s carries on the outlaws’ legacy.

Death Hunt is the prize of this double feature. This is a man’s movie with Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin racing through the Yukon territory. Bronson is a trapper that interrupts a dog fight organized by Ed Lauter. Bronson pays for a nearly dead dog and leaves. Lauter is upset that the fight was interrupted and goes after Bronson. He wants his dog back. In the ensuing argument, Bronson kills one of Lauter’s toadies. Lauter uses this to get the Mounties on Bronson’s case. Lee Marvin runs the unit with Andrew Stevens (future Cinemax After Dark superstar) and Carl Weathers as his men. He doesn’t do too bad for women with Angie Dickinson as his romantic interest. Because of Lauter’s whining, Marvin has to deal with Bronson. What happens when these two clash is an epic battle. The bullets fly. Cabins explode. Gold teeth are plucked from dead bodies. It’s a clash of wills as Bronson refuses to surrender and Marvin like a good Mountie must get his man. Director Peter Hunt had revolutionized action as the editor on the early James Bond films and director of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He brings that skill and experience to this film. This is the last great starring role for Bronson. He takes advantage of the quiet trapper character. Marvin more than matches the intensity of his starring partner.

As double features go, Butch & Sundance – The Early Days and Death Hunt makes a fine action night since the films are about duos. The lightness of the first title calms you down before the relentless nature of the second movie kicks up the adrenline. You might want to keep a sweater handy before starting Death Hunt since you’ll feel the Canadian cool.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic for both films. The transfers are in good shape for being shop in remote locations. It’s amazing how much dust can get in the camera in the wilderness. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. There’s nothing too fancy in either mix.

Trailers are included for both films,

Butch & Sundance – The Early Days and Death Hunt is a thrilling double feature. Butch & Sundance gives us the early day of two outlaw icons. Death Hunt shows us the twilight of two movie icons. It’s a double treat for all concerned.

Shout! Factory presents Butch & Sundance – The Early Days and Death Hunt. Starring: William Katt. Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin. Boxset Contents: 2 films on 1 DVD. Released on DVD: February 1, 2011.

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