Screengrab: Before Butch


by Richard Lutz.

Breathes there a man with soul so dead who hath never said: ‘Boy, I groove on Butch and Sundance’?

I mean, what a film and, gulp, it’s more than 40 years old and still sharp as a tack.

But there is little doubt it was based on a minor classic: Ride The High Country (Wed; 3.20, Film4) wherein two jaded cowdudes on the loose sign on to transport gold from a mining community to the bank.

The plot is a bit creaky and shakey but Randolph Scott and Joel McCrae gotta be the original Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and I will eat my lasso if anyone can prove otherwise.

The 1962 film, directed by shoot- em up specialist Sam Peckinpah, is laced with acid dialogue and buddy/buddy hate and love as they moan and argue their way through that beautiful high country with a lone women. Familiar?

It is knowing, funny and with a twist or two that will keep your fickle eye on the flatscreen and your finger off the remote next channel button.

Scott was a rock jawed B movie cowboy, always in the shadow of Gary Cooper. Ride the High Country was his last film. He said he could not do better.  Newman and Redford came along 7 years later with Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and struck gold with that twinkling script, and love/hate coupling.

One footnote: Ride The High Country was initially a vehicle for John Wayne and Cooper. But the latter died before it all could take shape. Thank God. Those two super stars would have killed it stone dead. Instead we have two old actors playing old smart mouthed cynical cowpokes as the west is changing.

Other Screengrab tips: Johnny Depp visits Peter Pan’s Neverland (Skyt Movies Family; 21.30, Tues); there’s the whacko Caddyshack (ITV1; Wed, 22.35) with Bill Murray exterminating gophers with dynamite on a golf  course; and the delightful Sideways (FRI; 19.45, Sky Movies Indie) which made Paul Giametti’s name as a nerd on the wine trail.

Finally…a fine farewell to Ernest Borgnine, a man with the face of a rock  who for decades could do any role in movieland or tv-ville. He died yesterday in his mid nineties.

Who could forget his  earthy Ragnor in The Vikings, his heavyweight nastiness  in The Wild Bunch or his lighter roles such as loveable lead rogue in McHale’s Navy?

Goodbye Ragnor. Take your might sword with you.