Sam Peckinpah, Lou Lombardo, Lucien Ballard - The Wild Bunch, 1969
Lombardo's usage of speed as a variable
Even today, Lou Lombardo's editing of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch elevates the movie to a status few other films have reached [on a technical level]. Lombardo also worked as a second unit director. The brilliance of his editing techniques is on display throughout the movie, but the opening sequence in the town square is masterful in that there are several different speeds running simultaneously. As the shootout transpires, you get what appears to be a regular speed "real time." Then, when a man falls from a building, the moment is captured first in full speed and, when Lombardo cuts back to it again, you get a completely different speed: in slow motion.
Peckinpah used at least six different cameras, and Lombardo's editing occasionally places the viewer directly in the scene. Most Westerns give the viewer a "safe" distance and beautiful, wide landscape shots (a la John Ford), but Peckinpah and Lombardo place you squarely within action sequences, rendering the viewer more vulnerable, more responsible/convicted, and more engaged. With the Vietnam War going on, Peckinpah wanted the audiences for The Wild Bunch to object to the war or at least feel convicted, and The Wild Bunch is essentially a war movie -- in the same way that Peckinpah's WWII-themed Cross of Iron is. Even today, it is doubtful most viewers who watch this Western will respond in the manner Peckinpah had wished for, and he was disappointed about how the war aspect basically went over people's heads.
In reference to The Wild Bunch, Roger Crittenden wrote that he thinks Lombardo still has the record for most edits on a film at 3,642. Crittenden mentions the variables of time and speed, writing that Lombardo "stretched or truncated real time to suit the feel of each moment." One of the most incredible sequences, with respect to Lombardo's editing, occurs at 5:23 when the glass is shattered by gunfire and the hats and glass panels begin to fall in slow motion. Right after the window is blown out and you see the mannequin topple over, Lombardo incorporated the gunfight at regular speed. The editing here is just breathtaking, as is the cinematography by Lucien Ballard -- who was also a slow motion specialist like Lombardo. If you ever see Gordon Parks Jr.'s Thomasine and Bushrod (1974), you'll once again notice Ballard's signature use of slow motion techniques.
Peckinpah and Lombardo spent six months sequestered in an editing bay -- based in Mexico -- sorting through and editing 330,000 feet of film, resulting in 3,642 edits -- all of which were achieved based on 1,288 camera setups per William Holden's biography. It's no wonder, then, why this is such a great film from a legendary director. Lombardo outlived both Peckinpah and Ballard: Lombardo's last film was Norman Jewison's Other People's Money (1991); Ballard's last Peckinpah collaboration was The Getaway (1972); and Peckinpah's final effort was The Osterman Weekend (1983). If you've seen my original post about Lombardo's work on The Wild Bunch at the "Best Film Editing Sequences" bead, you will notice I have made some significant additions to this post. - Eri