Junior Bonner

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s after Straw Dogs and director Sam Peckinpah within ABC Pictures goes from the grim siege in Cornwall, England to the southern home of Prescott where a certain man who’s time has past deals with the struggles both in and outside the rodeo stage. The ride is rough and the name doesn’t escape because when push comes to shove and that bull lets off, within 8 seconds you will know the name Junior Bonner.

For the first time in his life, Junior Bonner (Steve McQueen) is alive inside but his outside pockets are empty. Rodeo is his game and the annual rodeo comes to his hometown. Upon arrival, Junior has to deal with a mother (Ida Lupino) seperated from his father (Robert Preston) who’s in the hospital and has dreams of life elsewhere where in that hospital room is his other son Curly(Joe Don Baker) on the television who seems to be making money off of selling anything. They all have their say with Junior but nothing comes in the way of him at this particular rodeo which is not only a chance to fill those pockets but his last chance at becoming something and riding it out no matter what hangs out in between.

The tone in this particular Sam Peckinpah tale is less grim and calmer and more straight forward this time around, but in this comes a satisfying tale of reaching back up from the bottom without apologies and nothing sells that better than the presence of Steve McQueen.

He gives a very mannered performance as Junior, a rodeo rider who feels there’s more to the game than a second wind and doesn’t mind what comes in between him and has a lot of love for his family despite the fact that he’s not around often. It’s also always a pleasure to see Robert Preston in any movie and the interaction between him and McQueen presents a realistic portrait of a father and son grown and older in struggling times.

The violent gritty action that’s expected from many Peckinpah films is not to be in this one. However, the sense of chaos is always apparent in Peckinpah’s films and this one leaves some room for some in the mid to last third of the film as well as some surprises along the way.

Like any good director, diversification is key and Sam always fits under that category and could almost have a category of his own thanks to the wide spectrum of films in between the bloody epics he’s known for.

Here, things are simple, have three acts and a few extra touches along the way without taking away from the overall effect. Junior Bonner is one of a special straightforward breed that is a winner all its own.

Video: How does it look?

The good news is that Junior Bonner is intact in it’s 2.35:1 presentation with it’s clarity amongst the scope of the land and the clouds of the south. The bad news is the picture is not anamorphic and those expecting such will be disappointed again for this is the second release of this title but with a slightly better picture balancing black and white at different times along with brightening up a little bit in a few scenes without too much age on the overall picture. The quality does reflect the picture of its time and there are very few specks but the result is satisfactory as it is.

Audio: How does it sound?

With that being said for it’s visual transfer, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track fares just as well as the dialogue and the actions come out clear along the music track and the effects track are given a good balance without the usual seventies muted effect used for that period keeping in tune with other Peckinpah titles audibly throughout all channels. Even in the rodeo matches, the buzzer has its effect (even if Family Feud stole it for it’s X Strike sound effect). This disc also has English, French and Spanish Language Subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

At first it looked as if Junior Bonner’s extras were as empty as his old house, but not so as we bring you (the sole extra) another in the ongoing series of DVD commentaries called Peckinpah’s Present on Peckinpah’s Past with our moderator Nick Redman and joining him are the historians spreading out all things Peckinpah– Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and Nick Weddle.

In this installment, our four panelists are in unison with their admiration for this film going down their reactions, the business the film didn’t do and noticing a lot that Sam Peckinpah inserted and worked with all cast and crew down to its chaos moment to the effective editing used.

Eight seconds are up and once again the informative track sticks out scoring high and staying on long enough to win the crowd (as well as this viewer) one more time.

Despite a lack of extras (not to mention would love a trailer on this title), Junior Bonner is a wide yet smaller effort from Sam Peckinpah gathering a solid cast and another bit of Peckinpah history spread about coming well recommended.

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