This past spring, at ConDor — a science fiction convention in San Diego — my friend Denise Dumars recommended the film The Wild Bunch. She suggested that it’s a great steampunk film from the days before the term steampunk was coined.
Sam Peckinpah’s film tells the story of a band of outlaws who are seeing the west change around them. The railroad is hunting them down and they disappear into Mexico, which is in the middle of the revolution. They’re hired by one of the generals to steal a load of weapons from a train in the United States.
It’s definitely historical fiction — blending some elements of both westerns and war films — but is it steampunk?
On the pro-steampunk side, the movie very much addresses the impact of technology such as machine guns and automobiles on the characters. It also looks at the bigger social changes that come about when those who control the technology, such as railroad men, become a force to be reckoned with in society. There’s even a guy who wears goggles as a hatband, like a certain author I know has done!
All of that noted, one characteristic of steampunk is that the technology is usually presented as anachronistic in some way. For example, airships in widespread use over Victorian London or plasma guns in the old west. Nothing in The Wild Bunch is really anachronistic or speculative.
One element of the movie I found personally interesting was the exploration of the Mexican Revolution. As it turns out, I spent part of this week writing a steampunk vision of the revolution. No question my version is steampunk since I’m definitely introducing technology that was not used historically — and Pancho Villa even makes a journey to an alternate Earth in my story! I hope to tell you more about this project soon!
Whether you think The Wild Bunch is steampunk or not, it’s a great film featuring the likes of William Holden and Ernest Borgnine. If you’re a fan of steampunk, westerns, or war films, you’ll probably enjoy this movie.
Speaking of Pancho Villa, I’m signing books all day today at the Hotel Gadsden in Douglas, Arizona. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to drop by. It’s said that Pancho Villa rode his horse up the hotel’s staircase!
Even if you’re not close enough to drop by the Hotel Gadsden, please do drop by my vampire blog tomorrow. I have some exciting news about Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order that you won’t want to miss. My vampire blog is at: http://dlsummers.wordpress.com