Critic’s Choice: New Books on ‘The Wild Bunch’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Ben Johnson, from left, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine in the 1969 movie “The Wild Bunch.”
(Warner Bros.)
Film Critic

My favorite kind of film books tend to be those that go behind the scenes, that provide inside looks at how celebrated films were put together, and two recent volumes fall squarely in that category.

W.K. Stratton’s “The Wild Bunch” (Bloomsbury), published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Sam Peckinpah’s signature western, takes you deeper than deep into the on-set shenanigans and off-screen dramas of a film that married an old-fashioned belief in the importance of codes of honor with a modern willingness to explore ambivalent attitudes toward violence.

(For those who want to see the film on the big screen and meet the author, a book signing/screening has been scheduled for Feb. 26 at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena).

A very different kind of film, Judy Garland’s iconic “The Wizard of Oz,” gets the behind-the-scenes treatment as well in “The Road To Oz,” written by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman (Lyons Press), two serious Oz collectors whose illustrations include some wonderful on-set photos.