I continue to study the Western genre. I have now launched a podcast about the making of Western films. Listen here

If I was sitting in a studio meeting in the 70s and the idea of making a prequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came up, I would have cleared my throat, interrupted, and plainly stated, “There is no way you could make a successful movie.”

No matter how good the actors and the script are, no matter who is directing, this is a concept that was born to fail. And that’s pretty much what we’re offered. The two leads are juts about the best choices from that time that I could think of. They’re both good actors. William Katt is a dead ringer for a young Redford. Berenger is charming and attractive, though he would best fit grittier roles later in his career. The director of choice, Richard Lester, makes sense. He brought off the romping musketeer adventures.

So why does it fail? Because we’re set up for a constant game of comparison with the original and even if it hadn’t achieved a “classic” status at that time, it was already iconic. At every turn, we’re forced to compare the decent leads to the pitch perfect performances of Redford and Newman. We’re asked to accept a silly buddy comedy tone while thinking of the brilliant blend of humor, tragedy, and eccentricity in George Roy Hill’s original. Most of this film isn’t bad but it’s always inferior and that’s why it never had a chance. Imagine for a moment that this same movie was made but without the mention of Butch or Sundance… It would be an enjoyable, comedic Western. But with those names in the title, the movie remains doomed.

Watched on Tubi.