Another Reason to Love Steve McQueen


Looking back, it seems as if Steve McQueen might’ve shared a rope of movie star DNA with Humphrey Bogart—both modest-sized, weathered, not entirely attractive men of few words, and yet their relationship with the camera had the swoony, wart-forgiving, entranced-by-vapors love-voltage of the cosmically conjoined. They also both read dialogue as if already bruised by the hurt and moral compromise they knew was coming whether they spoke or not. Along with the slick, snazzy, and relatively dull The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), the first of this month’s two boxes of McQueenia carries the inevitable staples that lightning-struck the man’s career—The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963), both overlong, beer-buddy faves that today seem interesting, if at all, for McQueen alone. But then there’s Junior Bonner (1972), Sam Peckinpah’s relaxed, lazy-boned, sardonic vision of American rodeo culture, made as if on vacation between the spiteful nightmares of Straw Dogs and The Getaway. Coming from an era in Hollywood moviemaking when satiric-realistic, shot-on-location delvings into off-road Yankee lifestyle was not only in fashion but politically necessary, Peckinpah’s meandering neo-western—in which McQueen is a fading rodeo star and scion of a dissolving family of four-flushers and counterjumpers—pegs the day and age, never sentimentalizes, and even gives both supporting-perf scumbags Bill McKinney and Joe Don Baker roles with ambivalence and heart. McQueen’s reticent personality and hypnotic physical grace are in perfect service, and the air of authenticity is stinging. Extras on the set include new making-of docs, audio commentaries, and stills.