When director Sam Peckinpah made 1969's The Wild Bunch -- a highlight of the spring film series at the Denver Art Museum -- he'd been working in Hollywood for well over a decade and had three previous features under his gun belt. But that didn't stop him from transforming the shoot-'em-up genre via a death-of-the-West saga in which violence is depicted in simultaneously exquisite and unsettling slow-motion imagery.
The opus, which stars William Holden, Robert Ryan and a cast that participated in more than its share of Tinseltown oaters, certainly deserves to be seen in a first-class setting, and the DAM provides one. The director's cut of the movie, which runs eight minutes longer than the most familiar theatrical release, screens in the Lewis I. Sharp Auditorium, a new, 266-seat facility. According to Tom Delapa, the museum's film-series curator, the key components are "35-millimeter and 16-millimeter reel-to-reel projectors that are made for archival prints. They run at variable speeds perfect for either sound films or silents -- they're very quiet -- and they treat the film very delicately." Couple these attributes with a Dolby surround-sound system and a room specifically designed to show it off, and the result is what Delapa calls "a first-rate facility that's equivalent to the theater at the Museum of Modern Art."
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The Wild Bunch rides for one night only, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. Tickets are $7 for DAM members, senior citizens and students with ID, and $8 for the general public. Details are available at 720-913-0105 or www.denverartmuseum.org.