Editing Analysis: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


Photo courtesy of Center for Creative Media

The opening scene of the classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a master lesson in character introduction.  Shot in sepia with almost no dialogue, the shots and editing techniques are the foundation of the introduction of Paul Newman as legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy. After a black screen with the title “Most of what follows is true” the shot cuts to an exterior close up of a window.  Barely noticeable through the window, a slow focus pull reveals it to be a close up of Butch, the first of many in the scene.  There are not many edits in the first half of the scene.  We see Butch in close up walk across the street to a building.  As he scans the building up and down there are cuts to Point of View shots of the building.   It is when he gets inside the building that the real editing begins.  Inside the building we see close ups of Butch cut with several images that reveal this to be a bank.  There are close ups of a button behind a counter, a bell on the wall, bars on the counter, and a man carrying bags to a safe.  All of these are cross cut with close ups of Butch’s face.  During these cuts it is revealed that Butch is in a bank and a very well protected one at that.  As the scene comes to an end, a security guard emerges from the shadows. There is another point of View sequence of Butch watching the security guard closing the window shutters and barring them.  This scares Butch and he leaves the bank, complaining to the security guard about all of the new security features.

The use of the close ups as well as the Point of View cuts introduce Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy.  It is a very effective way of setting how Butch and Sundance’s world is changing and what are they going to do to adapt. Judging by the phenomenal facial expressions by Newman we can tell that he better think of something fast because even though it’s the opening scene, time is already running out for these two outlaws.

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