"Mapache" means "raccoon", in Spanish.
John Wayne complained that the film destroyed the myth of the Old West.
Sam Peckinpah's first two choices for the role of Deke Thornton were Richard Harris (who had co-starred in Major Dundee) and Brian Keith (who had worked with Peckinpah on The Westerner and The Deadly Companions). Harris was never formally approached, but Keith was, and turned the part down. Robert Ryan was ultimately cast in the part after Peckinpah saw him in The Dirty Dozen.
Ernest Borgnine's limp wasn't acting. He broke his foot while filming The Split and had to wear a cast throughout the Mexican location shoot.
According to L.Q. Jones, he and Strother Martin approached director Sam Peckinpah with an idea to add more depth to their characters (T.C. and Coffer). The idea was to add a hint of a homosexual relationship between their characters. Peckinpah liked the idea and the footage made it into the final release version.
According to Sam Peckinpah biographer Marshall Fine, there was concern on the set over the bridge explosion. Bud Hulburd, the head of the special-effects crew, was not particularly experienced, having ascended the ranks after Peckinpah fired his predecessors. Stuntman Joe Canutt appealed to both Hulburd and Peckinpah to no avail, so finally, out of concern for the other stuntmen, Canutt enlisted the help of screenwriter Gordon T. Dawson, who was instructed to stand behind Hulburd with a club. If the stuntmen began to fall before the final charge was set off, something that would've resulted in death, Dawson was to club Hulburd unconscious before he detonated the last charge. Luckily, the stunt went off without a hitch.
According to editor Lou Lombardo the original release print contains some 3,643 editorial cuts, more than any other Technicolor film ever processed. Some of these cuts are near subliminal, consisting of three or four frames, making them almost imperceptible to the naked eye.
According to Harrigan, Thornton is Pike's Judas goat. A Judas goat is an animal trained to lead others into a slaughterhouse. Its life is spared as its 'betrays' its own kind.
After filming the scene where Ernest Borgnine and William Holden sit by a campfire and their characters vow they "wouldn't have it any other way", it was hard for director Sam Peckinpah to yell, "Cut!" because he was crying.
Apart from American stunt men dressed as Mexican soldiers, who performed some of the more dangerous stunts, all of the "troops" involved in the final shootout at Mapache's headquarters were real Mexican soldiers from a cavalry regiment that had been hired by the film company.
At least three names from this film have been used in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In addition to starring a vampire character named Angel, the series also had an episode (2.12 "Bad Eggs") that featured two vampire cowboys named Lyle and Tector Gorch. Also, Luke Perry's character's last name in the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Pike.
Before William Holden was cast, the role was turned down by Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone and Robert Mitchum. Marvin actually accepted the role but pulled out after he was offered a larger pay deal to star in Paint Your Wagon.
Before filming began, William Holden and Sam Peckinpah argued over the mustache Peckinpah felt the Pike Bishop character would wear, because Holden reportedly did not like his image on film with one. Director Peckinpah won the argument, and Holden wore a false mustache during filming.
Body count: 145
Co-writer/director Sam Peckinpah stated that one of his goals for this movie was to give the audience "some idea of what it is to be gunned down." A memorable incident occurred, to that end, as Peckinpah's crew were consulting him on the "gunfire" effects to be used in the film. Not satisfied with the results from the squibs his crew had brought for him, Peckinpah became exasperated; he finally hollered, "That's not what I want! *That's not what I want!*" Then he grabbed an actual revolver and fired it into a nearby wall. The gun empty, Peckinpah barked at his stunned crew: "That's the effect I want!!"
Deke Thornton describes Gen. Mapache as "a killer for Huerta". He was referring to real-life Gen. Victoriano Huerta, who had overthrown and murdered Mexican President Francisco I. Madero in 1913, setting off a civil war. The Mexican town this film was shot in, Parras in Coahuila state, was Madero's birthplace.
During the opening robbery sequence, two children are seen holding each other, and watching as one of the robbers rides by on horseback and scoops up a bag of money laying on the ground. The boy in that scene is Matthew Peckinpah, director Sam Peckinpah's son.
Excluding the start and end credits, this film contains about 2,721 edits in about 138 minutes of action. This equates to an average shot length of three seconds. The "Shootout at Bloody Porch" contains about 325 edits in five minutes of action, for an average shot length slightly under one second.
Final film of Albert Dekker'.
Following the film's production, it was severely edited by the studio and producer Phil Feldman (in Sam Peckinpah's absence), cutting its length by about 20 minutes - remarkably, none of the excised footage was violent. Due to its violence, the film was originally threatened with an "X" rating by the MPAA's (Motion Picture Association of America) newly created Production Code Administration, but an "R" rating was its final decision. The film was restored to its original "director's cut" length of 143 minutes and threatened with an NC-17 rating when submitted to the MPAA ratings board in 1993 prior to a re-release in 1994, holding up the film's re-release for many months. The reinstated scenes (including two important flashbacks from Pike's past, and a battle scene between Pancho Villa's rebels and Gen. Mapache's forces at the telegraph station) depicted the underlying character and motivations of the leader of the Bunch. With numerous elaborate montage sequences with staccato shifts, the film set a record for more edits (3,643 shot-to-shot edits at one count) than any other Technicolor film up to its time.