Sam Peckinpah – The Deadly Companions (1961)


With its small cast, character-driven story, and modest production values, Sam Peckinpah’s first feature film seems very like another of his TV Western dramas–just one that happened to get shot in Panavision. The director’s favorite TV actor, Brian Keith, plays a surly loner named Yellowleg who ventures into Indian country with a dance-hall girl (Maureen O’Hara), the corpse of her little boy, and a pair of marginally human specimens (Steve Cochran and Chill Wills) who more than justify the title. Everybody has, or seems to have, a guilty or shameful secret: Why does Yellowleg keep his hat on? Was Kit (O’Hara) a widow, or a whore? Action, menace, and ethical dialogues come and go pretty much according to TV rhythms, and the visuals and editing are conventional. But there’s enough quirky character work and offbeat mood-making to hint at the singular filmmaker soon to arrive big-time. –Richard T. Jameson

no pass