Sam Peckinpah – Ride the High Country (1962)

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Ride the High Country is the one Sam Peckinpah movie about which there has never been controversy–save at MGM in 1962, when a new studio regime opted to dump this beautiful, heartbreakingly elegiac Western into the bottom half of a double-bill. Westerns rarely even got reviewed back then, so it’s wellnigh miraculous that critics discovered the movie and raved about it. Newsweek called it the best American picture of the year.
Veteran cowboy stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea portray aging gunslingers in the twilight of the Old West. McCrea’s character, Steve Judd, signs on to transport a shipment of gold from a remote mining camp. Gil Westrum (Scott), an old crony now trick-shooting in a carnival, agrees to help but really aims to seduce Judd into stealing the treasure. The slow-building tension between longtime friends–one still true to the code he’s lived by, the other having drifted away from it–anticipates the tortuous personal dilemmas played out to the death by Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and Benny and Elita in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Continue reading

Sam Peckinpah – The Deadly Companions (1961)

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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 Continue reading

Sam Peckinpah – Convoy (1978)

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The CB (citizen’s band) radio fad had nearly run its course when this feel-good action film was made by director Sam Peckinpah. In the story, based on C.W. McCall’s song “Convoy”, a group of struggling truckers (who stay in touch by CB ) run into a situation which ignites their indignation. They arrange to form a truck convoy under the leadership of the man whose CB nickname is “Rubber Duck” (Kris Kristofferson). He is the most aggrieved of the bunch, having been harassed beyond the point of endurance by Lyle Wallace (Ernest Borgnine) a blackmailing traffic cop who pursues him ever more frantically through several states after he fails to submit to the phony speed trap he had set up. As news of the truck convoy spreads, unexpected allies join the line, and the now-gigantic illegal protest becomes the subject of national news reports.
-All Movie Guide Review Continue reading

Sam Peckinpah – Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

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After the deathwish of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, it’s logical that the spirit of a dead man should dominate its successor. And for a director so preoccupied with male virility, it’s hardly surprising that Peckinpah has made a film primarily about impotence: Oates, a washed-up American bar-room pianist, hunts for the head of the stud Garcia and for his own machismo through a contemporary Mexico that reflects Peckinpah’s continuing love affair with that country. There’s no suspense; what happens is as predictable as it is inevitable. Peckinpah has structured a slow, almost meditative film out of carefully fashioned images that weave inextricable links between sex, death, music and violence. — CPe,Time Out Film Guide 13 Continue reading

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