If they move, kill’em: the best of Sam Peckinpah

The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Junior Bonner I hold up as examples of the gentleness of which Sam Peckinpah was capable. In the 2000s, I suspect, an imaginative producer would have hired him to film a Harry Potter film, and it would not have been a mercenary or cynical gesture on his part to accept the job — he would’ve understood how to stage the set pieces, how to deal with the children.

Discovering ci-ne-mah in the nineties, few Peckinpah films haunted local video store; I had to make do with The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country, Straw Dogs, and The Getaway for many years. Around a dozen years ago Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia — a surrealist tone poem that marries violence and gutter humor — and the complete Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid started appearing in more conversations. I want to direct readers to the least seen of Peckinpah’s films: his adaptation of Katherine Ann Porter’s short novel Noon Wine, shot on an El Cheap-O budget but alert to the text’s subtleties, boasting career-high work by Jason Robards as the garrulous moron (Robards, not the most copacetic of actors, was so impressed with the results that he kept a print in his personal collection).

Finally, for all the justifiable acclaim earned by The Wild Bunch, it has obscured Peckinpah’s achievement in Ride the High Country, among the noblest and most graceful of Western; call it the G-rated The Wild Bunch. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea have the kind of chemistry that inspires slash fiction.

1. Ride the High Country
2. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
3. The Wild Bunch
4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
5. Junior Bonner
6. Straw Dogs
7. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
8. Noon Wine
9. The Getaway
10. Convoy

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