Weekly Film Recap #20 (Sam Peckinpah)

Sam Peckinpah.jpg

Sam Peckinpah, AKA Bloody Sam, is one of the most iconic directors in history. His distinct style came through the realistic, and often times repulsive, portrayal of violence and gore. Peckinpah was quoted saying “Killing a man isn’t clean and quick and simple. It’s bloody and awful.” That quote is all anyone needs before stepping into one of Peckinpah’s films for the first time.

The beginning of his career started with modest sized Westerns until 1965 when he first kind of came into his own with Major Dundee. Major Dundee reigned in two significant traits that would become consistent with all of his later films: 1) It was controversially violent and 2) it was his first clash with the studios.

Peckinpah was notorious for being hard to work with due to a pretty bad alcohol addiction (and later, drug addiction) he developed in the 60s. Studios would frequently edit down Peckinpah’s films for his graphic portrayal of sex and violence. On top of that, Sam would often send in cuts of his films that came in far over 3 hours long. The studios felt they didn’t have a choice in editing down his films and this became a consistent barrier for Sam Peckinpah throughout the rest of his career.

The films we talk about this week kick off with The Wild Bunch, the film that revolutionized the Western genre and put Sam Peckinpah on the map. That jumpstarted a pretty prominent few years for Peckinpah as he became one of the most sought after new directors. He went on to direct other classic and controversial films such as Straw Dogs and Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, which we’ve talked about in previous retrospectives here on Mandalay (70s British Cinema & Acid Westerns)!

Peckinpah had plenty of amazing films throughout his time, but you start to see that come the mid 70s onward, it was really hit or miss. His last few films in particular, with the exception of Cross of Iron, are all complete messes. These were all at the height of Peckinpah’s alcohol and substance abuse and by the end of the 70s, he became blacklisted and didn’t work again for 5 years when he closed his career out with by far his worst film, The Osterman Weekend. I think these 7 films do a good job at showing Peckinpah’s range as filmmaker. Enjoy and comment your favorite down below!

THE WILD BUNCH     (dir. Sam Peckinpah)    The Wild Brunch  shocked audiences across the world and helped launch a promising young director into prominence.  Sam Peckinpah uses  The Wild Bunch  as a monstrous vehicle meant to bid farewell to the end of the traditional Western era. With a pretty big cast,  The Wild Bunch  follows a group of bandits as they attempt to make one final heist. After finding out that the heist was a set-up put together by an old partner, the wild bunch now head down to Mexico as they seek refuge from the strong arm of the law.  Peckinpah highlighted this film with his excessive use of violence and gore to really demonstrate the changing tides the world of cinema was facing. The Western, specifically, was undergoing quite a bit of change as the New Hollywood movement was catching its first strides in the mid to late 60s. Peckinpah responded by symbolically killing off the traditional Western genre, with absolutely no mercy, with his primitive approach to violence in his characters.  As an ode to what once was, Peckinpah set a standard with  The Wild Bunch  that not only garnered him the nickname ‘Bloody Sam’, but also helped shape the revisionist approach to genre from there on out.    5/5     WATCH: Netflix

THE WILD BUNCH

(dir. Sam Peckinpah)

The Wild Brunch shocked audiences across the world and helped launch a promising young director into prominence.

Sam Peckinpah uses The Wild Bunch as a monstrous vehicle meant to bid farewell to the end of the traditional Western era. With a pretty big cast, The Wild Bunch follows a group of bandits as they attempt to make one final heist. After finding out that the heist was a set-up put together by an old partner, the wild bunch now head down to Mexico as they seek refuge from the strong arm of the law.

Peckinpah highlighted this film with his excessive use of violence and gore to really demonstrate the changing tides the world of cinema was facing. The Western, specifically, was undergoing quite a bit of change as the New Hollywood movement was catching its first strides in the mid to late 60s. Peckinpah responded by symbolically killing off the traditional Western genre, with absolutely no mercy, with his primitive approach to violence in his characters.

As an ode to what once was, Peckinpah set a standard with The Wild Bunch that not only garnered him the nickname ‘Bloody Sam’, but also helped shape the revisionist approach to genre from there on out.

5/5

WATCH: Netflix

THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE     (dir. Same Peckinpah)   Peckinpah took a slight detour from his typical modus operandi when he approached his follow up to  The Wild Bunch . Instead of attempting to top the violence he photographed in  The Wild Bunch , he opted for a more characterized film that ignores a lot of the conventions associated with Westerns. The result was  The Ballad of Cable Hogue !  Jason Robards stars as the titular character. Cable Hogue is alone in the desert after his two partners venture off to find water. When they come back empty handed, they rob Cable of the last bit of his water and leave him to the desert where he’ll meet his almost certain death. After five days of prayer and wandering, Cable stumbles upon a little bit of water that saves his life. He then goes on to buy the land the water was on and he creates a water station for any travelers passing through.  Like I said,  Cable Hogue  ignores a lot of the Western conventions like violence and gunplay, and instead, Peckinpah creates a more comedically driven film that doesn’t involve much violence at all.  Cable Hogue  plays out like a symbolic tale of the immigrant’s American dream. Hogue’s inability to read as well as his lack of funds place him at the bottom of the food chain without many options. However, with his intense passion and drive to make a better life for himself, he’s able to beat the odds.    4.5/5     WATCH: Putlocker (FREE)

THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE

(dir. Same Peckinpah)

Peckinpah took a slight detour from his typical modus operandi when he approached his follow up to The Wild Bunch. Instead of attempting to top the violence he photographed in The Wild Bunch, he opted for a more characterized film that ignores a lot of the conventions associated with Westerns. The result was The Ballad of Cable Hogue!

Jason Robards stars as the titular character. Cable Hogue is alone in the desert after his two partners venture off to find water. When they come back empty handed, they rob Cable of the last bit of his water and leave him to the desert where he’ll meet his almost certain death. After five days of prayer and wandering, Cable stumbles upon a little bit of water that saves his life. He then goes on to buy the land the water was on and he creates a water station for any travelers passing through.

Like I said, Cable Hogue ignores a lot of the Western conventions like violence and gunplay, and instead, Peckinpah creates a more comedically driven film that doesn’t involve much violence at all. Cable Hogue plays out like a symbolic tale of the immigrant’s American dream. Hogue’s inability to read as well as his lack of funds place him at the bottom of the food chain without many options. However, with his intense passion and drive to make a better life for himself, he’s able to beat the odds.

4.5/5

WATCH: Putlocker (FREE)

JUNIOR BONNER     (dir. Sam Peckinpah)   Now, if we hadn’t have already discussed  Straw Dogs  during out 70’s British Cinema series, we would have placed it right here in our Peckinpah retrospective. However,  Junior Bonner  started production just weeks after Sam Peckinpah finished  Straw Dogs , so we figure this is a good substitute for this spot in the list.   Junior Bonner  follows Steve McQueen as JR Bonner, a bull rider. He’s been away for sometime, but he returns back to his hometown of Prescott, AZ to re-connect with his family and compete in the annual Independence Day Rodeo.   Junior Bonner  deserves to be on this list for a few reasons. For one, like  Cable Hogue , it shows Peckinpah in an arena that isn’t predicated by it’s violence. It also shows Steve McQueen in one of his best performance. Unfortunately, this film has nowhere near the excitement or intrigue of any of Peckinpah’s other films that I’ve seen. Peckinpah approached this film with the intent of creating something that didn’t rely on violence and he does a great job of directing the film, but it didn’t have the comedy or intrigue that  The Ballad of Cable Hogue  had to rely on in place of violence. Unfortunately in this case, the story itself does absolutely nothing for me. I don’t think it would matter who directed this, it wouldn’t have been a W anyway.    2.5/5     WATCH: YouTube (FREE)

JUNIOR BONNER

(dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Now, if we hadn’t have already discussed Straw Dogs during out 70’s British Cinema series, we would have placed it right here in our Peckinpah retrospective. However, Junior Bonner started production just weeks after Sam Peckinpah finished Straw Dogs, so we figure this is a good substitute for this spot in the list.

Junior Bonner follows Steve McQueen as JR Bonner, a bull rider. He’s been away for sometime, but he returns back to his hometown of Prescott, AZ to re-connect with his family and compete in the annual Independence Day Rodeo.

Junior Bonner deserves to be on this list for a few reasons. For one, like Cable Hogue, it shows Peckinpah in an arena that isn’t predicated by it’s violence. It also shows Steve McQueen in one of his best performance. Unfortunately, this film has nowhere near the excitement or intrigue of any of Peckinpah’s other films that I’ve seen. Peckinpah approached this film with the intent of creating something that didn’t rely on violence and he does a great job of directing the film, but it didn’t have the comedy or intrigue that The Ballad of Cable Hogue had to rely on in place of violence. Unfortunately in this case, the story itself does absolutely nothing for me. I don’t think it would matter who directed this, it wouldn’t have been a W anyway.

2.5/5

WATCH: YouTube (FREE)

THE GETAWAY     (dir. Sam Peckinpah)   After working w/ Peckinpah on  Junior Bonner , McQueen was eager to work with Peckinpah again. Their next venture together,  The Getaway , went on to completely overshadow the previous collaboration between the two.   The Getaway  shows Peckinpah venturing into Neo-Noir territory for the first time in his career. The film stars Steve McQueen as Doc McCoy, an inmate who gets released from prison thanks to a sexual favor made by his girlfriend to a very powerful oil magnate named Jack Beynon. When out of prison, McCoy must further return the favor to Beynon by carrying out a bank heist for him. However, in keeping with classic noir standards, a series of double crosses leave McCoy and his girlfriend alone in an untrusting world.  Peckinpah was known for his Westerns throughout his career, but he got a chance to stretch out of that territory, while still placing this Neo-Noir in typical Western locations (including Mexico) that Peckinpah fetishized over. Compared to  Junior Bonner , Peckinpah went back to his roots for a more explicitly violent film that holds up in the ranks much closer to  The Wild Bunch ,  Straw Dogs , and  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia .    4/5     WATCH: iTunes, Putlocker (FREE)

THE GETAWAY

(dir. Sam Peckinpah)

After working w/ Peckinpah on Junior Bonner, McQueen was eager to work with Peckinpah again. Their next venture together, The Getaway, went on to completely overshadow the previous collaboration between the two.

The Getaway shows Peckinpah venturing into Neo-Noir territory for the first time in his career. The film stars Steve McQueen as Doc McCoy, an inmate who gets released from prison thanks to a sexual favor made by his girlfriend to a very powerful oil magnate named Jack Beynon. When out of prison, McCoy must further return the favor to Beynon by carrying out a bank heist for him. However, in keeping with classic noir standards, a series of double crosses leave McCoy and his girlfriend alone in an untrusting world.

Peckinpah was known for his Westerns throughout his career, but he got a chance to stretch out of that territory, while still placing this Neo-Noir in typical Western locations (including Mexico) that Peckinpah fetishized over. Compared to Junior Bonner, Peckinpah went back to his roots for a more explicitly violent film that holds up in the ranks much closer to The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

4/5

WATCH: iTunes, Putlocker (FREE)

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA     (dir. Sam Peckinpah)   Right next to  The Wild Bunch ,  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia  stands up as one of Peckinpah’s true masterpieces.  Warren Oates stars as Benny, an American that plays the piano in an American-run Mexican bar. While working, he’s approached by a couple of bounty hunters who are looking for the head of a man named Alfredo Garcia, who impregnated the daughter of a Mexican crime lord. Benny claims to not know him, but decides to embark on the journey when he finds out Garcia has already been killed in a car accident. Eager to collect, Benny sets out to bring back Alfredo Garcia’s head. But, it might cost him his own.  According to Peckinpah himself, this is the only film off his that was released just as he intended it. Meaning that the producers and financiers stayed out of the editing room and let Peckinpah do his thing.  Alfredo Garcia  was filmed on a pretty low budget, thus allowing Peckinpah full creative control. It’s filled with all the classic Peckinpah traits that have highlighted his career up to this point, but this time it’s done with an unfaltering sense of vision from Bloody Sam himself.  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia  is not only one of the finest movies of the 1970s, but in my eyes, it is the  essential  Peckinpah film.    5/5     WATCH: Putlocker (FREE)

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA

(dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Right next to The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia stands up as one of Peckinpah’s true masterpieces.

Warren Oates stars as Benny, an American that plays the piano in an American-run Mexican bar. While working, he’s approached by a couple of bounty hunters who are looking for the head of a man named Alfredo Garcia, who impregnated the daughter of a Mexican crime lord. Benny claims to not know him, but decides to embark on the journey when he finds out Garcia has already been killed in a car accident. Eager to collect, Benny sets out to bring back Alfredo Garcia’s head. But, it might cost him his own.

According to Peckinpah himself, this is the only film off his that was released just as he intended it. Meaning that the producers and financiers stayed out of the editing room and let Peckinpah do his thing. Alfredo Garcia was filmed on a pretty low budget, thus allowing Peckinpah full creative control. It’s filled with all the classic Peckinpah traits that have highlighted his career up to this point, but this time it’s done with an unfaltering sense of vision from Bloody Sam himself. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is not only one of the finest movies of the 1970s, but in my eyes, it is the essential Peckinpah film.

5/5

WATCH: Putlocker (FREE)

CROSS OF IRON     (dir. Sam Peckinpah)    Cross of Iron  is a bit of an anomaly in the chronology of Peckinpah’s body of work considering it’s sandwiched in between three of Peckinpah’s worst films.   Cross of Iron  stars Peckinpah’s homeboy James Coburn as Sgt. Steiner, a hard-nosed military officer in the German army. His nobility puts him in contention to win the coveted Iron Cross. Unfortunately, an aristocratic officer named Stransky begins to sabotage Steiner and his platoon in order to win the Cross of Iron. Set in the middle of WWII,  Cross of Iron  is strangely one of Peckinpah’s most touching films. His portrayal of corruption is only highlighted in the Russian war front where the lives of so many innocent men are at risk.  As I said, this film is strangely placed in Peckinpah’s filmography. It came after  The Killer Elite,  which was as subpar a thriller as you can get thanks to Peckinpah’s newfound coke addiction, and came before  Convoy  (a shitty movie about trucks) and  The Oysterman Weekend , which you’ll see is one of the strangest films ever made. But,  Cross of Iron  shines through all that bullshit as one of Peckinpah’s best works showing that regardless of how looked down upon or reckless Peckinpah was at the time, he still had the visionary pull that gained him notoriety to begin with in the 1960s. It’s true what they say,  Cross of Iron  is the last important film by Sam Peckinpah.    4.5/5     WATCH: Prime Rent, Putlocker (FREE)

CROSS OF IRON

(dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Cross of Iron is a bit of an anomaly in the chronology of Peckinpah’s body of work considering it’s sandwiched in between three of Peckinpah’s worst films.

Cross of Iron stars Peckinpah’s homeboy James Coburn as Sgt. Steiner, a hard-nosed military officer in the German army. His nobility puts him in contention to win the coveted Iron Cross. Unfortunately, an aristocratic officer named Stransky begins to sabotage Steiner and his platoon in order to win the Cross of Iron. Set in the middle of WWII, Cross of Iron is strangely one of Peckinpah’s most touching films. His portrayal of corruption is only highlighted in the Russian war front where the lives of so many innocent men are at risk.

As I said, this film is strangely placed in Peckinpah’s filmography. It came after The Killer Elite, which was as subpar a thriller as you can get thanks to Peckinpah’s newfound coke addiction, and came before Convoy (a shitty movie about trucks) and The Oysterman Weekend, which you’ll see is one of the strangest films ever made. But, Cross of Iron shines through all that bullshit as one of Peckinpah’s best works showing that regardless of how looked down upon or reckless Peckinpah was at the time, he still had the visionary pull that gained him notoriety to begin with in the 1960s. It’s true what they say, Cross of Iron is the last important film by Sam Peckinpah.

4.5/5

WATCH: Prime Rent, Putlocker (FREE)

THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND     (dir. Sam Peckinpah)   Now, I’m going to preface this one by saying that this by no means a good movie. In fact, it’s straight up bizarre. However, it was Peckinpah’s last film and it’s a fine example of how years of alcohol and drug abuse can leave one of the most visionary directors in a place where he’s blindly scraping together films.  I’m going to do my best to attempt to write a brief synopsis of the film, but it’ll be hard. Rutger Hauer stars as John Tanner, a political tv host who gets contacted by the FBI. They claim that three of his friends from college are members of the KGB and that he needs to take them down. But, from there the story falls into such a convoluted and unintelligible mess that you never have an idea of what’s happening, and when you do, you don’t know why it’s happening.  This film has a few ‘Peckinpah’ moments in it’s more action packed scenes, but as a whole, this film seems like it came out of a completely different universe from any of Sam’s other films. Perhaps it’s because Peckinpah hadn’t worked in 5 years and was simply looking for an assignment that he didn’t feel the need to pursue it wholeheartedly. Or maybe it’s just that the story is too damn confusing that no one could have saved it. Either way, it’s a bizarre film that is still worth watching just to appreciate how strange and incomprehensible the film is.    1/5     WATCH: iTunes, Putlocker (FREE)

THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND

(dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Now, I’m going to preface this one by saying that this by no means a good movie. In fact, it’s straight up bizarre. However, it was Peckinpah’s last film and it’s a fine example of how years of alcohol and drug abuse can leave one of the most visionary directors in a place where he’s blindly scraping together films.

I’m going to do my best to attempt to write a brief synopsis of the film, but it’ll be hard. Rutger Hauer stars as John Tanner, a political tv host who gets contacted by the FBI. They claim that three of his friends from college are members of the KGB and that he needs to take them down. But, from there the story falls into such a convoluted and unintelligible mess that you never have an idea of what’s happening, and when you do, you don’t know why it’s happening.

This film has a few ‘Peckinpah’ moments in it’s more action packed scenes, but as a whole, this film seems like it came out of a completely different universe from any of Sam’s other films. Perhaps it’s because Peckinpah hadn’t worked in 5 years and was simply looking for an assignment that he didn’t feel the need to pursue it wholeheartedly. Or maybe it’s just that the story is too damn confusing that no one could have saved it. Either way, it’s a bizarre film that is still worth watching just to appreciate how strange and incomprehensible the film is.

1/5

WATCH: iTunes, Putlocker (FREE)