The Ballad of
Bloody Sam: The Films of Sam Peckinpah
Director Sam Peckinpah (1925 1984) is one of the true legends of 20th
century Hollywood, a prodigious, no-nonsense filmmaker who honed his chops on television,
writing and directing entries for such oaters as "GUNSMOKE," "THE
RIFLEMAN" (which he created) and, last but not least, "THE WESTERNER"
(which he also created and produced). Although low ratings forced "THE
WESTERNER" off the air after only a half season, it has come to be revered as one
of the best Western TV shows of all time, and were happy to present four of the
episodes in this retrospective.
Peckinpah got his break in feature films directing THE DEADLY COMPANIONS starring
Maureen OHara and "WESTERNER" lead Brian Keith. Though compromised by
producer interference, the film still impressed many with its finely-etched characters and
themes of loyalty and betrayal. Fortunately, his next film, RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY,
was regarded as a masterpiece and served as a fitting swansong for its stars
Western cinema icons Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea. Sadly, the follow-up MAJOR DUNDEE
emerged as a troubled production. The studio removed segments detailing much of
Dundees disillusion and emotional rejuvenation in Mexico. To his lasting credit,
DUNDEE star Charlton Heston offered to waive his considerable salary if Columbia Pictures
would refrain from firing Peckinpah during production. This set a pattern of studio
interference that would dog Peckinpah through the rest of his boisterous career, but he
managed to maintain much of his vision with ensuing films.
Prime evidence came in 1969 with Peckinpahs epic THE WILD BUNCH, a brutal
revisionist Western that held audiences in a vise-like grip for 144 grueling, intoxicating
minutes, and is often credited (rightly or wrongly) with pioneering a new era of graphic
on-screen violence. More masterworks followed, including the savage STRAW DOGS,
wistful and bawdy BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, heartbreakingly lyrical PAT GARRETT AND
BILLY THE KID and macabre tall-tale BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA.
Peckinpah also made such exciting, action-packed paeans to rugged individualism as JUNIOR
BONNER and THE GETAWAY and such trenchant examinations of institutionalized treachery as
CROSS OF IRON and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND.
Sometimes hard-to-get-along-with, sometimes pigheaded and ornery-as-hell, Peckinpah
still remains one of the most beloved and influential directors of the last fifty years,
engendering affection and loyalty from virtually all who worked with him throughout his
career. We are very pleased and proud to be able to finally present this long-awaited
retrospective of the films of Sam Peckinpah on the twentieth anniversary of his death.
Thursday, May 6 7:15 PM
THE WILD BUNCH, 1969, Warner Bros., 145 min. Saddle up
for a screening of director Sam Peckinpahs magnificent, ultra-violent
Western, starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates and Jaime Sanchez as
a band of doomed outlaws trying to outrun history. Exceedingly controversial upon its
initial release, THE WILD BUNCH forever changed the way violence was depicted and
perceived in the movies. Co-starring Robert Ryan, Edmond OBrien, L.Q. Jones,
Bo Hopkins and Strother Martin. Preceded by the documentary: "The
Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage," 1996, 34 min.
Dir. Paul Seydor. Nominated for a 1997 Oscar for Best Documentary Short, this is a
concise, fascinating look at Peckinpahs western masterwork. [Friendly Note! For
audience members who havent seen THE WILD BUNCH, the documentary does give away key
plot points.] Discussion following with actor Bo Hopkins,
documentary director Paul Seydor, biographer David O. Weddle and author Garner Simmons.
Friday, May 7 7:30 PM
THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, 1970, Warner Bros., 121
min. Dir. Sam Peckinpah. This whimsical, sweetly melancholy, ultimately uplifting
fable stars Jason Robards as Cable, a prospector left in the desert to die by
partners L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin. But in a classic turning-lemons-into-lemonade
twist, Cable discovers a freshwater spring and establishes a stagecoach rest stop on the
spot, the perfect occupation for a cantankerous loner. Things couldnt be going
better with prostitute love-of-his-life Hildy (Stella Stevens) moving in with him.
But then a newfangled invention rears its ugly head the automobile. David Warner
is excellent as Cables con man preacher pal, Joshua. Discussion
between films with actress Stella Stevens (BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE).
BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, 1974, MGM/UA,
112 min. Director Sam Peckinpahs macabre shaggy dog story rises to the status
of existential masterpiece before the last frame unspools. A ruthless land baron (Emilio
Fernandez) offers a huge bounty to find Alfredo Garcia, the father of his daughters
unborn child. Piano-playing, expatriate loser Bennie (Warren Oates in one of his
finest roles) shambles through the hellish backwater villages of rural Mexico on the hunt
for "easy" money, a deadly pilgrimage that could jeopardize Bennies one
real chance at happiness the love of his loyal, prostitute girlfriend Elita (Isela
Vega). Look for the incomparable Robert Webber and Gig Young as the pokerfaced killers
Features preceded by an episode of: "THE WESTERNER" "Jeff" (Pilot
Episode), 1960, Four Star TV (Fox/Criterion), 25 min. Dir. Sam Peckinpah. A
portrait of innocence corrupted, this was the series premiere: Dave Blassingame (Brian
Keith), the Westerner of the series title, tries to rescue a childhood friend
whos become a prostitute. Note that the cinematographer was Lucien Ballard,
who shot four of Peckinpahs films including RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and THE WILD BUNCH.
Warren Oates appears in a small role.
Saturday, May 8 5:00 PM
Special Sneak Preview Brand New Documentary:
SAM PECKINPAHS WEST: LEGACY OF A
HOLLYWOOD RENEGADE, 2004, Starz Encore, 89 min. Director Tom Thurman (JOHN
FORD GOES TO WAR) put together this feature-length original documentary for the Westerns
Channel examining the groundbreaking, unorthodox visions of the American West conjured up
by "Bloody Sam." Complete with narration by Kris Kristofferson and film clips
integrated into brand new interviews with performers L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Stella
Stevens and Harry Dean Stanton, along with Peckinpah fans Benicio del Toro and Billy Bob
Thornton, and film critics Elvis Mitchell and Roger Ebert. Discussion
following with director Tom Thurman, writer Tom Marksbury and Peckinpah expert Paul
Saturday, May 8 7:30 PM
RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, 1962, Warner
Bros., 94 min. Peckinpahs first uncontested masterpiece is this elegiac portrait of
the end of the Wild West, embodied in the form of two aging friends (unforgettably played
by Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea) with very different agendas, who are
hired to guard a shipment of gold. Lucien Ballards cinematography was never
better, capturing the untainted splendor of the high mountains and the bone-weary sadness
of two men nearing the end of their lives trails. With Mariette Hartley, Ronald
MAJOR DUNDEE, 1965, Sony (Columbia), 123 min.
Tragically re-edited by the studio before its release, director Sam Peckinpahs
ill-fated Western may never be seen in its full form, but still has enough raw, ragged
glory to turn heads. Charlton Heston stars as a Union officer at the end of the
Civil War whos forced to depend on a crew of deserters, murderers and Confederates,
as he pursues a renegade Apache band into Mexico. In a show of support reminiscent of
TOUCH OF EVIL eight years earlier, Heston backed up Peckinpah during shooting, allowing
him to finish the film despite fierce studio interference. Co-starring Richard Harris,
Warren Oates, Ben Johnson.
Features preceded by an episode of: "THE WESTERNER" "Brown,"
1960, Four Star TV (Fox/Criterion), 25 min. Dir. Sam Peckinpah. Starring Brian
Keith. In the course of a hilarious three-day bender during a July Fourth celebration,
Blassingames con man pal Burgundy Smith (John Dehner), tries to trick Blassingame
into selling his dog Brown (the same dog who played Disneys Old Yeller).
Screenplay by Bruce Geller. Introduction to screening by
Peckinpah expert Paul Seydor.
Sunday, May 9 5:00 PM
Rare Uncut Euro Version!! CROSS OF IRON, 1977, Lantana Productions, 133 min. James
Coburn turns in one of the best performances of his career as war-weary German
Sergeant Steiner in one of director Sam Peckinpahs hardest-to-see
masterworks. Stationed at WWIIs Russian front where just trying to keep his squad
out of the daily slaughter is an ordeal. Another threat is added to the mix when an
unscrupulous commanding officer, glory-seeking Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell),
takes over. A fierce, uncompromising look at the chaos of war with able support from James
Mason, David Warner and Senta Berger.
THE KILLER ELITE, 1975, MGM/UA, 122 min. Dir. Sam
Peckinpah. Independent covert operative Locken (James Caan) is betrayed and
seriously wounded by best friend Hansen (Robert Duvall), who has decided to flip
allegiances when the other side offers more money. Initially, Locken refuses to return to
the freelance spy game, but cynical former bosses Gig Young and Arthur Hill lure him back
with a promise of going up against his former comrade. With Bo Hopkins, Burt Young, Mako. Discussion following with actors Bo Hopkins and Burt Young (THE
Friday, May 14 7:30 PM
Restored European Version! Brand-New Print Off Original Negative!!
STRAW DOGS, 1971, ABC (Disney), 118 min. Dir. Sam
Peckinpah. Enormously controversial upon its initial release, this tale of an
intellectual pacifist (Dustin Hoffman), pushed to the limit by a sadistic,
hard-drinking family of hooligans, was cut by several minutes in the U.S., including
graphic footage of spouse Susan George's rape and the bone-jarring, blood-drenched
climax, which softened the ferocious impact of Peckinpahs allegory of
supposedly-civilized humans reverting to their most primitive state. Discussion between films with producer Daniel Melnick (STRAW DOGS) and
longtime Peckinpah assistant & friend Katy Haber.
JUNIOR BONNER, 1972, ABC (Disney), 100 min. Dir. Sam
Peckinpah. Steve McQueen is Junior Bonner, a restless rodeo star trying to deal
with drifter con man dad Robert Preston and outspoken, responsible mom Ida
Lupino, as well as girlfriend Barbara Leigh while hes not getting his
head busted on bucking broncs. A sometimes funny, sometimes melancholic meditation on
Americans whove forsaken the 9-to-5 strait-jacket to thrive in a much more rugged
lifestyle. With Ben Johnson and Joe Don Baker.
Features preceded by an episode of: "THE WESTERNER"
"The Courting Of Libby," 1960, Four Star TV (Fox/Criterion), 25 min.
Dir. Sam Peckinpah. Starring Brian Keith. Another wry comic episode again featuring
Blassingames con man pal Burgundy Smith (John Dehner) as they vie for the attention
of the title character. Screenplay by Bruce Geller.
Saturday, May 15 5:00 PM
PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, 1973, Warner
Bros., 122 min. Director Sam Peckinpahs take on the famous outlaws rise
and fall is nothing less than magnifcent a sprawling, plaintive, achingly-exquisite
reflection on loss of all kinds. Billy (Kris Kristofferson) and his loose-knit gang
(amongst them Bob Dylan, who also supplied the beautiful score) butt heads
with cattle industry interests devouring the countryside, something that steers them on a
collision course with old comrade and new sheriff, Pat Garrett (James Coburn).
Watch for the "Knockin On Heavens Door" sequence with Sheriff Baker
(Slim Pickens) and his wife (Katy Jurado), one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful in
the history of western cinema. With Harry Dean Stanton, R.G. Armstrong, Donnie Fritts,
Preceded by an episode of: "THE WESTERNER"
"Hand On The Gun," 1960, Four Star TV, 25 min. Dir. Sam Peckinpah.
Starring Brian Keith. A callow Easterners romantic notions of heroism, shaped by
reading dime novels, are cut tragically short by the reality of Western violence.
Screenplay by Bruce Geller (later the creator of "Mission: Impossible"). Michael
Ansara co-stars. Discussion following with actor Donnie Fritts
and Peckinpah expert Paul Seydor.
Saturday, May 15 8:45 PM
THE GETAWAY, 1972, Warner Bros., 122 min. Director Sam
Peckinpah adapts writer Jim Thompsons savage pulp classic with tightly
wound Steve McQueen as escaped bank robber Doc McCoy. To spring him from the joint,
devoted wife Ali McGraw enlists the help of corrupt fat-cat Ben Johnson, who
wants McCoy to execute a seemingly impossible robbery. Al Lettieri is the memorably sleazy
killer who dogs the couples trail after thieves fall out. With Sally Struthers.
CONVOY, 1978, MGM/UA, 106 min. For some strange reason, CB
radios and long distance truckers became all the rage in the late seventies. When C.W.
McCalls country hit, "Convoy" rocketed up the pop charts as well, the
phenomenon took on a life of its own. Bill L. Norton (CISCO PIKE) wrote the screenplay for
director Sam Peckinpahs irascible action comedy about a trucker known as
Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson) who, in league with his gal Melissa (Ali McGraw),
leads a rebellious convoy of like-minded drivers in protest against a brutally repressive
sheriff called Cottonmouth (Ernest Borgnine). With Burt Young, Franklin Ajaye,
Seymour Cassel. Introduction to films by actors Bo Hopkins
(THE GETAWAY), Burt Young and Donnie Fritts (CONVOY).
Sunday, May 16 5:00 PM
Double Feature With Added Peckinpah Music Video Program:
THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, 1983, 20th Century Fox,
103 min. Director Sam Peckinpahs last film is a nerve-jangling, vastly
underrated adaptation of Robert Ludlums Cold War thriller, with Rutger Hauer
as a muckraking TV talk show host clued-in at the last minute by a grudge-holding CIA
renegade (John Hurt) that several of his weekend guests (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis
Hopper, Helen Shaver, Chris Sarandan, etc.) are Soviet spies. The weekend quickly
escalates from subtle mind games to violent double crosses. By the end, Hauer is just
trying to keep his family alive through the suburban holocaust. With Burt Lancaster,
Meg Foster, Cassie Yates.
FROM ALPHA TO OMEGA: THE MAKING OF "THE
OSTERMAN WEEKEND," 2004, 78 min. Dir. Jonathan Gaines. An intriguing look behind
the scenes on Sam Peckinpahs last film, including interviews with producers Bill
Panzer and Peter Davis, cast members Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Helen Shaver, Meg Foster,
Craig T. Nelson, Chris Sarandon and Cassie Yates and longtime friend and agent, Marty
Baum. Includes details on Peckinpahs original cut of the film including
deleted psychedelic scenes at the beginning illustrating John Hurts characters
warped state of mind as well as insights into the problems of bonding and insuring
the reputedly un-insurable Peckinpah.