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  Ballad of Cable Hogue, The Hope Springs
Year: 1970
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Stars: Jason Robards Jr, Stella Stevens, David Warner, Strother Martin, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Peter Whitney, R.G. Armstrong, Gene Evans, William Mims, Kathleen Freeman, Susan O'Connell, Vaughn Taylor, Max Evans, James Anderson, Felix Nelson, Darwin Lamb
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) is stranded in the desert after he was left to die by his partners, the scoundrels Taggart (L.Q. Jones) and his sidekick Bowen (Strother Martin), who gloated as they left him to start walking out in the middle of nowhere. He wanders for a day, asking God to provide for him and his thirst, and then another day goes by and he grows weaker until he is in the midst of a sandstorm, collapses, ready to bid farewell to the world when he notices mud on his boot. Retracing his stumbling steps, Cable finds what he has been wishing for: water, and with that the promise of living...

Although The Ballad of Cable Hogue was not one of director Sam Peckinpah's most obvious works on the surface, it was his favourite and if the appeal of slow motion violence begins to pall, then you should give this a try because if it wasn't his best, it was damn close. The film sees him in contemplative mood, though the end of an era is not cause for violence as it would be in his other stories, but nearer to regret: a chance to take stock of what you have in life, to be grateful; for what benefits you find and hang on to, for the love you enjoyed and the good times you have experienced, as well as those missed opportunities that haunt you.

Where Peckinpah's other men of action go out in a blaze of glory, here's one for whom violence is by no means his way, even if he is plotting revenge on the duo who would have seen him dead. But then, he is not hitting the vengeance trail and setting out to kill them with his bare hands, no, he is quite happy for fate to bring them to him, if it does at all. In the meantime, he learns the value of friendship and how great the love of a good woman can be. If this sounds corny, well maybe it is, but not hopelessly so, and with one of the best casts ever assembled for a Peckinpah film, you can believe every word of its tenderly conveyed lessons.

So Cable finds his water and decides to go into business, as he is at a halfway point between two remote towns that the stagecoaches travel past, and there he can sell them refreshment for ten cents, more for the animals. But the second man he encounters is Joshua (David Warner), a self-styled preacher whose greatest failing is his lust as he draws impressionable women to him so that he may take sexual advantage of them. Joshua might be too honest for his own good, as he makes the remark to Cable that there will be men out here as soon as word gets around to lay claim to this spring, so Cable takes his horse and rides to the nearest land development office, and buys two whole acres for two and a half dollars.

While he is there, he spots an attractive woman in the street, Hildy (Stella Stevens in probably her finest role), who he soon finds out is a prostitute, but falls for her anyway. Hildy is another example of this film's generosity towards the type of character the hypocritical polite society considers disreputable - you get the strong impression Peckinpah considered these rogues his kind of people. Here the film doesn't rose tint its view of the past - it's one of the few westerns where you'll see horseshit in the streets - but does mine a strain of warmth and sympathy, mostly for Cable and his soon to be out of date pioneering, but also for his motley crew of friends. Many would be surprised this director would have something so gentle in his repertoire, but truly it fits into his westerns as not so much an odd one out, but as a refreshing take on his themes. A sad, lovely film. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Sam Peckinpah  (1925 - 1984)

American writer and director, a hard-drinking, producer-hating maverick who was as much reviled as he was admired. After a spell in the armed forces, he moved into television with a succession of westerns, and graduated to film with The Deadly Companions and cult classic Ride the High Country. When he worked on Major Dundee, the problems started, and, as would happen many times subsequently, the film was recut against his wishes.

In 1969, Peckinpah won huge respect for The Wild Bunch, which saw him employ the vivid, bloody violence that would become his trademark. He spent the seventies crafting a series of notable thrillers and westerns, such as the humorous Ballad of Cable Hogue, the reflective Junior Bonner, controversial Straw Dogs, hit Steve McQueen vehicle The Getaway, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the intense, one-of-a-kind Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Killer Elite, WWII story Cross of Iron, and comparitively light hearted Convoy.

Throughout this decade, Peckinpah's reputation amongst studios dropped to such an extent that he could barely find work by the eighties, and his last film, The Osterman Weekend, represented an attempt to reclaim past glories. Sadly, he died shortly after it was completed, while planning to bring an original Stephen King script to the screen. As an actor, he can be seen in friend Don Siegel's Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Monte Hellman's China 9 Liberty 37.

 
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