Sam Peckinpah

On the 29th December 1984, the day after Sam Peckinpah died at the age of 59, a small obituary appeared inThe New York Times. It claimed that Peckinpah, “best known for his westerns and graphic use of violence. 

Inside the head of Sam Peckinpah

Sam Peckinpah on the set of The Wild Bunch

So the great director's films are about violence? Not really. Are they about honour? Hardly. In fact, says Rick Moody, Sam Peckinpah offered us realism - albeit of a very particular kind
"Now, most funeral orations, Lord, lie about a man," - so says David Warner, in his memorable turn as Joshua, the fraudulent preacher in Sam Peckinpah's The Ballad of Cable Hogue, from 1970. The same can be said of most film criticism - that it dissimulates or exaggerates about the film, about the director, about the movement, about the art. So let's aspire in this revisionist essay on Peckinpah to tell the truth.
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Sam Peckinpah was a paradox who both cultivated and disdained his own legend as one 
of Hollywood's most difficult directors, his often violent films evoked strong responses and varied, almost contradictory, readings. Peckinpah became associated with the western genre, writing and directing episodes of "Gunsmoke," "The Rifleman," "The Westerner" and other 

TV series


Straw Dogs

Sam Peckinpah examines the instinctual capacity for violence in his controversial 1971 film, loosely based on the novel The Siege of Trencher's Farm. To avoid the Vietnam-era social chaos in the U.S., American mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) moves with his British wife, Amy (Susan George), to the isolated Cornish town where she grew up, but their presence provokes antagonism among the village's men. As the hostilities escalate from routine bullying to the gang rape of his wife, David.

Straw Dogs

Emanuel Levy Review

“Straw Dogs,” one of Peckinpah’s strongest films, is a provocative study of violence and its consequences in tense situations.  The movie was shocking at the time of its release for its explicit gore, and for its analysis of the hidden bestiality of presumably civilized 
human beings.

As directed by Peckinpah, the tale’s build-up is taut, and the conclusion inevitable in 
its fiery explosion. “Straw Dogs” plays with (and manipulates) and against viewers’ expectations to the point where we don’t know where our sympathies lie? Do we want the Dustin Hoffman character to execute justice and take the law into his hands, as he does in film’s climax, or not? In other words, what’s the “proper” (and “manly”) reaction to 
escalating violence? Is society helpful in prescribing and proscribing such behaviour?

The film’s most scandalous scene, which involves graphic depiction of Amy’s rape, 
has been charged with misogyny, voyeurism, and exploitation, but it actually fits 
into the Peckinpah’s views on inevitability and futility of gruesome violence, manifest
 in his 1969 masterpiece, “The Wild Bunch.

The Wild Bunch -- If they move, kill 'em.

The Wild Bunch (1969) is director/co-writer Sam Peckinpah's provocative, brilliant yet controversial Western, shocking for its graphic and elevated portrayal of violence and 

savagely-explicit carnage, yet hailed for its truly realistic and reinterpreted vision of 
the dying West in the early 20th century.

Its unrelenting, bleak tale tells of aging, scroungy outlaws (the 'wild bunch') bound by 
a private code of honor, camaraderie and friendship, but they find that they are at odds 
the society of 1913. The lone band of men led by Pike Bishop (William Holden) have come to 
the end of the line and no longer are living under the same rules in the Old West. They are relentlessly being stalked by bounty hunters, one of whom is Pike's former friend Deke 
Thornton (Robert Ryan), who would rather side with the outlaws if it weren't for the 
threat of being sent back to Yuma Prison.

Unchanged men in a changing land. Out of step, out of place and desperately out of time...

Suddenly a new West had emerged. Suddenly it was sundown for nine men. 
Suddenly their day was over. Suddenly, the sky was bathed in blood...
Nine men who came too late and stayed too long...Born too late for their own times. 
Uncommonly significant for ours.

The film's lasting influence has been seen in the imitative graphic violence of the films 

of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, John Woo, and others.