Peckinpah’s teleplay sets the scene of a precursor to Richard Burton’s little book, A Christmas Story, about a toy train that doesn’t run on time, there’s a baby girl instead.
The direction pivots on the charm of the infant (John Dehner is the Jezebel-hating father).
The coda settles who and what is a child in this story, to be clothed and schooled.
The Deadly Companions
Gila City (The Ballad of Cable Hogue), the boy harmonica-player (Cross of Iron), a tale of North and South.
Let the dead bury the dead.
Sergio Leone went all the way in his critical analysis of this film with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, he understood it completely, whereas the New York Times pronounced it “tasteless”.
Close to the theme are such films as Burt Kennedy’s The Train Robbers, Arnold Laven’s Sam Whiskey, and Andrew V. McLaglen’s The Shadow Riders.
Little has been achieved in the critical understanding elsewhere, though Peckinpah’s telling images as aperçus have been glancingly noted (but not his Titian nude of Maureen O’Hara discreetly portrayed, nor her singing), and his fine sculpting of characters, and the acting (Brian Keith, Chill Wills, Steve Cochran, and O’Hara in advance of McLintock!).
Ride the High Country
The original of The Wild Bunch, from Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks.
The idea is that temptation comes to a lawman (Randolph Scott) the way a young girl (Mariette Hartley) longs to leave her stern father (R.G. Armstrong) for a bridegroom (James Drury) who isn’t suited for her. Against this, as a scientist’s “control” in technical parlance, is another lawman (Joel McCrea) unaffected.
Peckinpah has a good trick under the credits of a montage taken from various locations seen later, to give a sense of déjà vu to those unfamiliar with the California landscape, and thus a sense of ease (Godard uses this in another variation for Notre Musique, with Sarajevo). The olive trees and rough farm buildings, mountain passes scattered with snow, desert, mountains and scrub meadow, give a picture of California uncannily accurate. After the scene at the stream, he cranes up out of yellow autumn trees in a shot derived from Dmytryk’s Raintree County.
The mining camp anticipates Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller with Kate’s Place, advertising “men taken in and done for”, and this is where Elsa is married, not quite a saloon, as Bosley Crowther had it. The whores dress up for the nonce as flower girls.
All the banker Luther Sampson (Percy Helton) has to do is say the past is dead, “the day of the steady businessman has arrived,” to set a ball in motion. The trek to the camp with the girl and a young partner (Ron Starr) is a close likeness of Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai (“be happy in your work!”), and from his first scene entering town to cheers not meant for him, McCrea resembles William Holden strikingly, though he drops this by and by. Scott first appears in Cody wig and whiskers as The Oregon Kid, bilking locals at a traveling fair. The two worked Tombstone as Federal marshals once upon a time, and other towns, now sign up to carry gold down from the camp.
The verses quoted by Armstrong read more fully, “into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them. For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.”
Peckinpah hasn’t seen Aldrich’s Vera