Peckinpah. Peckinpah’s strength is his top 2 films and the massive amounts of style he packed into his short career as director. He was a fierce alcoholic, not unlike another great western auteur- John Ford, but couldn’t function nearly as well and made his last archiveable film at age 49. His weakness would be the depth of filmography (particularly no third film in the top 500) but even his weaker efforts bare the unmistakable markings of his work which makes for great close study.

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Ride the High Country is earlier than the rest of his work, before the rating system change of 1969 and new guard of Hollywood in 1967– it’s 1962 and though it’s superb- it feels it in it’s difference in comparison with the rest of his work

Best film:  The Wild Bunch. A ballet of violence. It’s simply one of the greatest westerns, action films, and films of all-time in have one in my opinion general. It borrows from Kurosawa (who borrows from Ford) as Leone does but is also revolutionary as well.

slowing down the photography and making it an art form while doing it in The Wild Bunch

total archiveable films: 8

top 100 films: 1 (The Wild Bunch)

incredible– an image, scene and film that needs no description

top 500 films: 2 (The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid)

top 100 films of the decade: 4 (The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Getaway)

most overrated:  Peckinpah doesn’t have one- I guess if people think Convoy should be in my archives I would call that overrated.

most underrated:   Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid- is #533 on TSPDT and it’s a borderline top 100 film (#122). I’ve been telling anyone I come into contact with about this film for years. The two different cuts and versions of the film confuses things but if you haven’t seen it do yourself a favor and make it a priority. The opening montage is immaculately constructed, the Bob Dylan ballad death scene with Slim Pickens, and the finale are some of the best scenes in western history. It’s an important film for him and his auteur status as it’s honestly very close to The Wild Bunch in artistic achievement.

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the opening credit sequence is one of cinema’s great displays of editing

gem I want to spotlight:  The Getaway. Peckinpah’s trademark here with the opening credits sequence does not disappoint. Here we have a stunning freeze frame opening. Lucien Ballard photography is top notch as is Quincy Jones Score (In the Heat of the Night). Cross-referenced IMDB and sure enough the harmonica that sounds so familiar is from Toots Thielemans who also does Midnight Cowboy (1969)- love it. The first 10 minutes from free frame credits to montage of McQueen in jail is a stunning opening 10 minutes- it’s a brilliant wordless montage…the film never lives up to that but that alone is nearly worth a top 10 of the year eval. Peckinpah is really showing off here as he has a simple lunch meeting and shoots it on a meeting ferry. Trademark slow-motion action sequences. The film does run out of steam.

stylistic innovations/traits:  Slow-motion action sequences, nihilism and disenchantment of the world and fellow man… is that Peckinpah or Kurkosawa? Clearly Peckinpah’s goal: “I want to be able to make westerns like Akira Kurosawa makes westerns” came close to fruition for a short spell during the 60s and 70’s. It’s too bad we didn’t have another 10-20 years of him making great films. His films individually and in total are meditations on masculinity. He’s an incredible editor—and not just glorious slow-motion death dances in the shootouts—which are his trademark.

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meditations on courage and masculinity

top 10

  1. The Wild Bunch
  2. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
  3. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  4. The Getaway
  5. Ride the High Country
  6. Straw Dogs
  7. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
  8. Junior Bonner

By year and grades

1962- Ride the High Country HR
1969- The Wild Bunch MP
1970- The Ballad of Cable Hogue R
1971- Straw Dogs R
1972- Junior Bonner R
1972- The Getaway HR
1973- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid MP
1974- Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia HR

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives