A word about Sam Peckinpah
Along the way, this man produced and directed some of the greatest movies ever made. Phil Feldman was his producer, but Peckinpah had a unique vision. “Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” is a bizarre piece of work, but outstanding in its way. “Pat Garett and Billy the Kid’' is undergoing a renewal, and semi-director’s cut, at Turner Classics. Peckinpah always thought that was his classic.
I beg to differ. There is nothing that captures the dying days of The West better than “The Wild Bunch”. It is no accident that this one is in my “favorites”. William Holden bled to death when he got drunk and slipped on a rug; before he reached that day, there are few moments in cinematic history that match his look, and telling the others “Let’s go!”
That ambiguity cannot be matched. The words defy the viewer’s interpretation; “do we go die, or do we rescue our friend, Angel?” [Jamie Sanchez.]
The march down the street is a classic that cannot be matched. There are moments of duty, that outlaw or whoever, you must face. Holden, Borgnine, and Ben Johnson and future “Alfredo Garcia” star Warren Oates took that march.
Emilio Fernandez, an estimable Mexican star, stood his ground as “Mapache”. Mr. Fernandez had some personal problems; Sam Peckinpah invigorated his career. The movie is designated as one of the bloodiest in cinematic history; certainly, when Holden and Borgnine blow the medals off “Mapache’s” chest when he cuts Angel’s throat, we have reached a new point in cinematic bloodletting.
Sam Peckinpah was never a shy man. One of the things he never cringed from was showing the effects of violence on children; the little kids shooting it out in the streets of Starbuck, Texas. I don’t think Peckinpah was being cruel when he did this. Children are subjected to the most terrible violence ever perpetuated. Reenacting a gunfight would have been second nature to kids of the time. Peckinipah never shied from this. If there is cruelty to kids, it's that they have to witness what transpires between adults.
The first gunfight, and the last, in “The Wild Bunch” are the second-scariest on film. There is only one scene that surpasses them: Michael Mann’s shootout in “Heat”. He mixed the guns loud, the way they should be, and used a minimum of magnesium. Whoever designed those “strike” rounds, anyhow? It’s like tires screeching on a dirt road. Dramatic effect is great, but gimme a break.
“The Wild Bunch” is one of the greatest movies ever made. Nobody will copy it for style or substance. You may say whatever you like about Sam Peckinpah, no one will walk his footsteps again in this century. Walter Hill tried with “The Long Riders”. I worked that one; I would’ve killed to work with Peckinpah. “The Wild Bunch” remains a landmark of American cinema.
Peckinpah showed his dark sense of humor when he showed up on a stretcher, with a whiskey bottle hanging on an IV. It was a response to the Hollyweird critics who said he was a goner. He left us too damn soon, but his movies live forever
I’m just a third-rate Hollyweird extra, what do I know?
I know a mystical vision when I see one. Sam Peckinpah, a very hurt and troubled man, shared my outlook on life. I only wish I’d had his visions and chances as a director to fulfill some images. This man was fired by studio heads off more projects than I’ll ever see. I’ll never direct anything. Sam Peckinpah was one of the greatest visionaries who ever lived. “Major Dundee” was a troubled work that nearly arrived; “The Wild Bunch” is a masterwork. I want to see another re-run of “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”. Kristofferson made his bones in “Alfredo Garcia.” That movie is too bizarre to bear description. He also made a star of Warren Oates, who left us much too soon. I have never seen anything beyond the pale with Sam Peckinpah.
The guy is my best director in history. He also directed the second-scariest gunfight in cinematic history; Micael Mann gets top score for "Heat"; that's the most frightening gunfight I've ever seen. (Did I already say that?) "The Wild Bunch" set some standards; it scared people to death in 1969. The Western ideals are perfect. "You give your word to a person, or you're like some animal..." or something like that. I know you don't give your word to a railroad, and you're better as an animal if you don't give your word to them. Sam Peckinpah gave his word to someone; stand for something, or you'll fall for anything. His heroes never did that. They lived and died according to values that can't be altered, even today.