The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)

This marks the fourth Peckinpah film I’ve seen, as well as the third Peckinpah western I’ve ever seen.

I was intrigued this time to see a film that I did know the star of (where in Ride the High Country I did not)–that being Jason Robards. Robards I was first “formally” introduced to in none other than my favourite western C’era Una Volta il West (aka Once Upon a Time in the West) as the most light-hearted of the leads, Cheyenne. I last saw him in the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, but certainly this part is a lot more analogous to his role as Cheyenne, even if not for the character similarities, then definitely for the nice full beard he had–it was only two years later though, so I guess that’s not terribly surprising.

Cable Hogue is a man left to die by his partners in the middle of the desert with no food or water nor horse to ride out on. He can find food, of course–even plotting the capture, kill and cooking of a gila monster (which I was enthused to see in the film, though a little disturbed to see it–apparently really–blown to pieces) at the beginning, but water is another issue. He makes very dry, witty pleas to God for water as he slowly wanders across the desert and finally finds it as he’s about to die. From there he begins to plot revenge against his former partners–but that’s hardly the point of the entire film.

Thematically it’s reminiscent of The Wild Bunch, in that it is about the end of the wild west and the end of its frontier as seen in Cable Hogue himself.

Now, what I have not mentioned is David Warner. David plays the Reverend Joshua Douglas Sloan–a rather dirty old preacher who likes to find grieving women and “console” them into bed. Honestly, it sounds awful, but it’s pretty damn funny. Warner, as always, is excellent, and apparently Sam must have agreed as he appeared a year later in Straw Dogs. I myself know Warner from: Straw Dogs, The Omen, Tron, In the Mouth of Madness, and before anything else in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. Of course he has also done a ton of fantastic voice work, such as that of the Archmage in Gargoyles. But, regardless, his performance here was damn good.

Stella Stevens put in an excellent performance as well, capturing very well someone free-floating with aspirations and suddenly finding something–love–interfering with her plans, and capturing even more perfectly the loss of even that.

A pretty darn good film, though, reaffirming my taste for Peckinpah’s style of western.

The DVD includes a featurette (around 30min) on Stella Stevens as well as the same stock ones on all four Peckinpah DVDs in the box (trailer gallery and Steve McQueen (?!) trailer).
Stella, I could not help but notice, claims this was Jason Robards’ only western role. Pffft.



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