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USA 1962
Directed by
Sam Peckinpah
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Ride The High Country

Although this, his second film, is Peckinpah before he found stylistic immortality with The Wild Bunch (1969), thematically it is already well in his territory with this yarn about two aging gunmen, Judd and Westrum (Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott). Particularly now that The West is on the cusp of modernity, they are well-past their use-by date but have been hired by a bank to courier a shipment of gold from a lawless mining settlement back into town. Well-scripted by N.B. Stone Jr. the film sets up McCrea's reformed gun-for-hire against Scott's opportunistic hustler and gives them temptation (the gold) to revert to their old ways.

Peckinpah largely adheres to the conventions of Westerns of the time including some comedic elements, largely thanks to the older men's young offsider (Ron Starr), a reminder of their wilder days and his romantic interest (Mariette Hartley in her film debut) along with a jaunty score and panoramic scenery. However there are already elements of Peckinpah's mature style - the core "hero/outsider" morality embodied by Judd and Westrum, the prominence of violence (thanks to the Hammond Brothers, played by Peckinpah regulars Warren Oates and L.Q, Jones along with John Anderson, and John Davis Chandler) and sex (a brothel provides one of the major locations for the action) and an over-riding elegiac tone realized not particularly well but nevertheless touchingly in the final shoot-out between Judd and Westrum and the Hammonds.




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