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USA 1970
Directed by
Sam Peckinpah
113 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Ballad Of Cable Hogue

It is hard to believe that a film as disposable as The Ballad of Cable Hogue was Peckinpah’s follow-up to the magnificently elegiac The Wild Bunch. Broadly classifiable as a comedy Western, it is thematically related to Peckinpah’s previous film insofar as it deals with the end of the Wild West and the coming of the Industrial revolution, specifically in the form of the motor car. This aspect of the film, which comes at its end, is the best handled but what proceeds it is a drawn-out and uneven parody of the traditional Western (a category which includes the director's own 1961 debut feature, The Deadly Companions) with shaggy prospector Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) being left to die in the Nevada desert by a couple of low lives (Strother Martin and L.Q Jones), stumbling across a well that gives him the opportunity to turn him into a successful businessman (water at this time and place being as good as gold) by setting up a staging post (a regular port-of-call for coach driver, Slim Pickens), falling in love with a comely whore (Stella Stevens), teaming up with a rogue preacher (David Warner) and finally when irony of ironies strikes, seeing his life in perspective.

Stylistically the film is reminiscent in many ways of the musical Western Paint Your Wagon which came out the previous year. There are fewer songs (and those there are aren’t anything to get excited about) whilst the spoofery is at times only a shade or two away from Blazing Saddles which would appear four years later.

The performances are all good with Stevens, an actress usually cast as eye candy (which she is here also) giving probably her most memorable career performance.  Many, including Peckinpah himself regard the film as one of the director’s best but the mixture of thematic depth and slapstick silliness, which Peckinpah himself described as "a new version of Sartre's The Flies with a touch of Keystone Kops", is incongruous and, overall, the effect is underwhelming.




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