Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Ballad of Cable Hogue

Right after the ultra-violent The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah made this totally atypical elegy to the passing of the Old West. Well, in a way all his westerns were about the passing of the Old West, but this one is special. Peckinpah said this was his favorite of the films he directed. It’s a simple story. Jason Robards, Jr. is abandoned in the desert by his partners to die of thirst, but he finds water and eventually sets up a stage stop and prospers. He then waits for three years for them double-crossin’ sidewinders to show up so he can take his revenge. They do show up … and things don’t go as you’d expect in such a film. Cable has a bittersweet romance with a whore (Stella Stevens) from the town of Dead Dog. He’s an engaging character, talking to himself or to God a lot. In a way, it reminds me of A Thousand Clowns, not in any story sense but because the thing you remember most is Robards talking. But there is also the great cast of Peckinpah usual suspects, including the wonderful Strother Martin and Slim Pickens, who here drives a stagecoach instead of a B-52.