Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF American Masters #6: Ride the High Country

 

This week, Prof. John Marini joins me on the podcast for a conversation about Sam Peckinpah’s first great Western, Ride The High Country, a movie about the collapse of nobility. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea play veteran marshals of the Old West, whose time has passed, and who take one last job to make something of themselves–or for themselves. This is our sixth Western conversation and next week, for our seventh, we’ll talk about Peckinpah’s last great Western, The Ballad Of Cable Hogue.

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There are 6 comments.

  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am delighted, and a little amazed, that someone as young as Titus even knows who the hell Peckinpah was. He’s a frustrating mixed case of brilliance, excess, potential, and spoilage. “He had greatness nearly in his grasp” is my cliche version of SP’s career. Even before “The Wild Bunch”, he was someone who Sixties film students watched closely. “Wild Bunch” all but obliterated the collective memory of his earlier work. 

    • #1
    • April 23, 2019, at 5:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Thanks, Gary! It’s love of the Western, which once spread far beyond American shores!

    You’re right about Peckinpah–he reminds me of a saying of Walker Percy’s, what you can expect from novelists is, they’re canaries in the coal mine: If they start suffering, it’s time to get out, or everyone will start suffering. Peckinpah was just more aware of the change America suffered in the 60s, so he pretty much invented the agonized manliness movie, which has since become the dominant story to tell about men!

    Even back when the Western dominated TV, his The Westerner–now on youtube, folks!–starred Brian Keith as a too-sad-to-be-tragic good guy, tracing out each episode a new moral collapse in America.

    America revived morally & politically after the 70s, but not Peckinpah. I guess some of the artists really do bleed American…

    • #2
    • April 24, 2019, at 12:01 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Thanks, Gary! It’s love of the Western, which once spread far beyond American shores!

    You’re right about Peckinpah–he reminds me of a saying of Walker Percy’s, what you can expect from novelists is, they’re canaries in the coal mine: If they start suffering, it’s time to get out, or everyone will start suffering. Peckinpah was just more aware of the change America suffered in the 60s, so he pretty much invented the agonized manliness movie, which has since become the dominant story to tell about men!

    Even back when the Western dominated TV, his The Westerner–now on youtube, folks!–starred Brian Keith as a too-sad-to-be-tragic good guy, tracing out each episode a new moral collapse in America.

    America revived morally & politically after the 70s, but not Peckinpah. I guess some of the artists really do bleed American…

    Think of guys who finally got into the director’s chair after the war, working their way up…Frank Tashlin, Don Siegel, Sam Fuller, as well as the TV boys, John Frankenheimer, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Penn, Marty Ritt. They came up through scripts that were shlock, in many cases, and struggled towards something that in the Sixties and early Seventies was looking like art, sometimes too self-consciously so. In a weird way, Ol’ Sam went both ways at once. He started with a rare gift for the Western, an artist from the very beginning, and didn’t lose his ability to surprise over the years. But more and more (and your mileage may well differ) he mixed those peaks with schlockier valleys.

    One of the gifts of the auteur critics of a half century ago (ah, who the hell am I fooling–it was Cahiers du Cinema and Andrew Sarris) was the reminder that pretension doesn’t necessarily equal great film, that even inventive potboilers had value. When I look at “Cross of Iron”, I think of that.

    • #3
    • April 24, 2019, at 12:41 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Yeah, I gotta say, Cross of iron was not bad! Beyond strange & into provocative, but worth considering. Nobility turns into nihilism.

    • #4
    • April 24, 2019, at 5:29 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Titus,

    Wonderful as usual, I have my usual technical ignorance, how do I get to other podcasts, esp. your podcast on the Searchers?

    • #5
    • April 24, 2019, at 8:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Morning Titus,

    Wonderful as usual, I have my usual technical ignorance, how do I get to other podcasts, esp. your podcast on the Searchers?

    If you use iTunes, here.

    Also here:

    • #6
    • April 24, 2019, at 9:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like