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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An irony of the late great American treasure, film director Sam
Peckinpah, who was accused by film critics of glorifying violence in
his film 'The Wild Bunch', was ignored by critics and audiences, who
did not review much less see his next crowning achievement. "The Ballad
of Cable Hogue" is the perfect follow up film after the critical and
box office success of 1969's "Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch". For 'The
Ballad of Cable Hogue' is it's antithesis in just about every way,
being it is a gentle western love story with comical overtones. Sam
Peckinpah not only had poetic depth; he also had wide range in talent.
This little film showcases the lighter side of Sam Peckinpah.
"The Ballad of Cable Hogue" may be a Masterpiece of film-making that is overlooked for its simplicity, jagged haggard look and lack of violence. It appears that Sam Peckinpah used 'Cable Hogue' to explore the experience 'Change' in a lonely man who's life long creed is:Treat everybody the way you want to be treated, as he gets second chance at life and seems to be reaping the karma from the good he has sowed throughout his miserable life. After we first meet Cable Hogue (Jason Robards giving one of his BEST screen performances), his 'partners' shoot him for his water in the desert and leave him for dead. He survives; meeting the likes of a wayward reverend played to the hilt by David Warner! Cable accidentally finds he's above an oasis of water. He goes to the nearest town and purchases the land, when meets an angelic prostitute Hildy, played by Stella Steven in her most acclaimed role of her career! Although she'll be damned if she knows why, they fall head of heels in love with each other. He builds his well for a watering stop for the stage coaches and his home he hopes Hildy will share with him in. Then his partners, who left him for dead, return.
I hope with the DVD release of one of Sam Peckinpah's finest achievements in film-making gains the wide audience it deserves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I agree with one of the comments that says this film is theological. From the beginning, when Cable is dying in the desert and submits himself to the wishes of God to the end when the reverend makes an eulogy stating that Cable's temple is the cathedral of the desert. Cable is a saintly man, he refuses to kill a man who betrayed him and will try to kill him, besides calling him a coward because he did not pull the trigger. He gives love and self respect to a prostitute, and also shows a lack of attachment to material things and forgiveness. In the same way that Cable practices good actions, the reverend preaches about it but is not able to be a saintly man because he cannot resist his sexual drive. This film gives us three great performances by Jason Robards, Stella Stevens and David Warner. It is very enjoyable, most of the time like a comedy, but it sure makes you think a lot.
I didn't even know this was a Sam Peckinpah movie when I watched it. It has been programmed regularly on Cable TV here in the UK, and I idly switched over to it one Sunday evening. Cowboy movies in 2012? You must be joking! However, I was sufficiently hooked to watch this guy left for dead in the desert. It looks like Jason Robards, so it has to have something going for it. He finds a muddy puddle in the desert. OK, a cliché about this guy building up a prosperous business from scratch. Well, not quite. The clichés never happen. Instead the dialogue is interesting, poetic, never predictable. The character of Cable Hogue has depth and empathy. David Warner hoves into view as a disreputable preacher, dressed in black and thin as a gutter. In the nearest town we meet the hooker, played beautifully by the delectable Stella Stevens. OK, there are elements of slapstick which never quite work, but you feel the movie has something beyond the conventional western. When I discovered it was by Peckinpah, I immediately thought - yes, this is the work of a great director. Not a full-blown symphony, perhaps a string quartet (though by all accounts it cost enough to make). It leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction, tinged with melancholy. That coyote at the end has a collar - perhaps a symbol of the taming of the wilderness.
There was always far more to Sam Peckinpah than just bullets,
bloodbaths, and squibs. "Bloody Sam", as he was so often called, was
also a mercurial and complicated director who could quite easily master
the fine art of congenial character studies as he could the dark and
violent side of Man. Case in point is his 1970 western THE BALLAD OF
CABLE HOGUE. Alongside his 1972 contemporary western JUNIOR BONNER,
BALLAD is Peckinpah at his most relaxed, as well as his most overtly
comic. Due to typical studio finagling, BALLAD was far from a hit when
it was released in May 1970; but it has since then attained a better
place in the western pantheon.
Jason Robards stars in the title role, a desert rat left to fend for himself after his two unscrupulous partners (the always-reliable Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones) abandon him without any water out on the Nevada desert. Vowing revenge one day against them, he stumbles through the desert for several days; and just when he's near the end of his rope, in the middle of a sandstorm, he comes upon water--in a place it isn't supposed to be. The waterhole becomes his salvation, and eventually a money-making enterprise, being situated along a heavily traveled stagecoach route. Into his life come a sex-starved preacher (David Warner) and a small-town prostitute (Stella Stevens) bound for New Orleans. And yet, for all the companionship they provide and all the money he gets from the water, he still can't stop thinking about getting even with Martin and Jones--a fact that eats at him and makes him vindictive, even towards Stevens and Warner.
Stuck as it was between THE WILD BUNCH and STRAW DOGS in the Peckinpah film canon, THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE was largely considered by some to be a minor film, seeing as how it had next to no violence to speak of (which makes the 'R' rating it has a bit much today--'PG-13' would be more like it). But it showed that Peckinpah cared as much for characters as he did for content, a fact that holds true for all of his best movies but which so often got set aside because so many critics focused on the violence. The musical interludes don't necessarily catch on very well, but they are the only (minor) flaw to this congenial mix of comedy and drama in a sagebrush setting. Robards does his usual good job as the grizzled desert rate; Stevens scores as the love he really can't have; and Warner's performance as the lecherous preacher Joshua is incredible. Other Peckinpah regulars like R.G. Armstrong and Slim Pickens provide the usual great support; and the period score by Jerry Goldsmith, and Lucien Ballard's fine cinematography top things off.
THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE is a film in need of revival, both for Peckinpah cultists in particular and indeed Western film fans in general. It proved that even a troublesome Hollywood infant terrible like Sam Peckinpah could be congenial when given the right material.
It's not hard figuring out what went wrong at the box office with Sam
Peckinpah's follow-up to "The Wild Bunch". Not many who thrilled to the
bloody end of Pike and Dutch were ready for an amiable rom-com, even
one that starts out with an exploding lizard. Jason Robards finding
love and God in the desert? Doesn't sound too promising, does it?
The wonder of "The Ballad Of Cable Hogue", or rather the first of many wonders, is how well it plays. This is Peckinpah's finest moment, one that stands alongside the greatest westerns of all time. It's a lot of fun, and at the same time, incredibly deep, its joys falling effortlessly into tragedy and back into joy like a desert bloom.
Robards plays Hogue, left in the desert to die by two faithless companions, Taggart (L.Q. Jones) and Bowen (Strother Martin in his best film performance). Instead, Hogue finds water, the only water along a stage road connecting the towns of Gila and Deaddog, water enough to make him rich. He also finds wayward preacher Joshua (David Warner) and ravishing prostitute Hildy (Stella Stevens), who puts aside her Frisco dreams to shack up with Cable. But can Cable put aside his dream of revenge against Taggart and Bowen?
You really don't need to know any more about "Cable Hogue" than that going in. You probably shouldn't know any more, because Peckinpah's film is all the better for the way it catches you by surprise. It's a stunningly different and more positive film from the director of the nihilistic "Wild Bunch". At the same time, it works as a reverse examination of that earlier film's major themes. If "Bunch" is about damnation, "Cable Hogue" is about salvation, and redemption, in a way that probably didn't help the film hit with audiences of the time but makes it timeless today.
Robards' performance is the center and the key of "Cable Hogue", the way he plays the character with equal parts ruthlessness and comic grace. Cable is at heart a good man, irreverent but a man of faith. His shy yet penetrating gaze breaks your heart in scenes like the one where he asks a banker for a grubstake and offers himself sheepishly as collateral: "Well, I'm worth something, ain't I?" Yet he is locked into himself and his demons so deeply that he can't recognize Hildy for the saving grace she represents. Sam working from his inner demons, no doubt, but coming up with deeper and better answers than he usually did.
The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, led by Stevens in a performance that plays up her sex appeal without shortchanging her inner vibrancy. Warner's preacher character is essential also; he's a lustful hypocrite but a genuine man of God in his cockeyed way. Sure, his idea of spiritual consolation to young women involves much groping but he also speaks truly about what drives Hogue in the wrong direction.
"What do you call that passion that gnaws at the walls of your soul?" he asks Hogue. "That's the very passion that will nurture the dandelions above your grave."
We of course would rather see Cable have his confrontation with Taggart and Bowen, something which arrives in such a backasswards way it only adds to "Cable's" unique genius.
Peckinpah was not a natural comedic director, and there are bits of goofy awkwardness here and there. But even when it's more Benny Hill than Boot Hill, the prevailing anything-goes mood wins you over. Everywhere in this film, Peckinpah takes chances with what he can get across and what the audience will accept. This makes "Cable Hogue" a lot bolder than the standard bloodbath.
Watching "Cable Hogue" offers a lot of iconoclastic fun, yet not without pushing you in uncomfortable directions. Whether or not you wind up happy with it, you will remember the ride, and I hope, find it as worthwhile as I did.
In direct response to the controversy which erupted over the
unprecedented violence and gritty realism of The Wild Bunch, Sam
Peckinpah did what many of the greatest American filmmakers have done
over the years. His next project would end up being almost
intentionally counter to the previous film.
The result was The Ballad of Cable Hogue, a small-scale, intimate tale that is equal parts a nostalgic look back to the Old West and a tribute to the kind of man capable of surviving and thriving in such an environment. Jason Robards is touching and firm as the title character, left for dead in the prologue but able to fight through his misfortunes and create his own oasis. Along the way, he encounters a most unusual and shifty man of the cloth and a prostitute with a heart of gold. Stella Stevens is really wonderful as Hildy, one of the best examples of this most ancient of Hollywood screenplay clichés. Her romance with Hogue is both sincere and sad as Peckinpah uses this as a template for how the romantic West quickly found its way into decline and obsolescence.
Peckinpah may have gotten a lot of flack for The Wild Bunch but this film received almost just as much criticism, ironically for being almost exactly not what he had come to be known for. However, some forty years later, Peckinpah's true vision of men unable to conform to the regularities of society shines through. Gorgeous photography, solid acting, a beautiful score and themes of survival and memory point to this as one of the most brutal Western director's gentlest and personal triumphs.
Peckinpah followed up his masterpiece, "The Wild Bunch," which featured slow-motion violence, with this gentle comedy western featuring fast-motion comedy. Robards is wonderful in the title role, a good-natured loser who hits upon a goldmine by stumbling upon a water spring in the desert. Stevens looks hot and has one of her best roles as a hooker with a heart of gold. The great supporting cast includes Martin and Jones, who seem to have picked up right where they left off in "The Wild Bunch." While enjoyable, it is perhaps a little too low-key to sustain a running time of two hours, and the ending is rather contrived. The soundtrack includes a couple of tuneful songs.
This classic Western deal with Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) a roguish
hustler who in search of good life discovers water and gets property
some lands placed on a desert in remote part of the Old West . After
getting its register in the Land Office , Cable meets a whore (Stella
Stevens) and falls in love with her . Cable along with the prostitute
and a lecherous priest (David Warner) care his stopover as
resort-lodging of a line stage. Hogue's Castle was a real-life hotel
which was acquired in Bishop, California. It was packed-up and
transported along with its own furniture to its shooting location
across the border in Nevada.
Interesting story about a loner who turns into successful entrepreneur is deliberately paced by Sam Peckinpah and the production base for the film was at Echo Bay, Nevada . A twilight story ,¨Ballad of Cable Hogue¨ is a director Sam Peckinpah's lovely effort, feeling look at the world of the Western. Jason Robards , engagingly easygoing but obstinate , is the title character, a drifter who strives to preserve his values in an often harsh modern world . Robards turns a magnificent acting as a hustler who is searching in a changing world for values that have long time disappeared . He also must deal with his two enemies well played by usual Peckinpah couple, L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin , and a lovely whore wonderfully performed by Stella Stevens in his best role ever acted . Sam Peckinpah started work on this film almost immediately after finishing work on the landmark ¨Wild bunch¨ that is why Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones were cast in similar roles in both films . David Warner is particularly fine as the raunchy priest and in his relationship to Jason Robards strike real sparks. Furthermore, it contains an emotive score by the master Jerry Goldsmith, adding various sensitive country-western songs . Colorful and glimmer cinematography by Lucien Ballard, Peckinpah's usual, make this one a winner. An agreeable western with marvelous interpretations and exciting , enjoyable images including split-frames and fast-motion . This outstanding motion picture is stunningly directed by Sam Peckinpah, creating a true classic . Restored and reissued various times with diverse running . ¨The Ballad of Cable Hogue ¨ is a real must see for fans of the genre . This is a much quieter movie than habitual from ¨Cross of Iron¨, ¨Straw dogs¨, ¨The getaway¨, ¨Wild bunch¨ , ¨Major Dundee¨ director Sam Peckinpah who has always a deft eye for period detail . Rating : Above average, well worth watching .
Of all the movies which director Sam Peckinpah created, this became his favorite. It's called " The Ballad of Cable Hogue " and was written by John Crawford. The story is told of a poor prospector named Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) who's cowardly partners (Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones) left in the desert to die. Wondering through the desert and nearing death, Hogue stumbles blindly through a sand storm and to his amazement, discovers water. The nearest town to his location is Dead Dog, twenty miles away. A wondering Preacher (David Warner) becomes his first customer and gives him some free advice for a dime's worth of water. Traveling into town, he files a Claim, makes arrangement to provide water to a Stage line and meets a girl name Hildy (Stella Stevens) who has dreams of traveling to San Fransisco. Later, when Hogue becomes successful, he once again meets up with the two men who left him for dead. This time he is prepared and plans to bury them where he himself should have died. The movie is fun to watch and with a list of additional stars like Slim Pickens, Peter Whitney and R.G. Armstrong becomes a Classic in it's own right. ****
Jason Robards Jr. stars in one of the sweetest romance-comedy westerns
by one of the most violent directors of the time Sam Peckinpah. Not
long after starring in "Once Upon A time In The West". Robards is a
pleasure to watch at any time. Cast perfectly with Stella Stevens. It
is amazing to me that Sam Peckinpah could change gears after directing
"The Wild Bunch" just one year earlier (1969). Well written with a
good, (if not a touch hokey), cover song "Butterfly Morning".
These two men seemed to have a lot in common both in the military service, their early TV work and they're athletic abilities when in school. This film is sentimental and funny without any blood and guts. And after seeing it at least 25 times it is still just plain fun. And my impression is that all involved in the making of this film must have had a good time making it.
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