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I first saw The Ballad of Cable Hogue in Vietnam in 1970. For years afterwards, I wondered if it was really as good as I recalled or whether I thought it was good at the time because it was the only film I saw in a year. Finally about five years ago I found and bought the VHS tape: it is even better than I remembered. Perhaps it helps to be 30 years older than I was then. And the good news is that the soundtrack is available now, having been released by Varese Sarabande (www.varesesarabande.com). "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" which plays through the opening credits of the film is one of the great ballads of the last fifty years, for my money. See the film! Get the soundtrack! You'll never regret it.
This movie is a truly different Sam Peckinpah movie. Clear sharp humor and beleivable romance. Not exactly your typcal Bloody Sam Movie. Jason Robards Jr is very poignant as Cable, a man out of his time. Stella Stevens is stunning, and Strother Martain an L.Q. Jones play their villain roles with characteristic aplomb. But the real show stopper is David Warner as the randy reverend Joshua Sloan. There isn't scene he's in which he doesn't steal. The mix of tragedy comedy and romance is flawless. Truly a classic western, as well as a milestone in Peckinpah's career.
A western so unlike anything else of the genre I was accustomed to. When it magically reappeared on disc I was skeptical..would it stand the test of time? It HAS and more. An overlooked gem, a second feature (when there WERE second features) addendum which NOW with release of the disc should take it's place, rightfully, as one of the outstanding works of Sam Peckinpah. A brilliant and troubled director, each of his movies reveals more of himself As if peeling an onion. He has been stigmatized by some for the violence of The Wild Bunch and by others for the 'tricks' of fast action and winking dollar bills of Cable Hogue. The total of his work is more than the sum of it's parts.. however I do believe this movie will serve as his epitaph as it is rediscovered. Listen to the theme song and understand.
This was Peckinpah's favorite movie he ever. It's not my favorite, but it's one of his best. It has the great elements for a Peckinpah movie that makes it work. Great direction, acting, editing, cinematography, musical score (especially the songs). I also believe this is Jason Robards finest and best screen role he ever did. It's a shame that the film never got the intention it should have received. Stella Stevens, David Warner, L.Q. Jones, and Strother Martin turn in some fine roles, too. It has the perfect amount of humor and drama to make this Western work, along with its romantic and revenge story lines. It was the perfect follow up to "The Wild Bunch".
When Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) is left in the desert without any
water double-crossed by his partners Taggart (L.Q. Jones) and Bowen
(Strother Martin), he prays for God and four days later he finds a
spring in the route of the stagecoach to Deaddog City. Cable meets the
preacher Joshua Sloane (David Warner), who advises him to claim for the
land, and he rides to Deaddog where he has an encounter with the
prostitute Hildy (Stella Stevens). He is financed by the local banker
and builds a stagecoach stop with water, restroom and meals helped by
Reverend Joshua. Later, Hildy is expelled by the dwellers of Deaddog
and she moves to Cable's place, becoming his lover. She invites Cable
to move with her to San Francisco, but Cable wants to revenge first
against Taggart and Bowen.
"The Ballad of Cable Hogue" is an unusual western; actually it is a bitter comedy in the Wild West. This film is completely uneven, with pleasant and funny moments alternating with others boring and dull; the abrupt ending is awful, with a scene that is simply thrown to the viewers without any further explanation, just to symbolize the end of an era but it does not work well. Jason Robards and David Warner are excellent, but the sexy and extremely gorgeous Stella Stevens is awesome and "steals" the movie. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "A Morte Não Manda Recado" ("The Death Does not Send Message")
I can't believe this movie got less than 8 stars.
Cable Hogue may have been Jason Robards greatest role.
Strother Martin plays his character to perfection,and his character was born to be a villain in this movie.
In fact,the lead character in Despicable Me should have been formed around Strother Martin,and should have even looked like him.
Martin may have been a B list co-star,but he was a GREAT B list co-star.
And Stella Stevens was never better eye candy.
Hogue is a miserable human being,with good reason,and in spite of himself he manages to attract this crowd of friends and acquaintances.
Of course,a lot of his "friends" are directly related to him owning the only water hole on a stage line,and people with money or influence always have more "friends" than they really want. Very few of them real friends.
I just bought one of those new Roxio devices to convert VHS movies into DVD movies,and I will soon be opening the still sealed brand new VHS tape of this movie that I bought several years ago and converting it to DVD. As far as I know this movie still isn't available on DVD.
It is extremely rare for me to watch the same movie over and over, but
that's just how much I enjoyed this one! (of course, Encore's line-up
give a whole new meaning to Re-runs) I liked it so much, I bought a
copy to share.
Encore's ad said this was Peckinpaugh's favorite film and that the "studio brass hated it." I'd have to say Peckinpaugh's feelings were right and the studio brass at the time were not too bright.
This is a movie that should appeal to both sexes: not a chick-flick or a high drama guy's film. It's difficult to file this movie into any one genre, as it has a slight Western feel with a lighthearted touch of tenderness and it's wonderfully comical. The little 'dance' Cable does after leaving the land office is priceless, LOL!
Another rarity for me is to instantly like the music scores from any movie. "Tomorrow Is The Song I Sing" and "Wait For Me, Sunrise" were stuck in my head, even the day after watching the movie the first time. I was happy to find both songs on YouTube and saved them to my play-list. The lyrics from both songs contain meaning that can strike a chord with anyone who has ever faced hard times, looking for a brighter tomorrow. (I expect this would be just about everyone)
When Sam Peckinpah allowed some comedy to infuse his otherwise dramatic
films, he displayed a subversive and very funny sense of humor. But if
"The Ballad of Cable Hogue" is any indication, he was much less adept
at staging an all-out comedy.
This farcical western starring Jason Robards as a man who discovers a water spring in the desert and proceeds to make a business out of it is an ungainly, even slightly ponderous affair. Its attempts at humor are mostly obvious and lead footed -- like speeding up the camera so that characters run around like they're in a Benny Hill skit. And the movie is far too long for the bare bones plot supporting it. I really like Peckinpah, but I thought this one was a struggle to sit through.
Two things I unequivocally did like about it -- the scene where Cable Hogue meets the character played by Stella Stevens and can't focus on anything but her cleavage; and the film's theme song, which I still can't get out of my head.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Good ol' Bloody Sam hid his softer side quite well, too well if you
want my opinion, which might explain why "The Ballad of Cable Hogue"
sank into oblivion somewhere lost between the popularity of "The Wild
Bunch" and "Straw Dogs". How pitiful, "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" would
have probably helped to contradict Sam's detractors, but no one
remembers it. And this sad reality poetically fits the film
Jason Robards plays the prospector Cable Hogue, whose bushy beard, raspy voice and sad looking eyes, embody the colorful heritage of the Old West. His odyssey starts when he's double-crossed by his two associates and left alone and waterless in the desert. Hogue has no other choice than a long walking during which we're transported by the beautiful ballad "Tomorrow is the Song I Sing". Hogue's tomorrow is uncertain, but not hopeless, he regularly addresses God with a touching but never blasphemous complicity and all the determination of a man, who doesn't want to die, like the allegory of the agonizing Old West spirit. But after four exhausting days of walking, Hogue finally gives up and in an ironic twist, his abandon coincides with the providential discovery of a water hole in the middle of nowhere, right between the towns of Deaddog and Gilla. Hogue found something more valuable than gold, a stage stop in the desert.
What follows is a tribute to the American Dream : Hogue registers his two acres of precious land, gets a loan from a banker and a succession of very colorful characters assist him. Hogue develops a cordial relationship with two stagecoach drivers and a strange friendship with probably one of the most perversely amusing cinematic preachers you'll ever see. David Warner as Reverend Joshua Sloan will provide some of the film's funniest moments both in the slapstick and the one-liners department. Indeed, Sloan has a very personal way to choose his parishioners, his 'sisters of the Spirit' and purge "the grief" from "their soul" and release their "true spirit" with his very tactful hands. But the heart of the film is the love story between Cable and Hildy, the prostitute, not the archetypal one with the heart of gold. The gold, she's digging it, but not anywhere, in San Francisco where she plans to marry the richest man or the two richest men and become "the ladyest damn lady in town". Stella Stevens is absolutely irresistible in this role, combining an exquisite femininity with a very strong personality.
I firmly believe the romantic story is responsible of the comedic tone of the film. It's like Peckinpah decided to loosen up a bit and let all the fun repressed during the making of the more dramatic "Wild Bunch". The movie provides fast motion, subliminal shots of Stella Stevens' beautiful boobs that hardly keep us focused, the slapstick of a good old Benny Hill show and a sort of poetical wisecrack that provides some of the funniest Western lines : "Give me the rifle" "You'll get what's in it" Priceless! I used to believe that this film should be a more popular Western comedy than "Blazzing Saddles" but I finally got the point that the comedy was in fact comic relief as to hide the dramatic aspect of "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" which is, a tragic love story.
Hildy has a real fondness on Hogue, and their chemistry is absolutely appealing. The movie is punctuated by many beautiful songs, among them, "Butterfly Morning/ And Wild Morning Afternoons" which offers a tender, delicately handled moment. Robards was robbed an Oscar nom and Stella was stellar, and both exude a mysterious but sincerely endearing love. But there's never a reason in love, it just happens, as says Sloan, there's always one girl who "cuts right straight into you".
But Hogue is a practical man, incapable of showing his romantic side every time, haunted by the desire to take his revenge on the guys who betrayed him. Hogue deliberately (or maybe not) ruins what could have been a long-lasting idyll by a remark that hurt Hildy's feelings, telling he didn't charge her the location, because she didn't charge him in bed. At that moment, Hildy's heart is devastated as she realizes that it's time to leave him.
The tragedy of "The Ballad of Cable Hogue"'s romance is the impossible love between the hooker who wants to discover San Francisco and the old prospector who hates the town and manages his honest business in the desert. Hogue is someone in the desert, and doesn't have his place in civilization. And the end of the West is incarnated by the automobile era : when the first one appears, Strother Martin's character says he saw one of them ... and so we did, in a movie named "The Wild Bunch". Hogue, like Pyke, embodies the Old West myth and it's no coincidence that he was killed by the ominous arrival of cars. Civilization finally met the Old West.
Hogue dies surrounded by all the protagonists of his life, including Hildy, as a rich widow from San Francisco with a dress so green, she's like a beautiful oasis in the desert, indeed, she became the "ladyest damn lady in town". What a poetic ending for a man who would have the honor to hear his own eulogy And what a powerful significance to the film, probably the only one which 'stars characters actors' from Jason Robards, to Stella Stevens, Strother Martin, L.Q Jones, Slim Pickens, the "Ballad of Cable Hogue" is the delightful swan song of an era, a last tribute to a movie genre.
And I join myself to honor Cable Hogue, the unsung hero of 'New Hollywood' and 'Cable Hogue' whose tenderness is like the link between the thrills of 'The Wild Bunch' and the passion between 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller', this is the Holy Trinity of the 'New Western' genre. Amen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Movie fans who recall Sam Peckinpah as a writer and director of violent
Westerns will see something quite different in "The Ballad of Cable
Hogue". The film, much like "The Wild Bunch" and "Pat Garrett and Billy
the Kid", makes a statement about the passing of the Old West, a
favorite Peckinpah theme. Of the three, it's the one with the least
amount of blood letting and the most humor and as it turns out, was
cited by Peckinpah as his personal favorite.
I find myself in the middle on this picture, entertaining enough in it's way, but often times it seemed the story was rambling aimlessly in search of a real plot. Then, every time the director attempted some novelty, like the winking currency or the Keystone Cop run around, I was left a little perplexed regarding the integrity of the story. Actually, it seemed like one of the director's preoccupations here was with outright titillation, with the camera fondly zooming in on Stella Stevens' substantial assets, along with those close-ups of her strategically placed name badge. The presence of David Warner's preacher character only added to that perception, he of the Church of the Wayfaring Stranger. At least he was right out there with his unbridled lust, but it seemed just a little too convenient that Mrs. Jensen agreed to such comfort in her time of grief.
One thing I CAN say with some confidence is that this is probably the finest performance I've seen by Jason Robards. He takes the viewer through a fairly wide range of characterizations and emotions quite effectively. I would like to know though how he managed to get through the scene while washing Hildy's (Stevens) back; on screen it looked like he was in complete control.
Anyway, this won't make my list of favorite Westerns, or even favorite films by Peckinpah. I guess it has it's place, but given all the diverse elements in the story, one might ask why the director didn't go all out for genuine spaghetti.
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