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The Ballad of Cable Hogue
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Ballad of Cable Hogue More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Quirky and tender

Author: Bandy Coote from Cairo
27 May 2002

I can't ever resist this movie if it's on TV. A great assortment of strange, complex characters, and a fine story. Jason Robards at his best.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A gritty closing to the Old West

Author: MNelsP from Lakewood, Colorado
23 May 1999

The realism here is not just in the historical notes of the passing of one "Old West" in exchange for a new one inhabited by Stanley Steamers and all sorts of new-fangled 'gadgets,' but in the feel of life on the edge. Peckinpah has a way of making me want to go shower after viewing "Cable Hogue" because I know I must have a pound of sand and dirt down the back of my shirt and in my shoes! It's that sweaty, never-being-able-to-stay-clean feeling the settlers of the American West knew all too well. Robards IS Cable Hogue! Stella Stevens capably plays the best role given to her. David Warner as Joshua really makes one try and look beyond the soiled preacher's collar for some sign of decency. Adding Strother Martin and Slim Pickins to any movie is simply gravy. Humor, discomfort, betrayal, love and coping with everyday life in a harsh environment. Oh yeah, don't forget the rattlesnakes!

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

An enterprising desert rascal

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
24 February 2007

It can be argued that Jason Robards gave his career screen performance in the title role of in The Ballad of Cable Hogue. Borrowing heavily from Lee Marvin's Kid Shalleen from Cat Ballou, Robards is one desert rascal who turns a crisis into a moneymaker.

Old time prospector Cable Hogue is deserted and left to die on the desert by his two partners, Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones. Ready to cash it in, he happens on some water, the only water in a desert between two Nevada towns. With only 35 cents to his name, he takes a claim on the two acres where that spring is and through some wit and rascally charm he gets the stagecoach line to open up a station right there.

In the list of Sam Peckinpah's screen credits this is the only comedy in the bunch and I'm surprised he didn't do more. None of those slow motion hymns to violence are in this film, but Peckinpah does show a good sense of comedy which given the type of stuff he normally did you wouldn't think he would have.

Of course the other half of the credit for The Ballad of Cable Hogue belongs to Jason Robards and the droll performance he delivers. Cable Hogue is a man who's got a good sense of himself and ain't easily trifled with.

Stella Stevens is good as the tart where her heart ought to be. And such Peckinpah regulars as Slim Pickens and R.G. Armstrong round out a very capable supporting cast.

For unusual taste of Peckinpah, you really ought to see The Ballad of Cable Hogue.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Never Give Up!

Author: tomhendrix69 from United States
20 May 2006

The Ballad of Cable Hogue is one of the finest examples of the "American Spirit Unbridled" ever portrayed in any medium. What I took with me (and kept all these 35 years) from the film was the underlying philosophy NEVER DOUBT YOURSELF!. Jason Robards will take up residence in your heart along with Stella Stevens while David Warner and Strother Martin are at the top of their craft. In fact, the entire cast came together as fine an ensemble as to be seen in the cinema. This movie is to be enjoyed time and again to appreciate the subtle-and not so subtle-nuances and interwoven themes of individuality, persistence and self-esteem.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Tomorrow Is The Song I Sing

Author: ALauff from Chicago
15 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jason Robards is pitch-perfect as the title character, a grizzled throwback to a bygone era. In the opening scene, his comrades leave him for dead in the desert, absconding with his only canteen. This landscape of cactus and sand becomes a forsaken character that Hogue develops an odd kinship with—crawling on his belly on the fourth day, he discovers a wellspring through a combination of dumb luck and divine providence (I'm not sure if there's a difference in Peckinpah's world) after resigning himself to the Lord's will ("Take me Lord. I'm done."). In what will become an endearing Hogue standard, he brushes aside four days of hell, and brags to the heavens: "I did it! Me…Hogue…"

Peckinpah's comic Western is a surprisingly moving eulogy to the fading West of old, whose badge of honor is worn by the title character, a walking anachronism whose base, day-to-day self-preservation is in fierce conflict with a newfound sophistication granted by new modes of transportation and the construction of the town as an epicenter of commerce. Poor Hogue's time has hopelessly passed; we see how out of touch he is when he rides into town to register a claim for his two-acre would-be oasis. The final moments suggest the impossibility of rustic living, as the film mourns the passing of a certain kind of self-dependence. By contrast, this new order, by imposing tyrannies of interdependence and civility, puts an ironic strain on the formerly dignified (if not harmonious) relations between men. Because men are primitive and dissolute by nature, Peckinpah might as well cry, one can only discredit these inclinations by prettifying them and pretending they don't exist.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

winking cash - this film contains one of the best scenes in film history!!!

Author: slavejuan from mt doom
2 January 2004

this is a very relaxing, and quite entertaining, movie - sam peckinpah's calm western following the nervously adventurous WILD BUNCH. i liked this movie a lot more. i think THE WILD BUNCH is overrated, while this one is practically forgotten. jason robards is great. he can sometimes overact in his roles - face it, the guy loves to act and, sometimes it shows. but his performance in this is top-notch yet subtly so. the movie is taut as it is funny. there's a scene in the movie that has to be among the most classic in film history. cable (robards character) has some money walking out of a bank (no he didnt rob the bank), w/ a five dollar bill on top - & on the bill is an indian's face. he looks across the street and sees a sexy prostitute on the staircase. she's looking at him, motioning him over. cable looks down at the bill, and the indian first glances over in the direction of the hooker, then back at cable - and winks! it's a great scene - i practically cheered in my own family room. david warner, as a con-artist preacher, is a cool sidekick. i like that he has a scene of his own, a good one at that. it's annoying how in some movies a sidekick is ONLY in the movie to be the buddy of the star (every Tom Cruise movie from TOP GUN on). warner, a peckinpah regular, shines on his own as well as supporting robard's lead. also, great character actors strother martin and l.q. jones are perfect as the 'bad guys'. and one scene stands out - cable, who opens up a waterhole for horses and stagecoaches, watches a new invention at the time - a horseless carriage (automobile) drive right past the waterhole. "it didn't even stop," he says. & right then he knows, his franchise may, in a few years, be obsolete. THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, from the split screen credits to the strange, melancholy yet ironically uplifting ending, is a good movie. it's not a classic (like STRAW DOGS or THE GETAWAY or CROSS OF IRON) but it's a good movie - a terrific way to waste two hours. this is another laidback peckinpah film, better than his other relaxed post-western, JUNIOR BONNER (which was just okay). and by the way, what gives Warner Brothers? - where's the DVD!!!!!!!!!!!

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A Modern Day Legend

Author: bkrauser-81-311064 from United States
25 February 2014

Those who can think back to grade school no doubt can recall their class reading snippets of The Iliad or The Odyssey among other folklore of ancient antiquity. Even if you've never read the legends or seen the Disney movie, Hercules is a name we can all recognize along with Odysseus, Orion, Jason and the Argonauts etc. In a thousand years those names will likely be relegated into obscurity, replaced by the likes of Rooster Cogburn, Django and The Man with No Name. Yes love them or hate them, Westerns are the American mythology, likely to outlast even our ambitious Democratic experiment.

What will the poets say about The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) probably my favorite western film since The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)? Well modern critics say it's a wistful farewell love letter to the west; a Sam Peckinpah oddity that strives for humor over outright violence; at times a romantic comedy too saccharine for its own good. Yet The Ballad of Cable Hogue is so much more than that. Beneath its broad and occasionally satirical joviality there's not just the beating heart of true western heroism but a doctrine of positivity.

The film starts with our hero Cable (Jason Robards), who is double-crossed by his partners in crime (L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin). Forced to wonder the desert with no water or gun, Cable is near death when he stumbles onto a muddy hole in the ground. He digs with his withered hands to find an underground spring that saves his life. The spring is smack dab between two rural towns connected by a stagecoach trail. Despite having nothing but two nickels and the clothes on his back and being functionally illiterate, Cable manages to buy the rights to the land and makes a name for himself as a the chintzy proprietor of Cable Springs.

Revenge plays a large role in Cable's master plan though what he didn't count on was the friendship of the eccentric reverend Joshua Duncan Sloane (David Warner) with a penchant for courting married women. What starts as a tumultuous relationship, blossoms into a mutual respect; philosophizing about the nature of love and loss. Cable also didn't count on a chance meeting with Hildy (Stella Stevens) an ambitious prostitute who at first sees him for the scallywag he is. She has dreams of moving to San Francisco and marrying the richest guy in the city but her plans get complicated when the two become close.

The love the two shares is based on respect and necessity. Both are considered too uncouth for life in the small town nearby. First time in town, Cable pour water on a banker's pants then nearly destroys a Christian revival tent. Cable then sets up his pit stop and regales and disgusts travelers with his backcountry ways and diet. Hildy is a little more refined than the gruff-and-tumble Cable but nonetheless makes a living in a house of ill-repute. Eventually the town gets fed up with her and drives her off as far as Cable Springs.

When asked by Hildy if Cable minded sleeping with an experienced woman Cable responds in his plainspoken way "Hell no, it never bothered me…We all got our own ways of living." It's that self-determination and individualism that keeps the story so interesting and worthy of repeated viewings. She helps him until she feels the need to leave for San Francisco to the disappointment but understanding of Cable. There is no compromise in this love story. Both parties don't mind the lack of compromise however because the time they spent together was the most important thing. They understand each other.

What some claim Cable Hogue to be wistful I say the film is more triumphant. Not to spoil the film for you but Cable does bump into his former associates before the film's end. What results isn't necessarily in the tradition of American western folklore. Unlike Lonely Are the Brave (1962) or Hud (1963), The Ballad of Cable Hogue accepts with open arms the ideas of progress both intellectually and technologically and even postulates that thinking in the past is pejorative.

Yet Cable remains a product of his time and is left back in the romantic vantages of the wild, wild west. With great humor, warmth and stubborn industry his ballad is a cinematic cultural piece, a legend that exemplifies what the little guy did to tame the wilds of that time. Do not fret the loss of Cable's way of life. Instead appreciate the fact that for a time people lived and were made better by those who found water where there was none.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

One of Peckinpah's best

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
6 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sam Peckinpah is mostly known for "The Wild Bunch", but his smaller pictures tend to be better, more personal.

"The Ballad of Cable Hogue", which Peckinpah regarded as both a personal favourite and the most autobiographical of his films, is a 1970 Western which stars Jason Robards as Cable Hogue, a bearded prospector who sets up a stagecoach station at a watering hole out in the desert. Traffic through these parts will be high, Hogue reckons, and so sooner or later Taggart and Bowen are likely to turn up as customers. Taggart and Bowen being the two men who abandoned Hogue to die out in a desert three years earlier. Hogue wants revenge. Taggart and Bowen, of course, do eventually show up.

But the film is uninterested in violence, vengeance, and the genre's usual assortments of gun-play, money grubbing and double-crossing. Instead, Peckinpah turns the film into something more unconventional. Though it's primarily a comedy – Peckinpah's trademark slow-motion bloodbaths become fast, sped up comedy routines – the film is also very moody, lyrical and romantic. Peckinpah's more concerned with lingering on Robard's tired, bearded face, the loving glint in Cable's eyes and the charming way this rough and tumble mountain-man does his best to act gentlemanly and proper around a local hooker called Hildy. She's "the ladiest lady" his eyes have ever laid upon, you see.

Contrasted with the chivalrous Hogue is a character called Joshua (brilliantly played by David Warner), a sex obsessed preacher who uses Christ and Bible as an excuse to get close to any woman he can. The film's dialogue is great – Robards, always a likable actor, has some endearing moments – but it's Warner who gets the best lines. Whenever he's on screen he's waxing poetic about female body parts, or finding some way to twist Biblical prose into pornography.

Peckinpah was always a Romantic. His heroes are all misunderstood outcasts, wounded macho-idealists who flee hell only to end up in worse hell holes. Without hope or future his heroes are content with what little time and pleasures they have left, the latter often amounting to nothing more than some nickle, land, or a fine lady at their sides to help lick their wounds. These women tend to be hookers and whores, not because Peckinpah's a pervert or misogynist, but because, like Van Gogh, he and his heroes identify with the beaten and downtrodden.

Peckinpah called "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" his most autobiographical film. There are no drugs or heavy boozers here (Peckinpah was a notorious alcoholic and addict), but Cable does echo Peckinpah's life in other ways. He abandons the towns and cities, moves off into the wilderness, finds some land for himself, becomes a ragged pauper king and then muses about his legacy before dying. "Was I a violent man or a kind man?" Hogue broods, "a killer or a lover?"

Peckinpah, of course, grew up on ranches, was virtually kicked out of Hollywood, made a home in the scrublands of Mexico, had a temperament that bounced from violent king to kind, quiet artist, became worried about his films' portrayal of violence, then found himself resorting to dumb, impersonal action thrillers to keep his career alive. He sees the best and worst of himself in Houge.

Regardless, "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" is Peckinpah's gentlest, most introspective film. Like "Two Mules For Sister Sarah", a western released the same year by Peckinpah's mentor, Don Siegel, it's also unashamedly offbeat and free-spirited. If the film treads wrong, it's in an overly literal climax, in which an automobile runs over Hogue, mechanisation and the "new", "civilized" world literally heralding the death of the cowboy. This tired cliché and banal observation is found in virtually every post "Liberty Valance" western.

8/10 – Worth one viewing. Some more excellent, unconventional westerns from this period: "Bad Company", "The Beguiled", "Two Mules For Sister Sarah", "The Long Riders", "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean", "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson", "The Shootist" etc.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Great Film, Jason Robards Is A Treasure

Author: FightingWesterner from The Lonesome Prairie
21 April 2010

Jason Robards gives one of the best performances of his career as Cable Hogue, an iconoclast, desert rat, and shrewd opportunist, who sees his chance to prosper and takes it when he stumbles across a mudhole in the desert and turns it into a profitable oasis.

Robards gets great support from all around him, especially David Warner as a lecherous preacher that becomes a kind of sidekick to Hogue and Stella Stevens as the girl Cable lusts after, but can't quite hold on to.

Entertaining, fun, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes quite poignant, The Ballad Of Cable Hogue further elaborates on the central themes in previous as well as subsequent Peckinpah westerns, of changing times in the west at the turn of the century. It's a character study, with the Hogue himself symbolizing the life and death of the old west.

Peckinpah's favorite of his films, it appears (at least to me) he tried to replicate the feel of this three years later, in Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, with mixed results.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A lovely and touching seriocomic Western gem

Author: Woodyanders ( from The Last New Jersey Drive-In on the Left
21 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1908. Scraggly frontiersman Cable Hogue (beautifully played by Jason Robards) gets left in the fierce Arizona desert to die by his treacherous no-count partners Bowen (the always excellent Strother Martin) and Taggart (a splendidly nasty L.Q. Jones). Hogue discovers water in the middle of nowhere and starts his own business running a rest stop located on a well-traveled road. Director Sam Peckinpah, working from a quirky and colorful script by John Crawford and Edmund Penney, expertly crafts a winning blend of earthy humor and gentle lyricism with this funny, moving and thoughtful fable on redemption, second chances, and the last dying days of the wild'n'woolly Old West. Stella Stevens shines in one of her best-ever roles as Hildy, the brassy and beautiful whore Hogue falls in love with. Moreover, there are equally terrific supporting performances by David Warner as friendly, but lecherous itinerant preacher Joshua, Slim Pickens as amiable coachman Ben Fairchild, R.G. Armstrong as irascible banker Quittner, Peter Whitney as helpful benefactor Cushing, and Gene Evans as surly brute Clete. The sequence with Stevens and Robards singing the sweet duet "Butterfly Morning" rates as a definite delightful highlight. Lucien Ballard's lush, picturesque cinematography makes inspired occasional use of artful fades, dissolves and split screen. Extra props are in order for Jerry Goldsmith's folksy, flavorsome score and the catchy soundtrack of tuneful'n'twangy songs. A real treat.

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