This straight-talking program seeks to understand the enigmatic and controversial Sam Peckinpah, whose violent films such as The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs had a telling effect on the cinema...
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This straight-talking program seeks to understand the enigmatic and controversial Sam Peckinpah, whose violent films such as The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs had a telling effect on the cinema of the 1970s and 80s. Those who knew and worked with him, including actor James Coburn, actress Ali MacGraw, his associate Katherine Haber, his cousin Bob Peckinpah, and several screenwriters and producers, examine his life in an attempt to separate the man from the persona. Clips from key films reinforce this detailed discussion of Peckinpah's art and a fixation on violence that still permeates Hollywood today. Written by
A shortened 82 minute version of this documentary, edited to remove some film footage due to copyright laws, is featured on second disc of the Straw Dogs (1971) DVD released in 2003 by the Criterion Collection. See more »
Sam Peckinpah was a legendary renegade maverick director who was just as notorious for his hard-living macho attitude towards life as he was for the brutal violence and often confrontational nature of his movies. Peckinpah came from a huge family that was in the lumber business and was put in a military school due to the fact that he frequently skipped class so he could out in the woods to hunt and shoot guns. Among the things we learn about Peckinpah was that he could be very abusive to women (Ali MacGraw speculates that Sam had a strong feminine side that he made him love and fear women at the same time), he liked to throw knives into either doors or walls, he enjoyed unnerving people (Sam purposefully made R.G. Armstrong angry on the set of "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" so he could elicit the right furious emotion from Armstrong in a key scene), his business life was a mess, he was only alive in front of a camera, and for Peckinpah workaday reality was more of a fantasy while film was his preferred reality.
Kris Kristofferson admits that he always identified with Peckinpah and sings a lovely ballad that he wrote about him. Peckinpah's assistant Katherine Haber notes that Peckinpah was troubled by the violence he saw in the everyday world. Jason Robards reads out loud several letters that Peckinpah wrote with marvelously crusty aplomb. Monte Hellman points out that Peckinpah had an excellent understanding of the old west. MacGraw reveals that she was glad that she never got personally involved with Peckinpah. L.Q. Jones comments that Peckinpah knew every shot in every scene that he filmed well in advance. Writer James R. Silke shares a poignant story about visiting Peckinpah in the hospital after he had suffered a heart attack. Essential viewing for Sam Peckinpah fans.
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