Ballad of Cable Hogue, The (1970)

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), produced and directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Left to die in the desert by his "friends", after several thirsty days Cable Hogue makes a deal with God -- promptly forgetting it -- and "finds water where it wasn't". His primitive springs lie just next to the stagecoach road and he develops it into a going concern with his own hands, and -- although he doesn't seem to realize it -- with the help of others.

He has two interests apart from his new business: (1) that pretty hooker in town, and (2) meeting those "friends" again.

This may be the closest Peckinpah has ever come to a sex comedy. Although only lightly erotic, the humor is the sort that men like. Most of all it is a romance. He is so famous for violent pictures like The Wild Bunch (1969) and Straw Dogs (1971) that we forget his softer side, as with this one and Junior Bonner (1972).

Not that it is totally soft: Hogue's treatment of his "friends" when they do come around again is wickedly brutal. He shows mercy to one but not the other. Is that repentance? He has a long journey and becomes a different person by the time he pays the debt of life. Maybe it was part of the deal.

Fun cast:

Jerry Goldsmith score, his only work with the director. Photographed by Lucian Ballard, who had to work around torrential rains in a dry desert movie.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive. On a commentary brought forward from the DVD, Nick Redman hosts three Peckinpah historians. They say: