“If they move”, hisses stern-eyed William Holden, “kill ’em”. So begins The Wild Bunch (1969), Sam Peckinpah’s bloody, high-body-count eulogy to the mythologized Old West. “Pouring new wine into the bottle of the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle”, observed critic Pauline Kael. That exploding bottle also christened the director with the nickname that would forever define his films and reputation: “Bloody Sam”.
David Samuel Peckinpah was born and grew up in Fresno, California, when it was still a sleepy town. Young Sam was a loner. The child’s greatest influence was grandfather Denver Church Peckinpah, a judge, congressman and one of the best shots in the Sierra Nevadas. Sam served in the Marine Corps during World War II but – to his disappointment – did not see combat. He married Marie Selland in Las Vegas in 1947 and enrolled as a theater graduate student at the University of Southern California the next year.
After drifting through several jobs—including a stint… read more
Always most at home making films about the vanishing honour of the West, Peckinpah seemed to inhabit the same ghostly mythos that his films bequeathed to the cinema. He made two astounding films: "The Wild Bunch" and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", plus several other notable ones. Many more famed directorial careers have been built on less.