Sam Peckinpah’s West

"I use violence as it is. It's ugly, brutalizing, and bloody...awful." Vilified for his violent vision of the American West as presented in films such as The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the artistry of Sam Peckinpah’s work was largely overlooked in his lifetime. Dismissed by critics, he was essentially ignored in the decade following his untimely death in 1984 at the age of fifty-nine. However, with the publication of a biography in 1994 and Warner Bros.’ theatrical re-release of The Wild Bunch in 1995, Peckinpah reemerged as a distinctive voice in American film.

In Sam Peckinpah’s West eleven scholars approach the director’s oeuvre with an eye toward his minor films, touching on themes and characters previously overlooked and linking his vision to America’s literary and historical traditions. These insightful essays assure us that Peckinpah’s work will not be forgotten again, nor the vibrancy of his characters who go out "not with a whimper, nor even a bang, but a cinematic explosion that rocked Hollywood and riveted us in a way we’ll never forget."

Leonard Engel is professor of English at Quinnipiac University and the editor of The Big Empty: Essays on the Land as Narrative.

Table of Contents:

A Terrible Beauty is Born: Peckinpah's Vision of the West - John M. Gourlie and Leonard Engel
Auguries of Redemption: Peckinpah's Mythological Critique of American History - Armando Prats
Comic Elements in Peckinpah's The Westerner - Phillip J. Skerry
The Double Vision of Tragedy in Ride the High Country - John L. Simons
Fall in Behind the Major: Cultural Border Crossing and Hero Building in Major Dunde - Matt Wanat
Peckinpah's Epic Vision: The Wild Bunch and The Ballad of Cable Hogue - John M. Gourlie
Divining Peckinpah: Religious Paradigm and Ideology in Convoy and The Ballad of Cable Hogue - Frank Burke
Junior Bonner: New West, Old West, or the Antinomies of the Father - Richard Hutson
"Don't Mess with Texas": Recuperating Masculinity in The Getaway - Stephen Tatum
"Who Are You?" "That's a Good Question": Shifting Identities in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - Leonard Engle
We're Always Moving: Sam Peckinpah's Making of Convoy - Elaine Marshall
Sam Peckinpah and the Western Film Tradition - Robert Merrill
The Killer Elite and the Critics: A Note on the Art of Interpretation - Leonard Engel


Praise and Reviews:

"Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of this anthology of new essays on the films of Sam Peckinpah—apart from the value of the essays themselves—lies in its demonstration that academic criticism of this great American original remains high and in good hands: serious, informed, aware, and committed."—Paul Seydor, author of Peckinpah: The Western Films

"Sam Peckinpah's West is a useful contribution to the growing body of books and criticism about the late, great Western director."—Don Graham, author of Kings of Texas