David Weddle, Faber & Faber £11.99 Pbk.
Published for the first time ever in Britain, Weddle’s tome is a compelling read whether one’s familiar with the movies of Sam Peckinpah (among them The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, The Getaway) or not. Like the man’s uncompromisingly violent movies, this lovingly penned sketch never soft soaps its subject. It’s as strong on roots and early upbringing as on final career years. The latter saw first booze and then (as the drug became increasingly available in Hollywood circles) cocaine addle Peckinpah’s ability to make coherent movies; ironically, the atrocious Convoy turned out his biggest box office hit.
Peckinpah’s numerous battles with the major Studios are documented in detail. Early efforts like Major Dundee is shown as a half-scripted mess that the director liked to cite untruthfully as ruined by the studio, but others like Noon Wine (a now destroyed ABC TV drama), his arguable masterpiece The Wild Bunch and late contender Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid are pulled from the wreckage and intelligently defended as great art. At the same time, Peckinpah’s often unfairly vicious treatment of technicians on the set and friends and family (including three wives) in life leave a nasty taste in the mouth.… Read the rest