Friday, January 27, 2006

A Bushel of Peckinpah

I wanted to write something about Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country -- the perfect blend of old-fashioned Western and revisionist Western -- but Tom Block's Review says most of what needs to be said.

I will add that while most of Peckinpah's Westerns use the theme of aging cowboys dealing with the death of the old West (and the old-fashioned Western), it's particularly poignant and effective in Ride the High Country because the movie was made at a time when the old movie industry was in a state of virtual collapse. The studio system was broken, but nothing had come along to replace it; studios like MGM (which made High Country) were floundering. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea were products of the old movie business, where Westerns were plentiful and profitable; by 1962, with the role of the "B" movie having been taken over by television, they were as much of an anachronism in the movie business as Steve Judd and Gil Westrum are in the world of Ride the High Country.

The shooting script is available online, so I can cut-and-paste the best part of the film, the great speech by Edgar Buchanan as a drunken judge: performing a wedding ceremony in a brothel, he unexpectedly delivers a poignant speech about marriage, human nature, and the effects of time:

We are gathered here in the high
mountains, and in the presence of
this august company, to join together
this man and this woman in
matrimony... Now matrimony is an
honorable estate, instituted, blessed,
and commended and commented on by
almost everybody.
(then to Billy and
Elsa -- gently, simply)
I am not a man of the Cloth, and
this is not a religious ceremony. It
is a Civil marriage. But nonetheless,
it should not be entered into
unadvisedly, but reverently and
soberly... You know, a good marriage
has a kind of simple glory about it.
A good marriage is a rare animal,
hard to find -- almost impossible to
(stumbling, remembering)
I don't know -- you see... Well,
people change. It's important for
you to know at the beginning that
people change. You see, the real
glory of marriage don't come at the
beginning. It comes later and it's
hard work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would seem that the fact that he loses his train of thought at the moment he's talking about the work needed for the longevity of marraige you realize he's come to a momentary understanding of why he drinks. He lost something very dear and that is why he has such a clear elucidation of it.