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Sam Peckinpah’s West

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Copyright: 2003
Trim: 6 x 9
Pages: 280 pp.
Illustrations: 13 b/w photos


Sam Peckinpah’s West

New Perspectives

Edited by Leonard Engel

Film and Theatre Studies

"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.


Frank Burke, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
Leonard Engel, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut
John M. Gourlie, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut
Richard Hutson, University of California, Berkeley
Elaine Marshall, Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina
Robert Merrill, University of Nevada, Reno
Armando José Prats, University of Kentucky, Lexington
John L. Simons, The Colorado College, Colorado Springs
Philip J. Skerry, Lakeland Community College, Mentor, Ohio
Stephen Tatum, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
Matt Wanat, Denison University, Granville, Ohio

Table of Contents:

Introduction: A Terrible Beauty is Born: Peckinpah's Vision of the West ~ John M. Gourlie and Leonard Engel

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

Sam Peckinpah Filmography

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

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