Sam Peckinpah

Sam Peckinpah

Perhaps the single most illustrative fact about Sam Peckinpah is that he was developing a script while fighting against the heart disease that eventually killed him at the too-young age of 59. After alcoholism, cocaine abuse and a tempestuous personal life (involving divorce, infidelity and drunkenly shooting guns at the mirrors in his house), Peckinpah refused to stop working despite his terrible health. He was an artist up until the end, and one steeped in unnervingly realistic violence and gripping dramatic conflict. It was a strong signature that earned him parody by Monty Python, consistent controversy and (strangely) only one Oscar nomination. From the outside, the hard-living and the storied battles with colleagues make it feel like Peckinpah was a man who belonged in the wild west of his stories. A guy born a century too late. But from The Wild Bunch to Straw Dogs to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, this human dust storm left behind some truly amazing movies. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who couldn’t direct sober.

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Writer-director Rod Lurie was in a bit of a lose-lose situation when it came to dealing with the hardcore Straw Dogs fans. Like all remakes, if Lurie deviated too much, many critics would ask, “Why call it Straw Dogs?” If the Nothing But the Truth director stayed too faithful, then he’d get ripped on for making a carbon copy. There’s a tough middle ground between those two sides, and Lurie made enough changes to try to find it. For one thing, unlike Sam Peckinpah, Rod Lurie doesn’t hate women. All jokes aside, the original film earned controversy, partly because Peckinpah’s depiction of his female lead was deemed misogynistic. That’s not much of a surprise — Peckinpah treated that character with such disgust, as he treated all the main characters in that film with disgust. His film was about David (played in this version by James Marsden) finding his inner animal, while Lurie opted for David finding his inner man. Here’s what Rod Lurie had to say about the commercial potential of a Straw Dogs remake, the fine line between David being manly and narcissistic, and Peckinpah’s depiction of Amy versus his own: Note: this interview contains spoilers.

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“EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT,” Yeesh. There’s a good poster in here, but that unneeded and silly tagline doesn’t help matters much. But, really, how many taglines are genuinely good nowadays? Pretty much none. Screen Gems has just putout this lesser homage (via director Rod Lurie’s twitter feed) to the original 1971 Straw Dogs poster; something that’ll anger fans, but will probably work for the average filmgoers who have no idea what a Peckinpah is.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. When you don’t face up to the dangers of life, when you escape to a small English town with your beautiful wife played by Susan George, the trouble will find you. It’ll find you, and it’ll throw things through your windows and aim rifles at you. Dustin Hoffman knows this because Sam Peckinpah knows this. Even though the title of this movie makes it sound like it’s about canines made of hay, it’s really about violence and its inevitability. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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