Some rare Sam Peckinpah…

Here is a not-too-awful print of a rare short film by Sam Peckinpah: his adaptation of Katherine Anne Porter’s short story “Noon Wine.” It aired on ABC’s “Stage ’67” in 1966 and stars Jason Robards, Olivia de Havilland, Theodore Bikel, as well as a couple more Peckinpah stand-bys, Ben Johnson and L.Q. Jones. If you’re a Peckinpah fan, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the film, which Peckinpah made between the ill-fated Major Dundee and his triumph, The Wild Bunch. It so happens that Jerry Fielding (blacklisted in 1953 and did not return until 1961) did the music here, and there are some motifs in the score that will reappear in The Wild Bunch.

Robards is great–just the perfect role for him (he will play a similar character in The Ballad of Cable Hogue. Peckinpah manages to get a pretty good performance out of de Havilland (though I understand his methods were borderline sadistic). Bikel is just on the right side of not too over the top and, although only on screen for about a minute or so, L.Q. Jones is terrific. The swedish actor Per Oscarsson plays the escaped loony Olaf. An odd performance, perhaps not well-suited to a Peckinpah film.

I’ve never seen Peckinpah use so many dissolves and superimpositions. They’re there in The Wild Bunch, certainly, but nothing quite like this–but here he has to tell a long story (really a novella) in just under 50 minutes, so I guess they’re necessary.

Can’t seem to embed the video (Arnab?) so here’s a link.

4697645 from John Bruns on Vimeo.

2 thoughts on “Some rare Sam Peckinpah…”

  1. Thanks for the link, John. I saw this short film at the TV museum in New York; it’s an impressively simple adaptation, which, as you say, is anchored by Robard’s affecting performance. Even the version at the museum was quite fuzzy and difficult to watch–why is a film only 40+ years old in such bad shape? I’ve been seeing episodes of The Rifleman on TV lately, a show that Peckinpah had some involvement in as a writer, producer. The typical plotline: peaceful and upright Lucas McCain, whose main concern is the protection of his son, gets challenged by some scumbags who come into town to stir up trouble. The episode ends with McCain shooting down the said scumbags in a remarkable display of skill with a rifle that he holds at his hip. Never have so many scumbags (usually in three’s) bedeviled a single town; never has a peaceful man had to kill so many people. Warren Oates has shown up three times at least as three different scuzzy lowlife types; each time he is mercilessly shot down. Poor Warren. Also present are Peckinpah regulars L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong in other parts.
    Note: The Austin Film society sponsored a Peckinpah retrospective more than 10 years ago and put out a booklet with material by Pauline Kael and Paul Seydor, among others; they seemed more than happy to send me a free copy: Phone 512-322-0145 x0

  2. It’s likely the original film is lost. I can’t tell if this print is a kinescope, but it probably is, since it has the opening sequence (the sprightly young in-crowd dancing on the “Stage ’67” set).

    “ABC Stage ’67” was an interesting series, though I’m not surprised it didn’t last. I wish we’d bring back this sort of programming–a show devoted to original films, documentaries (one episode of “Stage ’67” was a documentary/tribute to Marilyn Monroe, narrated by John Huston), variety. Lots of talent–Dick Cavett, John le CarrĂ©, Dustin Hoffman, as well as aging Hollywood stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

    There are a couple of non-“Presents” things Hitchcock did for shows like this, like “Suspicion” (a fascinating episode called “I Saw the Whole Thing,” starring George Peppard) and “Startime” (an episode called “Four O’Clock”). These programs are so hard to find, though. And, as you say Michael, even if a TV/Radio museum has a copy, it’s probably in lousy condition.

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