David Samuel "Sam" Peckinpah (February 21, 1925 December 28, 1984) was a director of manly movies. An eccentric substance-abuser who was notorious for his gruff demeanor and rocky relationships with women, Peckinpah created a number of films that perfectly reflect his own personality: violent, nihilistic and cynical. Some of them stand as modern classics.
His filmography includes:
- Ride the High Country: A tale about two aging ex-lawman guarding a shipment of gold in early 20th century California, it had lackluster box office when it was released in 1962 but has since been Vindicated by History.
- Major Dundee: A vicious Deconstruction of the Cavalry Vs. Indians formula crossed with Moby-Dick. A victim of extensive Executive Meddling, it (and The Cincinnati Kid from which he was fired) set the stage for Peckinpah's contentious relationships with producers and studio heads during the production of his later films.
- The Wild Bunch: His most famous film, an infamously violent anti-western about aging bank robbers in the changing west.
- The Ballad of Cable Hogue: This is a lesser-known mostly non-violent change of pace film about the proprietor of a water hole during the last days of the Old West.
- Straw Dogs: A nebbishy professor gets pushed to the brink and violently reasserts his masculinity. Remade in 2011.
- Junior Bonner: Another uncharacteristically non-violent film starring Steve McQueen as an aging rodeo bull-rider.
- The Getaway: A crime caper also starring Steve McQueen that was remade in 1994.
- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Perhaps best known for being the origin of Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door."
- Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia: A bloody modern western.
- The Killer Elite: A freelance spy seeks his traitorous ex-partner.
- Cross of Iron: His only war film, and an inspiration for Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.
- Convoy: A trucker film based on the novelty country song.
- The Osterman Weekend: His final film, based on the Robert Ludlum novel.
He also worked in TV earlier in his career, contributing well-regarded episodes to Have Gun Will Travel and Gunsmoke, rewriting a rejected script from the latter to create The Rifleman, and later creating The Westerner.
Sam Peckinpah's signature style include:
- The Alcoholic: His alcoholism is often reflected in his characters.
- Author Appeal: Extreme violence of course. Most of his films also features an extreme amount of alcohol being consumed, which again isn't surprising. Another common sight are cute, innocent children doing morbid and disturbing things like torturing scorpions in The Wild Bunch, a dog in Straw Dogs and using a hangman's noose as a playground swing in Pat Garret and Billy the Kid. Peckinpah seemed to believe that every passing generation became worse and less moral than the previous one, which this symbolised.
- Cultured Badass: A rough-and-tumble, hard-drinking man's man with a deep appreciation for art and classical literature (Hemingway, Melville and Shakespeare being particular favorites).
- Executive Meddling: Frequently a victim of it, as he made little effort to compromise with studio heads or producers. Major Dundee and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are the most extreme, though by no means the only examples. The Wild Bunch was a notable aversion: he worked well with producer Phil Feldman, though he disagreed with Feldman's decision to cut several scenes from the film.
- Gorn: They are pretty violent even today, so by older standards, they count as this trope.
- Magnum Opus Dissonance: He reportedly preferred The Ballad of Cable Hogue to his more famous (and violent) works like The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs.
- New Old West: Seen in The Wild Bunch, Junior Bonner, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
- Production Posse: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, John Davis Chandler, David Warner, Cassie Yates, Aurora Clavell, Ernest Borgnine, Steve McQueen and Slim Pickens to name the most frequently occurring. He also frequently worked with cinematographer Lucien Ballard and composer Jerry Fielding.
- Rated M for Manly: Masculinity, violence and revenge are common themes. The dark and nihilistic tone of his films is sometimes read as a deconstruction of the trope.
- Reality Ensues: A major part of his films was his desire to show just how horrific violence and killing were in real life.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Firmly romantic in all of his movies, most of them being about rogues who find that there's No Place for Me There in a more modern world. The most terrifying character in all of his movies is David Sumner, a mathematician who represents the cold, emotionless, force of order and civilization who gradually becomes dehumanized as he asserts his power over a bunch of thuggish crooks.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: He fell deeply onto the "cynicism" side of the spectrum, becoming nihilistic in the process.
- Sociopathic Hero: The Wild Bunch themselves, David Sumner, and Warren Oates' character in Alfredo Garcia.
- Twilight of the Old West: The end of the Wild West and the beginning of the Modern Age is a common theme in many of his best-known films like Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, and The Ballad of Cable Hogue.
- The Western: Many, obviously, but perhaps notably, his film Westerns are almost exclusively set in the Twilight of the Old West or the New Old West rather than the "classic" period.