Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Sam Peckinpah, 1970)

The Ballad of Cable Hogue is lovely, despite the fast-forward comedy action, and the fact that I can't believe anyone, no matter how hard up for sex, would allow David Warner to mash their breasts. But Robards gives a beautiful performance and I think Peckinpah comes closer to pulling off an autumnal Shakespearean comedy as done by Robert Altman than I would have thought possible.

And Stella Stevens is wonderful; she's not just beautiful, but a complex, yearning woman with her own priorities and sensibilities. In a DVD interview she tells us that her greatest challenge in the role was figuring out why she falls in love with Cable; she finally decides to call it one of those "mysteries of life." I think it's her seeing how Cable, first attracted to her magnificent pair of breasts as any red-blooded male would be, gradually finds himself falling for the person behind those breasts, and she can't help but respond to his emerging awareness.

All that said, there's something to be said about Stevens nude. The sight of her backside gleaming with soapy water in the middle of the desert isn't just erotic, it's a glimpse of the impossible, a fabulous mirage. One of her other anecdotes was of how she promised herself after Cable Hogue that she and Peckinpah would work again, and she talked to Steve McQueen about doing The Getaway, whereupon McQueen told her that he saw her as competition. I can only imagine what The Getaway would have been like with McQeen and Stevens as the couple instead of cardboard cipher Ali McGraw; what's more, Stevens might have helped Peckinpah give a damn about the film, too.

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