The Ballad of Cable Hogue Reviews
Nevada, early-1900s. Cable Hogue (played by Jason Robards) is double-crossed and robbed by his two partners. he is left for dead, wandering the desert without water. However, Hogue manages to survive and sets about restoring his fortunes. He finds water near a main road, buys a small plot of land around it and sells water to passing travelers. He also falls in love, with Hildy (Stella Stevens).
Directed by Sam Peckinpah, who gave us The Wild Bunch, Cross of Iron, Straw Dogs and The Getaway. Peckinpah movies are generally known for being violent dramas, with the violence being quite graphic. This movie, however, is more of a comedy than a drama, and thus a bit of a departure for Peckinpah.
It still has, at its core, a dramatic plot, one of recovery and revenge, but it is difficult to take seriously with some of the hilarious scenes that we see.
Very funny at times, with some wonderful lines and physical comedy. Peckinpah also makes use of the Benny Hill-like sped up footage for comedic effect. If anyone was under the illusion that this was purely a drama, that device would have shattered that illusion.
However, as mentioned, it retains a dramatic core and the ending is particularly sombre (and unsatisfying). Therein lies the problem with the movie. One moment its a comedy, sometimes to the point of being quite silly, next it is deadly serious. Very uneven.
Still, quite entertaining. Just best to not take it too seriously.
The atmosphere in The Ballad of Cable Hogue is not like that of any other Sam Peckinpah. The man is known for his westerns which are extremely gritty in nature and violent, yet The Ballad of Cable Hogue is quite the opposite. The film is a character study, and much of the time it examines the simplicity and slow wit of its titular protagonist by using it to bring comedic value to the film. A lot of The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a gentle moving and sentimental story which is heavily atmospheric in ways other than melodrama, and because of that it is able to maintain a distinctive charm. These scenes are characterized by an overly lighthearted musical score and elements of visual humour, the furthest thing from what I would expect out of a Sam Peckinpah film. He proves that he has a real knack for it. It proves to make the feature rather fun at times due to the easygoing comic charm. This lightens the mood in the film which is great considering that as a slow moving character study set in a civilization developing to modern times without the large use of violence that made Sam Peckinpah's prior film The Wild Bunch so iconic. And though The Ballad of Cable Hogue does not come close to maintaining the same level of quality as The Wild Bunch, it does serve as a strong sign of Sam Peckinpah's sense of versatility within the same genre which pays him a lot of credit. Much of the film simply depicts its titular character wandering around as he attempts to come to terms with changing times, and this gently unfolding narrative allows viewers to embrace the film like a slowly setting sun over the western horizon. It may not always be the most interesting, but it makes an effort to remain consistently emotional and maintain characters who constantly draw viewers in. This mostly proves to compensate for the lack of the better western conventions such as shootouts and horse chases. Some viewers are likely to be bothered by the absence of these themes, but as a whole it is really admirable for Sam Peckinpah to push the limits on the western genre once again and prove to be one of the best men to ever keep the western genre progressing. The Ballad of Cable Hogue is not the quintessential Sam Peckinpah western film, but it proves to have enough innovation to distinguish itself from the crowd, balancing a light sense of humour with a touching sentimentality. The story itself is nothing too amazing and there are many moments where it doesn't feel like the narrative is actually progressing anywhere, but there is always a touch of spirit and real underlying meaning to justify everything well enough.
And although it may not maintain the slow motion and quick cuts of a Sam Peckinpah film, the cinematography in The Ballad of Cable Hogue is grand because rather than focusing so much on the large scale of things it maintains a tendency to zero in on the facial expressions of the characters as a constant reminder that the importance of the narrative lies with them and not the setting. But even then, the scenery in The Ballad of Cable Hogue is captured in the background very nicely and there are many shots which emphasize this, the production design and costumes all with a strong sense of colour. And when this combines with the musical score, it ensures that The Ballad of Cable Hogue appeals to both the eyes and the ears of audiences.
And with the script being so strong with its characters, the cast in The Ballad of Cable Hogue are handed a huge responsibility which they have no difficulty embracing.
Jason Robards is the perfect casting decision for the titular role of Cable Hogue. With a legacy for being table to handle Western films with natural charisma, Jason Robards is able to carry The Ballad of Cable Hogue on his shoulders very nicely. He starts out rough and lost in the Western world which gives him the perfect chance to capture the sentimentality of audiences, and slowly he develops more and so does the connection audiences share with him. He constantly tugs at the hearts of viewers through both the use of his natural charm and the way that he interacts with the surrounding cast members. Jason Robards works perfectly with Sam Peckinpah and grasps all the themes of the film within the one character, giving the film the protagonist that it truly needs.
Stella Stevens is also excellent. She plays the prostitute archetype of the story. And as well as capturing the sights of viewers through her sexual appeal, Stella Stevens manages to transcend the limited perspective of her by delivering a truly powerful performance. She clearly expresses the vulnerability of her character and her desire to be so much more, yet also the nihilism of knowing that she is powerless as a woman in the west. She manages to do all that while also not afraid to appear naked for scenes which emphasize her beauty or even her talents for physical comedy. Stella Stevens ensures that her relevance to the story in The Ballad of Cable Hogue is completely embraced, and her performance is just wonderful with the way that she interacts with Jason Robards. Their chemistry is one of the most touching things about the film because they have the bond of two people who truly care about each other.
So though The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a slow film which does not always feel like it maintains a progressing narrative, with powerful performances from Jason Robards and Stella Stevens as well as the passionate directorial work of Sam Peckinpah, it manages to succeed as a progressive and innovative western, for better and for worse.
(1970) The Ballad Of Cable Hogue
This can be labelled as the second metaphorical movie directed by Sam Peckinpah which centers on the character Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) while travelling through the desert stumbles onto a small water hole. He then decides to put a claim on it since he figures that he's not going to be the only person to come through their and guards it with his life. What we get to expect are other double crossers and deceptive people.
As I've mentioned earlier, to control the water hole can represent power and money especially if it's the only water source within miles of a known desert which can also create friction. Peckinpah doesn't usually have strong female characters as for they're like reading an adult Western novel.
3 out of 4 stars