In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
The Civil War Yankee sergeant Yellowleg saves the cheater Turkey from hanging after a card game, and together with Turk's gunslinger buddy Billy Keplinger, they ride together to Gila City with the intention of heisting a bank. When other bandits rob a store, Yellowleg shoots at the outlaws and accidentally kills the son of the cabaret dancer Kit Tilden and the grieving woman decides to bury her son in the town of Siringo in Apache country where her husband is buried. Yellowleg Enlists Billy and Turkey to escort Kitty and the coffin through the dangerous land.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This was Peckinpah's feature directorial debut (he had already helmed several TV episodes, however). See more »
At 37 minutes Brian Keith is engaged in a conversation around a campfire with Turk and Billy. His hat is tilted over his right eye and then in the final two shots it is tilted over his left eye. See more »
You don't know me well enough to hate me that much. Hating is a subject I know a little something about. You got to be careful it don't bite you back. I know somebody who spent five years looking for a man he hated. Hating and wanting revenge was all that kept him alive. He spent all those years tracking that other man down, and when he caught up with him, it was the worst day of his life. He'd get his revenge all right, but then he'd lose the one thing he had to live for.
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The print distributed by UPA for television in the seventies was in black and white. See more »
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Lyrics by Patrick Gilmore aka Louis Lambert
Sung by Turk in the bar and at the end See more »
Odd, but with historical importance
The first theatrical feature from famed 'maverick' director Peckinpah is a very odd film. For one thing, it takes some careful reflection to recognize that it has virtually no story, simply the working out of apposite relationships between people having almost nothing in common with one another. The abortive bank robbery becomes almost forgotten, overshadowed as it is with O'Hara's journey to bury her son near her husband.
Which brings us to the first important historical point of the film. The attempt to bury the son is going to leave an impression on Peckinpah, who revamps it as black comedy for Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. (It also apparently left an impression on Tommy Lee Jones, who borrows the idea for his recent "Three Burials" film.) Peckinpah would also rework the Chill Wills character through several films. Brian Kieth's driven Civil War vet becomes the basis of Major Dundee, and of Holden's Pike Bishop in the final battle of The Wild Bunch. Another reviewer remarked that the boy playing the harmonica foreshadows the Bob Dylan character in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; but, more importantly, it clearly provided the inspiration for the Charles Bronson Harmonica character in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. The arrival of the three would-be bank robbers in the town at the beginning uses camera angles that would recur in the Wild Bunch, just as the arrival in the abandoned village at the end of the film includes camera angles used in the scenes from the Bunch that are set in Mexico. Another reviewer has rightly remarked the resonance of the barroom church service with similar scenes in later Peckinpah films. And the undeniable sexual tensions between Kieth, O'Hara and the two bank robbers would reappear in an almost unrecognizable fashion - not in the Ballad of Cable Hogue, as the reader might have expected, but in Straw Dogs, where it explodes into open violence, only achieving partial resolution in the McQueen/ McGraw relationship in the Getaway.
Whew! that's a lot of potential to discover in a low budget western. But there's more! One of the reasons why this film would leave an imprint on Tommy Lee Jones and Sergio Leone is that it is not really a "Western", i.e., a cowboy genre film. Except for the references to the Civil War, it could easily have been set somewhere in Africa, Mexico, or Australia. It could have been set in the Middle Ages. There's only one character that is pure "cowboy" movie stereotype, the black-clad gunslinger. And he is so openly a stereotype, one can't help wondering if he represents some intentional parody element to the film. At any rate, the point is that Peckinpah's decision to film a "non-Western Western" is historically crucial - If films like the Wild Bunch and Once Upon a Time in the West can be truly said to mark the end of the Western genre as a whole, the first notice of this transition is to be made in Deadly Companions.
Finally, one ought to note the performances of the actors. All of them, it should be noted are either miscast or cast against expectations. Chill Wills had never played such a nasty crud before; Maureen O'Hara playing a loser is completely antithetical to the cinema persona she had previously established for herself, and to which she would later return in films like McClintock! And Brian Keith turns in a great performance in a role that is really thanklessly unsympathetic for the audience in many subtle ways.
Really a remarkable achievement for a young director with little or no budget to work with.
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