A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Sam Peckinpah's "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" is a splendid example of the New Western. It's also a fine movie, a wonderfully comic tale we didn't quite expect from a director who seems more at home with violence than with humor.
The New Western is usually set at the moment when civilization reached the West. In the traditional Western, the states are still territories and the law is a day's ride away, and people are killed fairly casually.
But those days lasted at the most for 30 years, and eventually you began to get farmers and telegraphs and municipal ordinances and autos. As a director, Peckinpah is fascinated by the conflict between encroaching civilization, on the one hand, and the pride of the independent Westerner on the other. "The Wild Bunch" was about professional killers who went on one last fling before they became obsolete. Now "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" gives us one of the West's most memorable individualists, played in high style by Jason Robards.
Cable Hogue is a prospector with a mean streak and a first-name relationship with God. After his no-good partners leave him for dead in the desert, he crawls miles through the waste and finally hands God an ultimatum: God, gimme water. God does. Now Cable is a good businessman and he immediately sets up a waterhole on the spot, which happens to be halfway between two major towns on the stagecoach line. With the passage of years, he develops his spread into possibly the West's first motel.