Jason Robards and Stella Stevens in The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)


(director: Sam Peckinpah; screenwriters: John Crawford/Edmund Penney; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editors: Frank Santillo/Lou Lombardo; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Jason Robards (Cable Hogue), Stella Stevens (Hildy), L.Q. Jones (Taggart), Strother Martin (Bowen), David Warner (Reverend Joshua Sloane), Slim Pickens (Ben), R. G. Armstrong (Banker), Peter Whitney (Cushing); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Peckinpah; Warner Bros.; 1970)

Appealing gentle Western comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Appealing gentle Western comedy, filled with eccentrics, is directed with style as a fable by Sam Peckinpah (“Straw Dogs”/”The Wild Bunch”/”Ride the High Country”). It’s co-written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney, who use the theme of an old codger rendered obsolete by progress.

Loser prospector Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) is betrayed by weasel pecker-wood partner prospectors Bowen (Strother Martin) and Taggart (L.Q. Jones), and robbed of his horse, rifle and water by the ugly greedy characters and left abandoned in the middle of the dry desert. After walking for four days the embittered Cable miraculously discovers a water hole near the stage route, a spot where no one else could find water, and goes into the dusty town of Deaddog to file a claim.

The banker stakes Cable to a $100 grubstake. In town the prospector visits town prostitute Hildy (Stella Stevens) and falls in love with her, but returns to his water hole and to the itinerant lecherous self-styled preacher Joshua Sloane (David Warner) encamped on the site as a guard. Later when Hildy is run out of town by some pious Christians, she stays with Cable in his now profitable water hole, thanks to his selling the water rights to the stagecoach line, where he built a shack. Hildy wants to go to San Francisco and leaves him after a short time, as these rough conditions are not her idea of living the good life. When the despicable Bowen and Taggart return and attempt to steal his fortune, Cable has little choice but to shoot the aggressive Taggart, after trapping him in a snake-pit, but can’t kill the whining Bowen. Instead gives him the water hole rights and plans to search for Hildy in San Francisco. Cable now feels he has gotten his revenge on the pair of misfits and can leave the Old West desert to join Hildy, only he meets up with unexpected tragedy when one of those new cars, owned by the now rich Hildy, a widow after her San Francisco hubby died in bed, returns to see Cable and her chauffeur-driven car runs over him when he accidentally releases the brake and places himself in danger after he pushes Bowen to safety.

The pic, though enjoyable, is uneven, too whimsical for my taste and too cliched.