The Deadly Companions

  • 1961
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Western

First feature film by Sam Peckinpah, who was hired due to his experience directing half-hour episodes of "Have Gun, Will Travel," and "The Westerner." The film, though weak in spots, is an auspicious debut and especially interesting if compared to the director's body of work. The plot, though contrived (Peckinpah was not allowed to change the script--always...read more

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First feature film by Sam Peckinpah, who was hired due to his experience directing half-hour episodes of "Have Gun, Will Travel," and "The Westerner." The film, though weak in spots, is an auspicious debut and especially interesting if compared to the director's body of work. The plot,

though contrived (Peckinpah was not allowed to change the script--always a bad sign for this director), has enough compelling elements that the viewer is willing to accept the coincidences that force the narrative along. Keith plays a bitter, obsessed gunslinger who accidentally kills dance-hall

girl O'Hara's son in a gunfight. Out of guilt, Keith accompanies the woman on a trek into Apache territory to bury the body in a ghost town where the boy's deceased father rests. Along the way, Keith runs into Wills (Peckinpah's first truly psychotic villain), who tried to scalp him during the

Civil War (which left Keith with a horrible scar and a lame shooting arm). Wanting revenge but unwilling to lower himself to Wills' gutter level, Keith allows the crazy drifter and his sidekick, a young gunfighter played by Cochran, to join them on their treacherous journey through Apache

territory. After a few harrowing (and well directed) run-ins with the Indians, the group reaches the ghost town and Keith gets his revenge. Keith is outstanding and Wills is downright scary as directed by Peckinpah. Though rough going in spots, the film sets an interesting groundwork for the

themes and visual images Peckinpah would fine-hone in his later work. It was an omen of things to come when Peckinpah was not allowed final cut on this project, and the producers altered his ending. It was a problem that would plague nearly every project in his career, including his final film,

THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (1983). An interesting start for one of modern American cinema's most brilliant and controversial directors.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: First feature film by Sam Peckinpah, who was hired due to his experience directing half-hour episodes of "Have Gun, Will Travel," and "The Westerner." The film, though weak in spots, is an auspicious debut and especially interesting if compared to the dire… (more)

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