Peckinpah in Montage
Today would have marked the 92nd birthday of the great Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984) and 20 years ago at this time, in an occurrence that would prove not only rare but indeed singular, a short film created from new footage, home movies, interviews and reminiscences covering the production of his best-regarded movie became a newly-minted Academy Award® nominee for Best Documentary Short Subject. The movie being paid tribute was of course The Wild Bunch (1969) and the elegiac and ruminative 34-minute short, The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage (1996), produced and narrated by Twilight Time co-founder Nick Redman and directed by esteemed Peckinpah scholar, film editor, director and educator Paul Seydor, represented the only time that an examination of the production and impact of an iconic film would be so honored with Oscar® attention. It didn’t take home the statue, but then again neither did The Wild Bunch’s Peckinpah, a Best Original Screenplay nominee (along with collaborators Walon Green and Roy N. Sickner), nor composer Jerry Fielding, a Best Original Score nominee, for the original. Since awards by their definition only go to a rarefied few titles each year, the Peckinpah oeuvre has merely but happily thrived as the endless object of warts-and-all study, devotion and celebration by the maverick moviemaker’s legion of admirers. So the scholarly thumbprints of Redman (who wrote and directed another short, the 2005 A Simple Adventure Story: Sam Peckinpah, Mexico and The Wild Bunch), Seydor and Peckinpah colleagues/chroniclers Garner Simmons and David Weddle are all over the various home video releases of the director’s movies across several studio libraries and labels, unpacking each for their filmmaking foibles, canonical connections and resonating values. Four have had pride of place in the TT hi-def Blu-ray hall of fame: the now-sold-out Major Dundee (1965) and the still-available Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), The Killer Elite (1975, featuring the rarely seen and acclaimed 1966 Katharine Anne Porter adaptation Noon Wine and available here: http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/27855/THE-KILLER-ELITE-1975-NOON-WINE-1966/) and the Peckinpah-scripted The Glory Guys (1965, directed by Arnold Laven). And the scrappy, hard-living, Hollywood-defying, hell-raising tale-spinner Peckinpah would likely crack a crooked smile and raise a toast to that.