Monograph Introduction

This film series and monograph is a buoy in a sea change of writing on Sam Peckinpah. During his lifetime, the media always found the colorful story of Bloody Sam more interesting than the films. The larger-than-life myth (consciously fueled by Peckinpah) of a Hollywood renegade tackling the world on his own absurd terms made for good copy. His self-destructiveness became the core of this legend about one very tormented artist. Peckinpah embraced the contradictions: He wanted to be able to both enter his house justified and also claim that he was a good whore who went where he was kicked. The truth, however, is that he was a very bad whore -- his filmography gives testament to just how bad he was. But he was, even as a visionary, his own cleverest enemy. The best writing on Peckinpah has always encompassed this myth, even when denying or expanding its confines. The interpretation has always been biographic, first came Peckinpah and then his films within the context of their destructive creator.

A decade after his death, the myth has hardly receded but a new generation has come into its own. These people haven't lived through reading about Peckinpah's struggles: being stunned by Straw Dogs, even after The Wild Bunch; loving Junior Bonner because it was the master at the peak of his form; being confused by Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and, for whatever their strengths, being disappointed by The Killer Elite, The Osterman Weekend, and especially Convoy, which held promise of being the perfect Peckinpah vehicle. We not only got to see the films, we got to see the man publicly torture his talent.

Now, the only living remnant of Sam Peckinpah is his body of work. This new generation has the stories but, more importantly, they have the films. Their memory is this body of work. These films create a biography of their maker, but in this story they are what is most crucial. The important part of the legacy is the eight films being shown in this Austin Film Society series, the enduring part of the legacy is this monograph. Sam Peckinpah was a cinematic master, and the contradictions and confusions of his personality aside, he made great films and created an extraordinary and connected group of movies. This series and this monograph celebrate these films as much as the man who made them. Together, they offer a serious reappraisal of the Peckinpah films as a body of work rather than biographical markers. In the end, what is left are the films, that is how we remember Peckinpah. Through this work he enters his house, the house of history, justified.

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