Music Video of the Day: Too Late For Goodbyes by Julian Lennon (1984, directed by Sam Peckinpah)


Not surprisingly, a lot of people have assumed that Julian Lennon was singing about his father, John Lennon, in this song.  Julian, himself, has denied that interpretation, saying that this song was just his way of dealing with a breakup and nothing more.

Like yesterday’s video, Too Late For Goodbyes was directed by Sam Peckinpah, the notorious director behind The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid.  It was directed at a time when Peckinpah’s Hollywood career was nearly over, having been sabotaged by too many fights with the studios and too many rumors about his drug and alcohol-intake.  His two videos for Julian Lennnon would be Peckinpah’s final work as a director.  He died just a few months after they were released.

In the UK, Too Late For Goodbyes was Julian Lennon’s first single and was followed by Valotte.  In the United States, the order was reversed and Too Late For Goodbyes came out after Valotte.  To date, Too Late For Goodbyes is the most successful single that Julian Lennon has ever released.  It reached #1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart and stayed there for two weeks.

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Vallotte by Julian Lennon (1984, directed by Sam Peckinpah)


I am as shocked as anyone to discover that this sedate video was directed by the director who was known (affectionately or not) as Bloody Sam but indeed it was.

Valotte was the first U.S. single from Julian Lennon, a musician whose talent was often overshadowed by the fact that he was the son of John and Cynthia Lennon.  John divorced Cynthia, leaving her for Yoko Ono, when Julian was only five years old and, by his own admission, Julian’s feelings towards his father have often been mixed.  (Paul McCartney reportedly wrote what would become Hey Jude in an attempt to console Julian after the divorce.)  When Julian Lennon pursued his own musical career, many reviewers spent more time discussing Julian’s physical and vocal resemblance to his father than his music.

As for the song, it was a ballad about finding love and not, as many have incorrectly assumed, a song about Julian’s relationship with John.  The song was initially written at a French chateau known as the Manor de Valotte, which is how the song got its name.  The single was subsequently recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama.  The line, “Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar” is a reference to the location of the studio.

As for Sam Peckinpah, both his career and his health were in decline when he directed this video.  Peckinpah made a huge impression in the late 60s and early 70s with films like The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs but, by the time the 80s came around, the critics had turned on him and his abuse of drugs and alcohol had become so notorious that he couldn’t get a job in Hollywood.  Peckinpah directed both this video and Lennon’s follow-up, Too Late For Goodbyes.  His work on the videos was critically acclaimed but unfortunately, Peckinpah would pass away shortly after they were released.

Enjoy!

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door: PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (MGM 1973)


cracked rear viewer

(PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID airs tonight at 11:45 EST on TCM. Do yourselves a favor… watch it!)

PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID was director Sam Peckinpah’s final Western, and as usual it’s about more than just the Old West. It’s about the new breed vs the old establishment, about the maverick auteur vs the old studio guard, and about his never-ending battle to make his films his way. The fact that there are six, count ’em, SIX different editors credited tells you what MGM honcho James Aubrey thought of that idea! They butchered over 20 minutes out of the movie, which then proceeded to tank at the box office. Fortunately for us, PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID has been restored to its full glory, and we can enjoy Peckinpah’s original artistic vision.

I’m not going to try to make excuses for Peckinpah; he was a legitimate pain in the ass, a…

View original post 616 more words

Diamond in the Rough: RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (Allied Artists 1954)


cracked rear viewer

Back in 1951, movie producer Walter Wanger (rhymes with danger) discovered his wife, actress Joan Bennett , was having an affair with her agent, Jennings Lang. The enraged husband tracked them to a parking lot, where Wanger shot Lang in the groin. That’ll teach him! Wanger was subsequently arrested, and sentenced to serve a four-month bid in a Los Angeles county farm. His stint in stir, though brief, affected him profoundly, and he wanted to make a film about prison conditions. The result was RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11, a ripped-from-the-headlines prison noir that’s tougher than a two-dollar steak.

Wanger hired Don Siegel to direct the film. Siegel was gaining a reputation as a director of muscular, low-budget features, and RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 is a great early example of his harsh, brutal style. The movie’s sparse, shadowy setting was filmed on location at California’s infamous Folsom Prison thanks to…

View original post 584 more words

First Shot Fired: THE DEADLY COMPANIONS (Pathe’-America 1961)


cracked rear viewer

dc1

Maverick filmmaker Sam Peckinpah got his start in television, writing and directing for Westerns such as GUNSMOKE, THE RIFLEMAN, and HAVE GUN- WILL TRAVEL. In 1959, he created the series THE WESTERNER, starring Brian Keith as a drifter named Dave Blassingame, noted for its extreme (for the time) violence. When Keith was cast as the lead in THE DEADLY COMPANIONS, he suggested his friend Peckinpah as director. This was Peckinpah’s first feature film, and the result is a flawed but interesting film which has brief flourishes of the style he later perfected in THE WILD BUNCH and PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID.

dc2

Keith is again a drifter, this time an ex-Union soldier known only as Yellowleg. He hooks up with a pair of Southern outlaws and they ride to Hila City to rob the bank. They get sidetracked at the saloon when it converts into a church service. Next thing you know…

View original post 436 more words

Thank You, Mr. Peckinpah: Ride the High Country (1962, directed by Sam Peckinpah)


rideIt’s the turn of the 20th century and the Old West is fading into legend.  When they were younger, Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) and Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) were tough and respect lawmen but now, time has passed them by.  Judd now provides security for shady mining companies while Gil performs at county fairs under the name The Oregon Kid.  When Judd is hired to guard a shipment of gold, he enlists his former partner, Gil, to help.  Gil brings along his current protegé, Heck Longtree (Ron Starr).

On their way to the mining camp, they spend the night at the farm of Joshua Knudsen (R.G. Armstrong) and his daughter, Elsa (Mariette Hartley).  Elsa is eager to escape her domineering father and flirts with Heck.  When they leave the next morning, Elsa accompanies them, planning on meeting her fiancée, Billy Hammond (James Drury), at the mining camp.

When they reach the camp, they meet Bill and his four brothers (John Anderson, L.Q. Jones, John Davis Chandler, and the great Warren Oates).  Billy is a drunk who is planning on “sharing” Elsa with his brothers.  Gil, Judd, and Heck rescue Elsa and prepare for a final confrontation with the Hammond Brothers.  At the same time, Gil and Heck are planning on stealing the gold, with or without Judd’s help.

Ride the High Country was actually Sam Peckinpah’s second film but it’s the first of his films to truly feel like a Sam Peckinpah film.  (For his first film, The Deadly Companions, Peckinpah was largely a director-for-hire and had no say over the script or the final edit.)  Peckinpah rewrote N.B. Stone’s original script and reportedly based the noble Steve Judd on his own father.  All of Peckinpah’s usual themes are present in Ride the High Country, with Judd and, eventually, Gil representing the dying nobility of the old west and the Hammond brothers and the greedy mining companies representing the coming of the “modern” age.  Ride The High Country‘s final shoot-out and bittersweet ending even serve as a template for Peckinpah’s later work in The Wild Bunch.

Much like the characters they were playing, Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea were two aging veterans on the verge of retirement.  For these two aging stars, who had starred in countless westerns before this one, Ride The High Country would provide both fitting farewell and moving tribute.  This would be the last chance that either of them would have to appear in a great movie and both of them obviously relish the opportunity.  The best moments in the film are the ones where Judd and Gil just talk with the majestic mountains of California in the background.

Among the supporting cast, Ron Starr and Mariette Hartley are well-cast as the young lovers but are never as compelling as Gil or Judd.  Future Peckinpah regulars R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones, and Warren Oates all make early appearances.  Seven years after playing brothers in Ride the High Country, L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates would both appear in Peckinpah’s most celebrated film, The Wild Bunch.

The elegiac and beautifully-shot Ride The High Country was Sam Peckinpah’s first great film and it might be his best.

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in Ride The High Country

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in Ride The High Country

Film Review: China 9, Liberty 37 (1978, directed by Monte Hellman)


c9l37Directed by the legendary Monte Hellman, China 9, Liberty 37 is a revisionist take on the western genre.  Fabio Testi plays Clayton Drumm, a legendary gunslinger who is about to be hung for murder.  At the last minute, men from the railroad company show up and arrange for Clayton be released.  They want him to kill a rancher who is refusing to sell his land.  Clayton agrees but, before he leaves for his mission, he gives a brief interview to a writer from “out East.”  Cleverly, the writer is played by director Sam Peckinpah, to whose films China 9, Liberty 37 clearly owes a huge debt.

After telling the writer that his eastern readers have no idea what the west is truly like, Clayton rides out to the ranch.  Along the way, he gets directions from a nude lady (Jenny Agutter) who is swimming in a nearby stream.  When Clayton reaches the ranch, he meets his target.  Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates) is himself a former gunslinger who used to kill people for the railroads.  From the minute they meet, Matthew knows who Clayton is and why he is there.  Both Clayton and Matthew have grown weary of killing and, instead of having the expected gunfight, they instead become fast friends.  Matthew allows Clayton to stay at the ranch and introduces him to his wife, Catherine, who it turns out was the same woman who Clayton talked to earlier.

China9Liberty37-02Catherine loves Matthew but resents his rough ways and feels that he treats her like property.  One night, she and Clayton go for a nude swim and then make love.  When Matthew finds out, he strikes his wife and, in self-defense, she stabs him in the back.  Believing Matthew to be dead, she and Clayton go on the run.

Matthew is not dead and, once he’s recovered from being stabbed, he and his brothers set off to track down the two lovers.  While Matthew chases after Clayton, he is being pursued by Zeb (Romano Puppo), another gunslinger who has been hired by the railroad to kill both Matthew and Clayton.

ftAs a western, China 9, Liberty 37 is more interested in its characters than in the usual gunfights.  There are no traditional heroes or villains and Monte Hellman emphasizes characterization over action.  Even while he is relentlessly pursuing Clayton and Catherine, Matthew admits that he does not blame Catherine for leaving him.  As for Clayton and Catherine, they are both consumed by guilt over their affair.  This is one of the few westerns where the main character often refuses to fire his gun.

As Clayton, Fabio Testi is stiff and inexpressive, but Jenny Agutter and Warren Oates are terrific.  Though their films were never as critically or financial successful, Warren Oates and Monte Hellman had as strong of a director/actor partnership as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.  China 9, Liberty 37 was the fourth and final movie that Monte Hellman and Warren Oates made together.  It was also Oates’s last western before his untimely death in 1982.

china 9 oatesDirector Monte Hellman is as well-known for the films he did not get to make as for the ones he actually did make.  (Originally, Quentin Tarantino wanted Hellman to director Reservoir Dogs.  When Tarantino changed his mind and decided to direct it himself, Hellman was relegated to serving as executive producer.  A lot of recent film history would be very different if Tarantino and Hellman had stuck to the original plan.)  Like a lot of the films that Hellman actually did get to make, China 9, Liberty 37 was only given a sparse theatrical release and was often shown in a heavily edited version.  It has only been recently that the full version of China 9, Liberty 37 has started to show up on TCM.  It is an interesting revisionist take on the western genre and must see for fans of Monte Hellman, Jenny Agutter, and Warren Oates.

china9