Mike Sutton looks at a Western written but, sadly, not directed by Sam Peckinpah.
The Glory Guys is a standard mid-1960s cavalry western which is more interesting for its background than for anything which appears on-screen. It has its origins in a novel by Hoffman Birney called The Dice Of God which was bought by producers Gardner-Levy-Laven. Searching for a writer to do justice to a promising project, they came upon Sam Peckinpah who had been writing scripts for the popular TV western series Gunsmoke.
Peckinpah, already obsessed by the myths and realities of the West, was paid $500 a week to come up with a screenplay and took four months over it. His script is an obvious dry run for later work including, notably, Major Dundee and includes the theme which he repeatedly examines in his later films of a group of outsiders wrapping themselves up in glory while marching to their doom. The plot, taken from the novel, is a fictionalised version of the Battle of Little Big Horn, in which a General McCabe (Andrew Duggan) is so obsessed by gaining a victory against the Sioux that he will stop at nothing to do so. Much time is spent on his Captain’s assemblage of a group of soldiers and even more on a deeply tedious love triangle between two of McCabe’s soldiers and a frontier woman.
The film was made nine years after the script was written and Peckinpah was never a serious candidate to direct it. His bad experience on Major Dundee and his firing from The Cincinatti Kid meant that he was unofficially blacklisted in Hollywood and the film was eventually directed by producer Arnold Laven. It’s not a particularly skillful piece of storytelling but James Wong Howe’s cinematography is often very striking. The best thing about it is probably the cast, amongst whom Harve Presnell ,Slim Pickens and a young James Caan stand out.
Optimum’s DVD of The Glory Guys is adequate but not much more than that. The image shows some print damage and sometimes looks a bit washed out. There is also some unsightly edge enhancement in places. On the credit side, this is a rare chance to see the film in its original Panavision ratio. The mono soundtrack is adequate. No extras are present on the disc, nor are there any subtitles.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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