Choosing Sides: Would Bloody Sam Have Mounted Up with Trump Bunch?

By Glenn Lovell

Here’s a sobering thought for those of us who came of age as members of the Movie Generation: Had Sam Peckinpah lived a less destructive lifestyle and not succumbed to booze, coke and hectoring studio bosses in 1984, at age 59, he and Donald Trump might have linked arms in the march to steamroll politics as usual.

At least that’s what Trump adviser Steve Bannon – who channeled “Bloody Sam” in a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday — would have us think.Peck3

A registered Dem who hated fences and romanticized resourceful fringe-dwellers, Peckinpah spent a good chunk of his career disparaging the establishment. We on the left both sided with the maverick director (for his stance on Vietnam) and vilified him (for his depiction of women as whores and back-shooters).  He clearly espoused the cathartic benefits of a good ritualistic blooding and the importance of closing ranks in the face of adversity.  Consult “Straw Dogs” for a violent tutorial on standing your ground, blowing the crud out of anyone who invades your space. See “The Wild Bunch” and “The Getaway” for stark reminders of the honor-among-thieves dictum.

Asked by Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes” if he had “lost confidence in anyone” before the election, Bannon said yes and illustrated with Chris Christie’s reaction to the “Access Hollywood” tape. Christie had turned on Trump and, in Bannon’s eyes, that was a “litmus test” of his loyalty.

“It’s a line I remember from the movie ‘The Wild Bunch,’ ” Bannon said, referring to the 1969 death-of-the-West epic seen by many (myself included) as Peckinpah’s masterpiece. “William Holden uses it right before that huge gunfight at the end. ‘When you side with a man, you side with him.’ OK? The good and the bad. You can criticize him (from) behind, but when you side with him you haPeck4ve to side with him.”

Obviously no film historian, Trump’s former Chief Strategist got both the quote and placement of the quote wrong. Holden’s Pike Bishop, aging leader of an outlaw band riding to its last score, tells a confederate (38 minutes into a 145-minute film), “When you side with a man, you stay with him. And if you can’t do that you’re like some animal. You’re finished! We’re finished! All of us! … Mount up.”

Of course there is much about Trump that Peckinpah would have disdained — the draft dodging (Peckinpah was a WW 2 veteran), the alt-right alliances (the villains in “The Wild Bunch” are corrupt federales allied with the Kaiser’s Germany), the border wall and treatment of undocumented Mexican-Americans — but the action auteur could be every bit as erratic and blunt as the candidate and his chief adviser. The new administration wants to “drain the swamp.” When approached about a TV series, Bloody Sam vowed to “tear out the soft underbelly of Hollywood.”

He may not have been an anarchist but Peckinpah certainly knew how to blow things up. (See bridge sequence in “The Wild Bunch.”)

Still, it’s absurd to think the iconoclastic filmmaker would have mounted up with the Trump Bunch, which already boasts the likes of Clint Eastwood, Jon Voight, Charlie Sheen, and Gary Busey.

“Sam was a proud liberal Democrat,” protests Paul Seydor, author of “Sam Peckinpah: The Western Films” and director of the Oscar-nominated short ” ‘The Wild Bunch’: An Album in Montage.”

“The only time since his death that I have been happy he is not alive is now,” Seydor added. “It would have made him sick to his stomach to hear this cretin quoting ‘The Wild Bunch.’ ”

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