Rugged prospector Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) is double-crossed and abandoned in the desert without water by his two partners, but an entrepreneurial opportunity arises when he finds an underground spring in just the right spot for a much-needed rest stop on the local stagecoach line and stakes a claim on the water.
This elegy for the Old West is a beautifully crafted and very funny film. Like director Sam Peckinpah’s earlier and more explicitly violent The Wild Bunch (1969), it leaves an audience with nostalgic pangs for a lifestyle that perhaps only existed in motion pictures.
Tender and ironic by turns, it contains marvellous performances from a whimsical Robards (arguably a career-best) as an itinerant prospector who “found water where it wasn’t” and sexy Stella Stevens (definitely a career-best) as Hildy, a hooker from the nearest town who becomes his lady.
Hogue’s other new friend is the Reverend Joshua Duncan Sloane (David Warner), a priest unaffiliated with any formal church and unencumbered by vows of celibacy; like Hogue, Sloane is a self-made maverick.
Hogue has everything going his way until the advent of the automobile ends the era of the stagecoach.
The film was severely truncated for release in Britain, where it ignominiously supported The Alf Garnett Saga, but the fabulous two-hour version is sublime.
Reverend Joshua Duncan Sloane
L Q Jones
R G Armstrong