Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Ride Again with Criterion’s 50th Anniversary Release | Features

July 8, 2024 - Movies

You want yourself a woman? One come in here from Albuquerque run a cathouse over there. Name is Bertha – got an ass on her like a forty-dollar cow. And a tit… I’d like to see that thing filled full of tequila – Hey you know what she always said about cowboys? She always wished they had a pair of loose boots. She wanted to strap them with a little tight pussy and give them a nice place to shit for two dollars. And you know something, you can’t beat that, can you?

I have to think Peckinpah knew the studio would gut this, and his including it here before he walked off the lot (except he kept his office on the lot, often visiting to drink and throw knives at the door) is an act as derisive and contrary as urinating on the screen.

Again, like “Heart of Darkness,” “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” is essentially a series of vignettes strung together by a philosophy, an idea about colonialism that applies to the American West as it does to the “dark places” of Conrad’s unmapped jungle. Its heroes are monsters by any other name, genocidal and avaricious, and in search of individual glory and immortality through self-justified, God-sanctioned manifest atrocities. Peckinpah populates this film (as he did his “The Wild Bunch”) with an absolute murderer’s row of studio character actors: Katy Jurado, Wills, Jason Robards in a remarkable sequence that’s analogous to Coppola’s “French Plantation,” Barry Sullivan, R.G. Armstrong as poor Bob murdered by $1.60 in his own dimes, Richard Bright, the legendary Mexican actor and director Emilio Fernández, Jack Elam, L.Q Jones, Slim Pickens, Charles Martin Smith, Harry Dean Stanton, Rutanya Alda, Elisha Cook Jr., Dub Taylor… 

They play old friends and lovers who Billy and Pat encounter on their separate odysseys towards their shared destiny. By the looks on their faces, they recognize that the appearance of these phantoms back in their lives is the equivalent of deadly birds coming home to roost. They greet their pasts with resignation. It was a good run, wasn’t it? Consider a sequence where an old lawman, Baker (Pickens), tries to avoid helping Garrett by saying he doesn’t do anything without being paid first, not understanding that Garrett has also been bought at this point. They’re both Judas now. 

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