Cable Hogue is a splendiferous entertainment: a grufty Western tall tale, a lusty comedy, and also (in critic Kathleen Murphy's phrase) "a musical about the economic and emotional complexities of capitalism." Its title character--Jason Robards in a great, exuberant gift of a performance--is an ornery varmint left by two scurrilous partners (L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin) to die in the desert. Through pure cussedness and what may be dumb luck, may be divine intervention, he "finds water where it wasn't" and survives. Nothing to do now but settle back, let his waterhole--the only one on the stage line between Deaddog and Gila--make him a rich man, and await the day those two old partners drop by his waystation.
Besides such Peckinpah regulars as Slim Pickens, R.G. Armstrong, and Gene Evans, the movie features Stella Stevens in her career-best role as Hildy, Hogue's best reason for getting into town now and again, and David Warner, an itinerant preacher and full-time lech who becomes his soulmate. Lucien Ballard photographed, and there's a charming song score (by Richard Gillis) whose neglect is as mystifying as that of the film. Above all, there is Sam Peckinpah exulting in the lyrical, heart-filling possibilities of making a motion picture, trying just about anything, and finding it beautiful. This film was his personal favorite. --Richard T. Jameson
The setting, in one of the last western outposts of the 21st century, really brings out the inexorability of technology's advance. Hogue is ultimately a tragic figure who fails to adjust to technology and city living, and literally suffers for it in the end of the movie. However, we are left with the suspicion that he was the happier for never having given into city ways, and for having remained an individual. Being on his own certainly helped him, as eulogized, stay a man, both good and bad (nice observation about Cain &Able=Cable, b.t.w.). Robards also plays the character right; neither too tough nor too weak, too good or too bad-just a man true to himself.
We also have an interesting assortment of side characters and misfits (which seems to have influenced several Eastwood films including The Outlaw Josie Wales, the two Orangutan films, and Bronco Billy) who while caricatures to some extent, are also interesting characters. There's the philandering preacher, and the hooker with a heart (not to mention a body!) of gold.
I can't give this film five stars, since it's a bit long and some parts feel kind of clunky and dated today. But it gets four stars without any reservation, thanks to the offbeat feel, warm tone, and several charming performances and scenes.
If you enjoyed this film, you might check out Junior Bonner, Little Big Man, Bronco Billy, and the Outlaw Josey Wales.
This is the story of Cable Hogue, a prospector in the Arizona territory of 1908. He is left to die without water by his two partners. Not only is he left to die- he is laughed at because of his "yellowness" at not doing the same to them when given a chance. So Cable tries to walk out of the desert knowing that he has no chance. He talks (he never prays) to the God that he has never had much use for. As a result, he finds water; water where it never was and could never possibly be.
This is the start of Cable's desert kingdom. He builds it out of nothing and out of bluff. He builds it with his own hands, out of what the desert provides. When necessary, he defends it with deadly force. Yet Cable gains respect and friends along the way. Sure, he can be mean and ruthless when he has to be, but to those who prove worthy, he can be a generous and loyal friend. He even wins the love of the most beautiful woman in a land where women are scarce (Stella Stevens- she never looked better than she did in this film.)
Then, at the height of his success, the two former partners that left him to die are delivered into his hands....
I used to wonder at the name "Cable", since I had never heard it before. Then I got it, Cable is a combination of Cain and Abel. This is because Cable is a combination of good and bad. On the one hand he is capable of hardness, even to the point of taking a life, but on the other hand he can show justice and mercy in sparing a life. To paraphrase the phoney preacher at the end of the film, Cable wasn't strictly a good man, and he wasn't strictly a bad man, but Lord- he was a MAN!
This was a wonderful vehicle for may well know western character actors of the day: It's full of those sort of actor you recognize in an instant and have no idea what their name is. The story is sweet and engaging and the movie is totally devoid of the violence and gore that Peckinpah was famous for at the time.
So, if you are the sort of person who wants a movie to actually tell a story, actually present real characters, and warm your heart-this is definitely a choice you should make. You will not be disappointed.