I have two Sam Peckinpah films on my top 100 films list, "The Wild Bunch" at #85 and "Ride the High Country" at #22. My wife shares Michael's feelings regarding "The Wild Bunch", she won't watch it. But we both like "Ride The High Country". The two films share similar themes of friendship, the close proximity of innocence to violence, and the old cliche "do what a man's gotta do". But "Ride the High Country" contains more appealing characters. Randolph Scott, and especially Joel McCrea, poses some nobility that in the end make "High Country" a more elegiac version of "The Wild Bunch". I guess I'm suggesting you cover "Ride the High Country" some day. In the meantime I am certainly looking forward to Deadwood December. I've loved the show since 2005 and the new film is a great culmination. But my wife won't watch Deadwood either.
Pax has recently talked about picking Ride the High Country sooner rather than later. As a big Randolph Scott fan, I'd love to see it and compare it to The Wild Bunch. I can handle darkness, I just need some tiny spark of light somewhere in there to focus on and it sounds like Scott and McCrea may offer that. Thanks!
Another Peckinpah film in the western "transition period" is "The Ballad of Cable Hogue". But that's much more of a character and relationship story than the usual western adventure. Interesting in any case in terms of the performance by Jason Robards and others (including John Warner and Strother Martin as well.)Doing "The Professionals" and "The Wild Bunch" back-to-back was an interesting thing since it marks westerns themselves sort of transitioning as Peckinpah shifted how the genre was viewed. And the Spaghetti westerns were doing that as well in terms of acceptance and being treated more seriously as cinema.(And I'm glad you caught the El Guapo appearance.)