Noon Wine, a television film directed by Sam Peckinpah in 1966, has long been overshadowed by the director’s more renowned works, such as The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs. However, as a successful film history writer, I assert that Noon Wine merits recognition for its contribution to the Western genre in the 1960s, as well as its crucial role in the evolution of Peckinpah’s distinctive filmmaking style. Based on the novella by Katherine Anne Porter, the film tells the story of a Texan farmer who hires a mysterious Swedish farmhand, only to have their lives violently upended by the arrival of a bounty hunter.
The landscape of Noon Wine
Noon Wine delves into themes of violence, morality, and the human condition, challenging the traditional Western narrative. Peckinpah’s exploration of these themes offers a critical examination of the genre’s conventions, laying the groundwork for the director’s later, more subversive works.
Peckinpah’s visual style
Despite being a television film, Noon Wine showcases Peckinpah’s keen visual sensibilities, foreshadowing the cinematic style he would become famous for in his subsequent films. The film’s evocative landscapes, striking compositions, and innovative editing techniques contribute to a uniquely cinematic experience that elevates Noon Wine above its small-screen contemporaries.
The subtext of Noon Wine
Noon Wine stands out among 1960s Westerns due to its focus on the psychological struggles of its characters, rather than the traditional action-driven narratives of the genre. This emphasis on the internal conflicts of the characters adds depth to the story, creating a more complex and engaging experience for the viewer.
The film’s exploration of moral ambiguity and the darker aspects of human nature marks a significant departure from the archetypal Western narrative, paving the way for the emergence of the antihero in Peckinpah’s later films.
Noon Wine serves as a pivotal work in Sam Peckinpah’s career, providing the foundation for the themes, visual style, and narrative techniques that would come to define his body of work. By examining the film in the context of Peckinpah’s oeuvre, we can better appreciate its significance and influence on his later masterpieces.
Final thoughts on Noon Wine
Back in 2014, it was a big deal having Noon Wine finally make it to home video thanks to Twilight Time. However, many people including yours truly believed they had seen it before. Well, that’s because there was a 1985 adaptation with Fred Ward that also had a TV bow. Seeing as how that arrived after Peckinpah’s death, the differences should already be known.
But, I have to credit Twilight Time for the efforts to present Noon Wine as a counterpoint to his trouble in the mid 60s. While it would have made more sense to include the film as a special feature on their Major Dundee disc, it made its revival bow on their Killer Elite Blu-ray.
Noon Wine was an effort to beat back the industry blacklisting that Peckinpah had received after Major Dundee’s struggles and being fired after one week of directing The Cincinnati Kid. While it is an admirable entry into the ABC Stage 67 dramatic program, it was more of a workshop for later Peckinpah ideas. But, it was staged for mainstream TV, so most of the mature ideas that Peckinpah enjoyed had to be watered down.
The DVD comes with two versions of the movie on disc. You get the original broadcast and then you get it commercial free. While I prefer having presentations as close possible to the original versions, this is the best of both worlds. Plus, I love watching very old commercials to get an idea of where business was at that point in history.