With its small cast, character-driven story, and modest production values, Sam Peckinpah's first feature film seems very like another of his TV Western dramas--just one that happened to get shot in Panavision. The director... more »'s favorite TV actor, Brian Keith, plays a surly loner named Yellowleg who ventures into Indian country with a dance-hall girl (Maureen O'Hara), the corpse of her little boy, and a pair of marginally human specimens (Steve Cochran and Chill Wills) who more than justify the title. Everybody has, or seems to have, a guilty or shameful secret: Why does Yellowleg keep his hat on? Was Kit (O'Hara) a widow, or a whore? Action, menace, and ethical dialogues come and go pretty much according to TV rhythms, and the visuals and editing are conventional. But there's enough quirky character work and offbeat mood-making to hint at the singular filmmaker soon to arrive big-time. --Richard T. Jameson« less
"Brian Keith play ex-Union soldier referred to as Yellowleg and Maureen O'Hara plays a, er, performer at the Black Garter dance hall in Sam Peckinpah's feature film debut, THE DEADLY COMPANIONS. Keith plays a character with a score to settle with a nasty hombre from his past when he gives O'Hara a grudge of her own to gnaw on when he accidentally shoots and kills her son. Keith, with a brace of prairie thugs in tow (Steve Cochran and Chill Wills) attempts to make amends by escorting the headstrong O'Hara through hostile Apache country after which she'll bury her son. THE DEADLY COMPANIONS has a lot going for it. Dramatic tension is maintained at a satisfyingly high level - the group is threatened from without by the marauding Apaches and, for a variety of reasons, from within by each other . Keith and O'Hara act and react well with each other. O'Hara always seemed to give her best performance opposite a strong male co-star, and the underrated Keith proves a good match. Chill Wills, who was seldom given much more to do then bray and act mulish plays a shaggy ex-Reb with some blood on the hands of the skeletons in his closet, and who, in the course of the movie, reminds us that he was a pretty accomplished character actor. Although there are moments of explosive violence, Peckinpah doesn't dwell on them with the obsessively loving eye that would later become his trademark. There are other signs of an unbecoming and uncharacteristic delicacy at work. During Keith's and O'Hara's great emotional showdown scene O'Hara talks about the scars she carries from the men with dirty arms who, for money she let pinch her and kiss her. I don't know how many filters O'Hara's speech had to pass through before it reached the screen, but the final product sounds polite and phony. Okay, the bar is set higher because Peckinpah is the director, but still, the way DEADLY COMPANIONS tiptoes around O'Hara's real occupation is aggravating, especially so in light of the fact that Peckinpah devotes an early scene to a clutch of town hens gossiping maliciously about the unwed O'Hara and her five-year-old-son and how it just ain't fitting blah blah blah and land sakes I reckon even she don't know who the boy's father is blah blah blah. (Strother Martin Alert - The church service takes place in a bar that modestly quits serving drinks during the service. Strother Martin plays the town preacher, foreshadowing a similar bit role he'd play seven years later in Peckinpah's masterpiece, THE WILD BUNCH. Oddly enough, in both films Martin leads the congregation in a stirring rendition of Yes, We'll Gather at the River. Must have liked that one.) For all of its dated delicacy, DEADLY COMPANIONS was interesting and more than a little enjoyable. Deeply undermining the enjoyment factor is the full screen, pan-and-scan presentation. Unless there was absolutely no wide-screen print fit to print, a truly shameful decision. Even so, a high recommendation for this one. "
A Surprisingly Good Western
Scott O'Reilly | United States | 08/08/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film was director Sam Peckinpah's first feature, and it is a surprisingly good western. What makes this film work is the chemistry and character study between Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith. No, the sparks don't fly quite the same way they do between John Wayne and O'Hara, but both leads create interesting characters that seperate the film from most B westerns. The supporting cast -- Strother Martin and Chill Willis -- were veterans of numerous westerns, and they provide plenty of color. For anyone who enjoys B westerns this one is a cut above most."
Before the blood
ducksick | WEST CARROLLTON, OHIO USA | 01/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While Sam Peckinpah is best known for blood ballets such as The Wild Bunch, and Cross of Iron, it should be known that he was making movies before blood bags were used. Deadly Companions marked his feature debut and while it doesn't stand up to his best films(Wild Bunch, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia,and Ride the High Country) its a nice start to a long and brilliant career. The DVD lacks extras and is standard format, which should be noted that a lot of older films were shot with a TV standard 1:33:1 frame. But this movie has been all but extinct except for shotty old video tapes for over a decade."
Deadly in more ways than the title
Ronald Cincinelli | 05/13/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This film originally was released in Panavision. So the DVD is already compromised by being formatted to fit the TV screen. Additionally the print is very dark. Subsequently some scenes are unwatchable. Sam Peckinpah fans should stay away from this copy. Doubtfully a better print will be made and in the widescreen format."
Only for die-hard PECKINPAH fans!
gralle | Topeka, KS | 12/10/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This edition of Deadly Comapnions is a very poor excuse to release his movie for a newer audience. The film itself is a decent western and it is interesting for us that love Sam's films to see his first western. My main concern is the fact that the film is shown in full screen. This shows that even after his death he is still being mistreated by producers and production companies. Most of his film suffer very much from cropping so does this one. I dont mind that it lack any extras but you should at least be able to see it in it's proper ratio. Buy only if you want to see an early Peckinpah film that is real hard to get in these days."