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The Deadly Companions (1961) ‘Review’


Sam Peckinpah’s directorial debut tells story about accidental murder and redemption arc of classic hero.

Low budget movie that passed without notice and still counts one of least knows movies of directors career.

That doesn’t mean movie isn’t worth giving a shot - it’s has some other qualities regarding of audience!

Brian Keith, Chill Wills and Steve Cochran

Brian Keith, Chill Wills and Steve Cochran

Yellowleg (Brian Keith) follows Kit (Maureen O’Hara) to bury her dead son whom Yellowleg accidentally killed, it starts as some way of redemption but it ends up being fight for survival.

It has stereotypical characters well known to audience: Kit worries about what other woman think about her, Yellowleg keeps thinking about his appearance to other people without his hat that he wears 24/7, Turk (Chill Wills) is a bad guy, hunted by Yellowleg with desire to find gold so he can but Indian slaves who will fight in the army and Parson (Steve Cochran) is Billy Keplinger, another bad guy, Turk’s crime partner and also Yellowleg’s rival.

Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara

Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara

Romantic subplot involves Yellowleg and Lit’s slow build up romance, path of redemption and forgiveness.

Kit’s common sense has huge effect on Yellowleg, he choose not to kill Turk but to let justice take care of everything.

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Peckinpah plays with close up shots to deepen relationship and connection between Yellowleg and Kit.


This movies is example of beginning of Peckinpah’s style he later perfected in his movies such as Wild Bunch.

For instance, in Deadly Companions his perfect every day shot of particular day in small town is followed by death of kid, which is just one of the portrayal of Peckinpah’s “ultra violent” style, as well as cruelty towards animals.

Peckinpah used to portray violence as it is, no exceptions.


In conclusion, what happens in this movies is birth of Peckinpah as movie director, even tough he couldn’t change screenplay or have final word in editing he managed to create path of his own style that he followed in his next movies.

© 2022 Ljubica Babic

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