Director Sam Peckinpah had better material to work with in the days when censorship was still noticeably strong in American film, as witness his Ride the High Country (1962), an engaging Western starring Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea. Originally written for the screen, the good (though not great) script by N.B. Stone, Jr. has two aging gents transporting a bank’s gold to a mining camp in addition to helping a hapless young woman (Mariette Hartley) escape her deeply foolish, tyrannical Christian—or “Christian”—father. As a follower of Christ I might have been greatly put off by this depiction but, well, such people as this guy have been a part of human history.
The Hartley character wishes to marry a good-looking but squalid miner (James Drury) from a repulsive family. After the knot is tied, she immediately sees what a ghastly mistake she has made, and the bank guards execute a rescue which precipitates violence. At one point Joel McCrea’s old-timer declares that all he wants in life is “to enter my house [i.e., death] justified,” which is more than the other characters want, including, it seems, the other old-timer (Scott). Human behavior is quite shabby here. The film is about that which bombards, or prevents, self-respect, the knowledge that one is justified in one’s actions. It is in fact conveyed that one always feels justified in working for his bread and butter.