Sam Peckinpah (Director)
(David Samuel Peckinpah)
b. 21 Feb 1925 – d. 28 Dec 1984
US Marines, 1943 – 1946
In 1943, Peckinpah joined the United States Marine Corps where he was sent to China with the task of disarming Japanese soldiers and repatriating them following World War II. While he was disappointed that his duty did not include any actual combat, Sam claims to have witnessed ghastly acts of war between Chinese and Japanese soldiers. According to friends, these included various acts of torture and the murder of an innocent laborer by sniper fire. In this situation, the American Marines were not permitted to intervene, and these events reportedly deeply affected and influenced the notorious depictions of violence in his films.
Interestingly, Peckinpah also claimed he was shot during an attack by Communist forces. In addition, during his final weeks as a Marine, he applied for discharge in Peking, so he could marry a local woman, but was refused. These rumors have not been verified, but they don’t sound too far-fetched coming from a man that lived as large and furiously as he did.
Sam’s familiarity with war is best seen in his 1977 WWII film Cross of Iron starring James Coburn and James Mason. Reportedly he had to finance it with money from a German porn producer and was drinking several bottles of booze every day during the filming. This film marked a turning point in his career, his subsequent films are not considered among his best - perhaps reflecting the turmoil present in his personal life. It begs the question, did the movie bring him full circle and face to face with the violent visions of his past that could not longer be surpressed? Kind of like facing a magic mirror that’s lost it’s spell and now only reflects the authentic horror of the truth.