How the West Was Spun

Wise old coots, opinionated colts, and the American frontier on display at westerns series

But two months later, the 37-year-old Sam Peckinpah released Ride the High Country(screening with Liberty Valance March 30 and 31), a western that took the genre's sclerotic menopause as its subject. New wave-ness had arrived at the western's doorstep, openly contemplating ambivalence, moral relativity, aging, and the costs of violence. Never again would the western come to be regarded as a national dream. Instead, in the hands of Peckinpah, Hellman, Leone, and Eastwood, it became a chronicle of our sins. MICHAEL ATKINSON

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