Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

If They Move . . . Kill ‘Em!

The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah

by David Weddle

“Written in no-nonsense prose as lean as the laconic-cowpoke director himself, this fat bio reconstructs the trailblazing architect of The Wild Bunch.” –William O. Goggin, San Francisco Weekly

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 592
  • Publication Date January 20, 2001
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3776-0
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $22.00

About The Book

“What Citizen Kane was to movie lovers in 1941, The Wild Bunch was to cineastes in 1969,” critic Michael Sragow wrote in the New Yorker. “Its adrenaline rush of revelations seemed to explode the parameters of the screen.”

If They Move . . . Kill ‘Em! is the first major biography of David Samuel Peckinpah. Written by the film critic and historian David Weddle, this fascinating account does critical justice to an important body of cinema as it spins the tale of Peckinpah’s dramatic, overcharged life and the turbulent times through which he moved.

Sam Peckinpah was born into a clan of lumberjacks, cattle ranchers, and frontier lawyers. After a hitch with the Marines, he made his way to Hollywood, where he worked on a string of low-budget features. In 1955 he began writing scripts for Gunsmoke; in less than a year he was one of the hottest writers in television, with two classic series, The Rifleman and The Westerner, to his credit. From there he went on to direct a phenomenal series of features, including Ride the High Country, Straw Dogs, The Getaway, Pat Garrett and the Billy the Kid, and The Wild Bunch.

Peckinpah was both a hopeless romantic and a grim nihilist, a filmmaker who defined his era as much as he was shaped by it. Rising to prominence in the social and political upheaval of the late sixties and early seventies, Peckinpah and his generation of directors–Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Penn, Robert Altman–broke with convention and turned the traditional genres of Western, science fiction, war, and detective movies inside out. No other era in Hollywood has matched it for sheer energy, audacity, and originality, no one cut a wider path through that time than Sam Peckinpah.


“Fascinating . . . It sometimes reads like a novel, at other times like a diary, but always makes the reader a participant in the director’s personal and professional triumphs and failures. . . . [This] latest book on Sam Peckinpah . . . may also be the best.” –W.J. Howell, Jr., Film Quarterly

“Incisive . . . A savvy, enjoyable book that will help facilitate the rediscovery of Sam Peckinpah.” –Michael H. Price, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“[A] distinguished critical biography . . . A superb study of a major influential filmmaker.” –Jere Real, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Written in no-nonsense prose as lean as the laconic-cowpoke director himself, this fat bio reconstructs the trailblazing architect of The Wild Bunch.” –William O. Goggin, San Francisco Weekly

“A biography that leaves you wishing it would never end.” –Mimi MacFarland, The Bloomsbury Review

“Sam Peckinpah’s raw, primal approach to human behavior is so extraordinary that one feels, as seeing a film of his, taken up into a vital and significant kind of life. Anyone who reads this book will participate in that heightening, and we must thank Mr. Weddle for his dedication to making this possible.” –James Dickey, author of Deliverance and To the White Sea

“David Weddle’s biography of Sam Peckinpah is entertaining and informative. It provides very perceptive insights into the mind and the works of one of America’s most powerful and controversial directors. It explores the connections between his personal and his artistic lives. To those familiar with Peckinpah’s work, this book helps to clarify the reality behind many myths that have always surrounded him. It will also be a great introduction to Sam Peckinpah for younger generations of film students.” –Martin Scorsese

“The gnarly genius of Sam Peckinpah–for moviemaking and for self-destruction–informs this supercharged, snorts-and-all biography. David Weddle stares the artist’s demons in the eye and also gives the most complete account of Peckinpah’s unsentimental filmmaking education. The creation of The Wild Bunch emerges as one of the great sagas of movie history. Weddle portrays Peckinpah with hard-hitting empathy: the shambles of his life make the brilliance of his movies more inspiring. Peckinpah becomes the charismatic, monstrous, funny, and heartbreaking figure at the center of a story that is a dizzying mixture of The Stunt Man, All the Pretty Horses, and Under the Volcano.” –Michael Sragow, film critic for The New Yorker and The Atlantic