The Osterman Weekend (1983) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

This film was the result of a rather strange combination of talent. The novel was written by Robert Ludlam, the subtle and verbose master of cold war paranoia. The film was the last movie ever directed by Sam Peckinpah, the legendary two-fisted master of ... well, many words have been applied to Peckinpah in the history of film, but I doubt if the word "subtle" ever appeared among them. Sam was an ornery, crochety, hard-brawlin', hard-boozin', perhaps misogynistic old feller. At his best, he created films that are still being copied today. Watch Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, then look at some recent films like Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and I think Sam's influence will be evident.

Going back to my earlier sentence, I guess Peckinpah was the master of ... romanticized violence. Slow motion kills, mass shootouts in town squares, honorable suicide missions, that sort of thing. Here are his IMDb ratings as a director. He wrote the ones with asterisks.

  1. (8.09) - Wild Bunch, The (1969) *
  2. (7.55) - Ride the High Country (1962) *
  3. (7.38) - Cross of Iron (1977)
  4. (7.29) - Straw Dogs (1971) *
  5. (7.28) - Getaway, The (1972)
  6. (7.05) - Ballad of Cable Hogue, The (1970)
  7. (6.88) - Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
  8. (6.88) - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) *
  9. (6.68) - Junior Bonner (1972)
  10. (6.42) - Major Dundee (1965) *
  11. (6.33) - Deadly Companions, The (1961)
  12. (5.81) - Killer Elite, The (1975)
  13. (5.74) - Osterman Weekend, The (1983)
  14. (5.54) - Convoy (1978)
  15. (4.61) - Jinxed! (1982)

I can't really say that I've ever liked Peckinpah's films at a level commensurate with his reputation, but I suppose some of that had to do with the studio tampering with his work. Some people argue that Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was a great movie when Sam finished with it. I don't have any way to confirm that. I know it's really a king-hell piece of dog flop in its theatrical format, but those in the know say that the studio butchered it. Straw Dogs? OK, but overrated. Getaway? Nothing special, despite the presence of Steve McQueen.

When I look at that list above, I think that Peckinpah's entire reputation as a top-notch filmmaker rests on The Wild Bunch, which is a very cool and visceral film that was 25 years ahead of its time, but is not really a great masterpiece because it lacks ... well, we're back to my original point ... it lacks subtlety.

Peckinpah was also the head writer on The Wild Bunch, as well as on Ride the Wild Country, Straw Dogs, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. There is just no doubt in my mind that the real Peckinpah characteristics, the qualities that made him special, are really only seen in those movies which he both wrote and directed.

Peckinpah did not write The Osterman Weekend, and it really wasn't even his kind of project.

Frankly, I'm not sure Ludlam's complicated novels are anyone's kind of project.

Although Ludlam's books were fun to read back in those paranoid times, the only successful book-to-screen translation has been The Bourne Identity, and that was made years after the emotional context of the novels had disappeared from the world, and that script was significantly changed from the book, to a point where it was almost at the status of  "based on characters created by ...". So even Ludlam's best books have defied adaptation, and The Osterman Weekend wasn't considered one of Ludlam's best books, and those that have read it say this movie has virtually nothing to do with it anyway.

The basic summary is as follows:

A CIA agent convinces a talk show host that three of his best friends are traitors, and enlists his aid in trapping or turning them. The four men are scheduled to have an annual get-together during the upcoming weekend, so the CIA installs bugs, cameras, and security devices throughout the TV host's house, in preparation for a weekend of extreme psychological warfare. Telling you anything more than that would be a spoiler, because the plot veers of into some unexpected directions, not much is as it seems, and many characters have additional secrets to reveal.

Suffice it to say that when the film is over and all the curtains have been drawn back, you will find that the entire premise makes no freakin' sense at all. If the CIA agent really wanted the talk show host to do what he eventually forced him to do, he could have simply told the guy the truth and asked him to do it. The talk show guy would have acceded readily. That was the kind of thing Mr Talk Show did routinely and willingly as part of his job. There was no need to employ any deception, and there was no need to kill a bunch of innocent people. Furthermore, there are some scenes that are not only illogical in the context of the story, but also totally lacking in credibility in the moment. There are points where you'll either be laughing or tearing your hair out at the sheer stupidity of the characters' actions. At one point, for example, a man kidnaps the talk show host's wife and son. When the secrets of the film have been revealed, you will have no idea who that kidnapper was or what he wanted. More to the point however, the end of that scene involved Mr Kidnapper firing a gun at Mr Talk Show as the latter ran toward the car where the baddie held the wife and kid. So what did the talk show guy do to avoid being killed? He used the highly tricky strategy of running straight toward the car in an open field. He didn't zig-zag from side to side. He didn't have his own weapon. He didn't run from covered area to covered area. He just lumbered toward the guy with the gun. And the least credible part of the strategy is that it worked!

As you can see from the paragraph above, Peckinpah had no interest in international intrigue or even in simple logic. He simply turned the film into his own rambling speculations about the connections between the abuse of authority, the electronic media, and violence. If you are willing to accept that interpretation, the film is a fairly good if somewhat confusing watch, with substantial nudity from four different women.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

The Osterman Weekend (1983) was Sam Peckinpah's final film. He was in poor health, with studio execs breathing down his neck, and he was working on a screenplay that he had no creative control over, made from arguably the worst novel that Robert Ludlam ever wrote. Not only that, he didn't have the right of final edit.

This work is finally released on DVD, and includes a new transfer of the theatrical version, complete with a commentary by four Peckinpah biographers, and his original review cut, in very poor quality. Much of the film itself takes place at night, and most scenes have a depressing greenish tint. The commentary talks far more about Peckinpah than the film, which I suppose you would expect from four biographers.


  • Meg Foster -one breast
  • Helen Shaver - breasts in the film and full frontal in the video-within-a-film
  • Helen Shaver - more breasts in the deleted scenes
  • Merete Van Camp - breasts and buns
  • Cassie Yates - breasts
  • John Hurt - buns

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1

  • full-length commentary by four Peckinpah scholars

  • Peckinpah's rough first cut of the film, which has never been seen before

  • a recent 78 minute documentary which looks back on the film and on Sam Peckinpah through the eyes of the cast and crew

  • a gallery of "backstage" stills taken on the set.

This film has a single surprise, and after one watching, with that spoiled, I found it kind of a long watch at 112 minutes. 

It seemed that the novelist and screenwriter wrote an espionage thriller, which Peckinpah turned into a study of voyeurism, the influence of media, and a good shoot-em-up. It is still worth the trouble due to the fine cast, which included Helen Shaver, Meg Ryan, Burt Lancaster, Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Dennis Hopper, Meg Foster, Cassie Yates, and more.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: two stars. BBC 3/5, TV Guide 2/5.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C.

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