"The value of Sam Peckinpah's work is still very much in question; its intensity is not. And art that expresses such energy and passion, such a commitment to personal impulse, commands, at least, respectful attention. The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, whatever one's estimate of them, have that combination of candour and force which announces an artist who is not afraid of appearing ridiculous; those who profess to find them no more than ridiculous are perhaps nervously insulating themselves from the films' ferocious and contagious energy. At the same time, one may comment at the outset that it is a great pity that, in the eyes of the public and most critics, Peckinpah's gentler and arguably finest films (I think especially of The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Junior Bonner) have been so overshadowed by the spectacular and explosive violence in the more notorious works- a violence that is certainly a major component of his artistic personality, but by no means the whole story.
Peckinpah's work situates him firmly within the great tradition of the American cinema. I mean by this rather more than that he has repeatedly returned to the Western genre.... For all their radical differences of temperament and emphasis, Peckinpah (born in 1926) is the heir of Ford- an heir Ford would perhaps not have wished to acknowledge, but an heir none the less. Ford's work shows a consistent involvement with America both as a country and as an idea: his later films are evidence of a growing disillusionment with that idea. But Ford, rooted in those ideals of the American future looked forward to in his earlier work, could never quite make the transition from disillusionment to active rage and antagonism; even Liberty Valance is ultimately dominated by nostalgia."
Robin Wood - 'Sam Peckinpah,' Cinema: A Critical Dictionary.