Getaway, The (1972): Peckinpah’s Thrilling Adventure, Starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw (in Yet Another Bad Performance)

Sam Peckinpah, working from a script by Walter Hill (who would become a director himself), based on Jim Thompson’s novel, is in top form in the action-adventure The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw.

The Getaway
Two documents, which include photos of a man and a woman, are placed beneath a handgun and half-dozen bullets.

Theatrical release poster

Our Grade: B (***1/2 out of *****)

The premise–an ex-con and his wife go on the lam after a Texas bank heist–is not particularly exciting, but it’s the execution and mise-en-scene of this taut thriller that matter, elevating the picture way above its genre trepidations.

Denied parole after four well-behaved years, Doc McCoy (McQueen) sends his wife Carol (MacGraw) to dirty the reputation of politician Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson) in order to get him out of prison.

Carol secures Doc’s freedom on the condition that he does one more bank job for Benyon.

Doc and his accomplices, Rudy (Al Lettieri) and Jackson (Bo Hopkins), get the cash, but Doc then discovers that Rudy plans to keep it all for himself.

Rudy hijacks a veterinarian and his wife (Sally Struthers) to take him to get Doc in El Paso. Meanwhile, Doc and Carol make their own way south with the money, threatening to desert each other before reaching a reconciliation after a harrowing garbage truck episode.

All parties finally meet in El Paso for a shootout, and the happily married old-timer Cowboy (Slim Pickens) helps Doc and Carol have a future.

Peckinpah excels in staging the ultra-violence sequences, just as he did in his 1969 masterful Western, The Wild Bunch.

The narrative is familiar and contrived, and you may argue that the whole film is mechanically put together, defined by impersonal style.  The film’s main problem is Ali MacGraw’s poor performance (in hindsight, even she hated her work).  Moreover, considering the off-screen attraction, the lack of genuine rapport and chemistry between the two stars, even (and especially so) in their erotic encounters, is striking and not easily explainable.

That said, overall The Getaway is an entertaining thriller, and one of the best put-together heist pictures, giving cadence to the adage that only Hollywood can make such well-crafted movies; of course, Peckinpah always perceived himself as an film artist, not just a competent artisan.

MacGraw was quite popular in the early 1970s, after the unexpected commercial success of Love Story in 1970.

As is well known, McQueen and MacGraw fell in love on the set, and their scandalous affair broke up their respective marriages–and contributed to the movie’s commercial appeal.

Made on a budget of $3.3 million, The Getaway was very popular at the box-office, grossing
$36.7 million, making it Peckinpah’s most commercial picture in a career full of disappointments.


Stay away from the 1994 remake, poorly directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring then another real-life couple, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.


Steve McQueen as Carter “Doc” McCoy
Ali MacGraw as Carol McCoy
Ben Johnson as Jack Beynon
Sally Struthers as Fran Clinton
Al Lettieri as Rudy Butler
Slim Pickens as Cowboy
Richard Bright as The thief
Jack Dodson as Harold Clinton
Dub Taylor as Laughlin
Bo Hopkins as Frank Jackson
Roy Jenson as Cully
John Bryson as The Accountant (Beynon’s brother)



Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Produced by Mitchell Brower, David Foster

Screenplay by Walter Hill, based on The Getaway by Jim Thompson
Music by Quincy Jones
Cinematography Lucien Ballard
Edited by Robert L. Wolfe

Production companies: First Artists
Solar Productions” David Foster Productions, Tatiana Films

Distributed by National General Pictures

Release date: December 13, 1972

Running time: 122 minutes

DVD: May 31, 2005