All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1154. An easy way of seeing how…
High Plains Drifter
Welcome to Hell
A gunfighting stranger comes to the small settlement of Lago. After gunning down three gunmen who tried to kill him, the townsfolk decide to hire the Stranger to hold off three outlaws who are on their way.
With High Plains Drifter, Clint Eastwood created arguably the most debatable and ambiguous film of his entire career - both as an actor and as a director. There is so much about this eerie western that doesn't get answered. So many details missing. So many presumptions to be made.
Most revisionist westerns of its time were busying themselves rewriting the West as it had been told by Hollywood, mostly wrongly, for over 40 years. Eastwood decided to take the traditional mainstream western, slap it around a while and show that something could still be done with it - just as long as it was willing to change.
It's well known by now that Eastwood's mysterious stranger rides into a town…
Somebody left the door open and the wrong dogs came home.
Everyone probably expected Clint Eastwood's directorial debut to be a western, but he opted to make a thriller in Play Misty for Me instead while ignoring what would have been a sure fire bet. For his sophomore effort, Eastwood might have thought there was no use putting it off, so he directed his first western, except High Plains Drifter is unlike any western Eastwood had starred in before and unlike most westerns ever made.
Eastwood as a director has gained most of his acclaim through his post-2000 efforts and although some of them are interesting, such as the terrifyingly bleak Letters from Iwo Jima, I find myself drawn more towards his earlier work. High Plains Drifter isn't one of his more popular works and yet it's one of his most fascinating, especially considering that it's only his second feature film. It starts off, like many westerns, with a wide shot of desert landscape and a lone rider in the middle of it. However, rather than music that is typically used in the genre, the score is eerie, mechanical and has an otherworldly quality to it. It ominously lingers in the air and sets up…
Clint Eastwood has reflected on the film's meaning, saying "it's just an allegory...a speculation on what happens when they (the townspeople of Lago) go ahead and kill the sheriff and somebody comes back and calls the town's conscience to bear. There's always retribution for your deeds."
The movie is full of retribution. Eastwood, again adopting the role of the man with no name (although this time we find out his surname) rides into the dusty town of Lago, and unbeknownst to its inhabitants has revenge on his mind. Using muscle and intimidation after gunning down three hired guns supposedly there to protect the town from outlaws Stacey Bridges (Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis) and the Carlin Brothers, he systematically begins to…
No one could successfully inhabit the the role of the nameless drifter like Eastwood in his prime. His first directed western is like poking an open wound of bleakness and desolation. This is the perfect summation of the lone gunman's perspective. Eastwood would only build on his character's mythos (without Leone, of course) in subsequent westerns, but this is "the stranger" at his most compressed and mysterious with the man himself behind the camera.
Pungent little revenge tale that's unfortunately soured by a certain, how shall I put it, rapeyness. Eastwood's treatment of women in his early films always makes my skin crawl, and here we have not one but two gals who despise The Stranger until he forces himself on them, whereupon they decide that he's dreamy after all. (Though it's unclear to me whether the one he outright rapes later sleeps with him merely so that she can unlock his door for the assassins. Couldn't she just stick a knife in his heart while he sleeps?) That significant ickiness aside, though, the film has fun with its darkly comic scenario, which amounts to a one-man inversion of Seven Samurai in which…
It's about purgatory and that's it. The Matese falcon is a much better classic.
Hell in a vividly painted, red hand-basket.
I was on the University film programming board at the time and got invited to a preview of the film in a cozy little screening room in Manhattan. Mostly college cinephile types were held in awe.
Eastwood's deferent farewell to his Westerns with Siegel and Leone is murkier, more vicious and stiff-necked than any of them, mantled in a quiet eeriness that makes it work not only as a hard-bitten Western but also as something complex and allegorical.
Had potential to be a great supernatural/revenge film, on par with Leone's "Dollars" trilogy... except it was ruined by an always inexcusable and unnecessary rape scene.
Clint Eastwood walks into a lakeside town, makes a few enemies, makes a few friends, violates the town tramp, appoints the town midget to town sheriff, paints the town red (literally), and fights off a gang of ex-convicts in “High Plains Drifter”, Eastwood’s second film as a director. Utilizing skills he learned on the job from Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, Eastwood crafts a strange, kind of violent, kind of weird, western set in a small mining town on the banks of a large salt lake in Eastern California.
When a stranger (Eastwood) rides into town, he immediately turns it upside down. He disrespects almost everyone and basically tears the town down to its studs. Luckily for the “stranger”, the…
I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this one. The ending cranks it up a notch and is all the better for it. Looks great in HD as well.
"They say the dead don't rest without a marker of some kind.
This is one of those films from decades ago where to show the protagonist as an anti-hero he rapes women but hey it's okay because they kinda sorta fall for him. Antiquated ideas of masculinity aside HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is one hell of a compelling revisitionist western. Stealing (or homaging) equally from Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, Eastwood concocts a darkly comedic film that can balance mystical elements (is he the Grim Reaper or the Ghost Rider?).
And man, this Blu Ray transfer was as good as it gets.
Possibly my favourite western of all time.
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- The Great Train Robbery
- The Birth of a Nation
- Les Vampires
- The Hired Hand
- Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
- The House Is Black
Each week I'll post a new letter and all you have to do is nominate a film that you think…
- Life of Pi
- Django Unchained
List made from the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. This list just from the 2013 edition,…