theriverjordan’s review published on Letterboxd:
“High Plains Drifter” is a Rosetta Stone to comprehend its creator; a tablet with its script seared in fire.
A confluence of influences from Clint Eastwood’s acting career careen in “Drifter’s” California hellscape — where masculine bravado goes to die.
The plot concept for “Drifter” comes loosely from the Kitty Genovese murder; infamous for how 38 witnesses stood by and watched the victim being stabbed. Eastwood transplants the setting from Queens to the frontier, and substitutes a sheriff for the young bartender.
“Drifter” bares the traits of not just its own director - Clint Eastwood - but also of the men who had previously directed him. It stuffs Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western satire and Don Siegel’s hard-nosed action into what would eventually become Eastwood’s trademark spiritual realism.
The mix of flavors from intercontinental influences goes down smooth. Eastwood takes the obsession with machismo most prominently from Siegel, but escapes his contemporary’s sometimes self-seriousness by filtering it through the black humor of Leone.
And while jokes must have butts on whom to land, Eastwood never lets himself seem the schmuck in his early features. The humour comes from how just about everyone else around him bluffs at masculinity, but quickly turns into the personification of soggy noodles when cooked with a burning single line (or even word) from Eastwood.
Ever a minimalist - in front of, and behind the camera.