High Plains Drifter (1973)

Article 2989 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-14-2009
Posting Date: 10-20-2009
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Featuring Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill
Country: USA

Fearing the arrival of three released criminals who were framed by them, the townspeople of Lago hire the services of a gunslinger who has wandered into the town. But the gunslinger has a secret agenda of his own. And furthermore, he’s no stranger to the town and its cowardly inhabitants…

Most attempts at horror westerns feel forced, as if the horror elements were grafted onto the western landscape and expected to live and breathe in a sort of artificial gravity. Not so this one. It works because it finds that crucial point where a western plot and a horror plot can intersect; really, it’s only a small step for revenge from this side of the grave to move over into revenge from beyond the grave. It also helps that Clint Eastwood has played men with no names in westerns before; it’s a bit of his western tradition, and it lends itself to a horror interpretation that also works well. Add to that the wicked gallows humor that permeates the story, and that the revenge is two-fold; not only do perpetrators of a murder need to be punished, but so do the cowardly townspeople who refused to help. What drives the plot is that the punishment must be different for these groups of people, and the elaborate way in which the townspeople must pay their penance is one of the compelling elements of the story. It’s also really nice to see midget Billy Curtis in a substantial and pivotal role here as one of the few townspeople who doesn’t become the target of the gunslinger’s wrath. And, of course, it’s really enjoyable to get a chance to cover a Clint Eastwood movie for this series in which he plays something other than a cameo role in a fifties science fiction movie.


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