High Plains Drifter (1973) Poster

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Clint Eastwood's First Masterpiece
jluis198411 April 2006
By the early 70s, actor Clint Eastwood's career had gone from being a mere extra to a well-known Hollywood star. Thanks to the success of Sergio Leone's immortal Westerns, Eastwood was noticed and soon he began to work in very good projects, with great results. Despite being a respected actor, nobody could have imagined that his talent as director was even superior to his acting skills, and after a fairly good debut in 1971 (the thriller "Play Misty for Me"), he crafted his first masterpiece in 1973 as a tribute to his own artistic mentors: the haunting western "High Plains Drifter".

"High Plains Drifter" is the story of a small mining town named "Lago" which is constantly troubled by outlaws and gunfighters. One day a stranger (Clint Eastwood) comes to town, and manages to kill three of those outlaws, gaining instant recognition and the offer of having whatever he wants from the town if he gets rid of the rest of the gang. He accepts but the town doesn't know that the mysterious stranger has a secret that will change their lives for ever.

The figure of the stranger comes to town to alter the fragile equilibrium of their existence, and soon the town's own demons return to haunt them. Eastwood's character is not exactly the hero we know, but a morally ambiguous cruel man that doesn't hesitate to use and abuse the townspeople and that clearly has an agenda of his own. Written by Ernest Tidyman, this is a dark tale that explores the ambiguous morality of people and the concepts of justice and revenge.

Eastwood's second directorial effort is a powerful movie that brilliantly combines the elements of Western with those of suspense and thriller. Due to his solid career in Westerns, Eastwood knows the genre's characteristics and pushes them forward to create something more, a movie beyond its genre. With brilliant camera-work, he goes from dream sequences out of a nightmare to day sequences in Leone's Spaghetti Western style. This is definitely a tribute to his mentors (In fact, he included a small reference to his directors in a cemetery scene).

The acting is remarkably good, with Eastwood himself leading the cast with great skill and his powerful presence. His character is a lot more complex than his "Man With No Name" and it could be said that he mixes in one character the characteristics of the three outlaws of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly". The underrated Billy Curtis is great as Mordecai, probably the only one in town who knows (and understands) the stranger's secret. The rest of the cast is very good and even those in small roles (such as William O'Connell as the barber) give performances of high quality. Apparently Eastwood's talent with people was there from the beginning.

Tidyman's story is very well-constructed, and can be seen from diverse points of view. Every character in town is well-defined no matter how long their screen-time is, and Eastwood makes the most of it. It's hard to find a flaw in this movie and I really can't praise it enough. It is a story that once that grabs you never lets you go.

"High Plains Drifter" is a must-see, not only for Western fans, it is a powerful story that is more than what it seems. Great camera-work, haunting images, terrific script, superb acting, all pieces fit to create Clint Eastwood's first masterpiece. This dark western sets the path of Eastwood's career as a director and one can see why is he one of the best directors alive. 10/10
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Supernatural Western?
hitchcockthelegend20 July 2008
A lone gunman with no name and seemingly with no past, rides into the dusky town of Lago. The residents of Lago at first view the stranger with suspicion, but when news that some outlaws that are out for blood are on their way to town, they ask the stranger for his help.

This is Clint Eastwood's first Western film that he directed, and it's clear and evident that the guy not only loves the genre that made his name, he also knows what makes it work. Obviously having worked for Sergio Leone, Eastwood was making notes because High Plains Drifter oozes the mythical aura of many of Leone's finest genre offerings. To which, with thanks, the result is one of the best offerings in the 70s for the Oater enthusiast.

The film opens with our mysterious drifter slowly coming out of the beautiful sprawling haze and into Lago, it's ethereal, then there's just the sound of the horse breathing and the clop of its hooves that can be heard (the sound mix here is incredible), it's a gloriously mysterious opening that sets the tone perfectly. Yet Eastwood is just toying with us though, for a quick jolt of sex and violence snaps us out of the beatific warmth and into a quite hauntingly cold and morally challenged place. From here on in the stranger will demand all manner of odd things from the residents of Lago, he seems to be toying with them and revelling in their discomfort, with Lago quickly resembling an arid hellhole. You see, Lago has a dark secret, and our mysterious stranger has a purpose, and it's this purpose that makes High Plains Drifter an intriguing and gripping experience.

A well known fact now is that the great man of the genre, John Wayne, wrote Eastwood to strongly complain about his harsh vision of the West, one can only think the Duke failed to grasp the post Vietnam feel of a 70s made Western. It's a great directorial effort from Eastwood, more so when you marry up his acting performance to his directorial duties. Very much the perfect role, it lets Eastwood accentuate his rugged Western leanings. Eastwood would direct the similarly themed Pale Rider in the 80s and then the genre crown topper Unforgiven in the 90s. A Western great in each decade? Well that will always be debatable, but what we do know is that the Western genre was considerably lucky to have had such a man to keep the genre going for the newer interested wanderers into the Wild West.

Beautifully photographed (Bruce Surtees) on the shores of Mono Lake, California, it's a film pungent with sex, sadism, retribution and risks. High Plains Drifter is mystical and magnificent and essential Western fare. 9/10
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Darkest Eastwood western
ereinion6 June 2007
"High Plains Drifter" is probably Clint Eastwood's darkest western and that says quite a bit. It has similarities with "Pale Rider", his other western gem. The hero is a mysterious, ghost-like figure and he fights against the evil and corruption that infests a small town in the middle of nowhere. What sets these two films apart is that here Eastwood is fighting a lone battle , and his only sidekick is the midget Mordecai, while almost all other inhabitants of Lago are corrupted or/and cowardly.

Eastwood delivers one of his strongest performances here and manages to be charming and humorous besides exacting cool-blooded vengeance. His interactions with the two women (Marianna Hill and Verna Bloom, both solid in their roles) who are very different draws comparisons to his earlier film "Hang 'Em High". But what sets this apart from the typical Eastwood fare is the dark nature of this movie. Anthony James, the man with the unforgettable face, is once again back as one of the main villains. The rest of the cast are quite forgettable and lesser known names, which adds credibility to this movie, making it a film to be taken seriously and not just a gathering of famous faces.

This film's perhaps strongest asset is the excellent screenplay by Ernest Tidyman, the Oscar-winner for "French Connection" and it is probably the best screenplay ever written for an Eastwood-directed western. The storyline never ceases to surprise and is full of suspense and great dialogue. As always, Clint knew who to pick. As always in the Clint films, this movie is not about love. Clint and Bloom's affair almost results in love, but it never gets the chance to develop. The surprise ending adds a great touch. This film really is a delight for fans of Clint Eastwood and unusual, film-noirish westerns.
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A dark, cruel supernatural western
bob the moo13 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
A small frontier town is worried and scared for it's future. Three men who murdered the sheriff in front of the whole town have been released from jail and are heading back to take revenge on the town. When a stranger comes into town, he is offered anything he wants if he will help defend them against the men. The stranger accepts but both he and the townsfolk have hidden agendas.

High Plains Drifter stands out from Eastwood's many good westerns simply because it is a lack darker than many others I've seen and also possesses a weird supernatural quality to it. The plot is immediately dark, although it starts with Eastwood being who we expect him to be, an early rape sets him out with a more morally complex character than I had expected. This darker, cruel strand continues as it is clear that, although hired to protect them, the stranger also seems to be taking pleasure from harming the town itself.

Those who have seen it will know the ending, although it is evident from the first flashback what the film's twist is. Knowing it doesn't make the film less enjoyable but it is probably better to figure it out yourself. The film also has a good streak of humour going through it and is enjoyable – the twist of the stranger punishing the townsfolk easily filling the time.

Eastwood is as good as always but the support cast is also full of well known faces. The direction is good and adds to the weird feel to it, the music makes it feel other worldly and the flashbacks to the whipping stop it all getting too light. By the time the town literally becomes hell, the film has always won me over.

Overall this is maybe not the best western Eastwood has ever done but it is certainly one of the most different! The supernatural twist and the streak of cruelty running through the film make it very interesting to watch.
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The Man With No Name has returns as an avenging angel of death!
Nazi_Fighter_David21 November 2000
Warning: Spoilers
The exotic location in the desert, near Lake Mono in the California Sierras, certainly gives the film a fresh and refined look among Westerns...The sparkling colors of the backgrounds and the changing cloud formations gave effective shots...The film has certainly the most dramatic opening sequence of any Western...

Through the burning desert, Bruce Surtees' lens discovers a lone horseman.... The camera pans with the horseman to reveal a small town by a lake-lagoon... The horseman rides in, the camera tracking behind him, interrupted with faces of suspicious locals - even a coffin maker with his merchandises - and instantly one is reminded of Sergio Leone and his faithful reproduction of Kurosawa... A coach driver cracks the whip... The horseman turns, and moves back... He enters a bar and asks for 'a beer and a bottle.' A town heavy intervenes: 'Flea-bitten range-bums don't usually stop in Lago. Life here is a little too quick for them. Maybe you think you're fast enough to keep up with us!' The drifter replies: 'I'm faster than you'll ever live to be!'

True to his promise, the Stranger kills the 'trouble shooter' and his two friends, and also rapes the town belle who responds as any Eastwood feminine victim is obliged to, with resistance turning strangely to joy... The town midget, Mordecai (Billy Curtis) offers him a cigar inquiring: 'What did you say your name was again?' The hardened Stranger replies: 'I didn't!'

The Man With No Name has returned, this time, quite literally, with a vengeance... His dictatorship is flavored with cool humor... The name Billy Borders is mentioned to him...'Don't know the man,' he confesses.'You didn't have much time to,' comes the reply, 'because you shot him yesterday.'

When his rape victim, Callie Travers (Mariana Hill) inaccurately empties a pistol at him during his bath, he casually resurfaces, cigar still in his mouth, and in an aside to his sidekick, Mordecai, reflects: 'I wonder what took her so long to get mad?' His fellow chauvinist suggests, 'Maybe because you didn't come back for more.'

The townsfolk accedes to the Stranger's requests, who pushes them to the limit, even forcing them to paint the entire town blood red... 'When we get down,' says one of them, 'this place is going to look like hell.'

This is the Stranger's intention; he takes a brush and strokes out the name 'Logo' on the town sign and writes 'Hell' instead.

In a series of flashbacks, primarily from the Stranger's point of view and later from Mordecai's, it is revealed that the townsfolk stood by and let three men whip their Marshal to death... The Marshal had discovered that the basis of the town's prosperity, a mine, was actually on government land and not on the townspeople's own. He was going to report this, so no-one felt obliged to intervene when he met his vicious end... His body now was lying outside the town in an unmarked grave: 'They say the dead don't rest without a marker of some kind... he's the reason this town's afraid of strangers.'

Now they have reason to be afraid of the three men who paid the price for the crime in which they all agreed... The Stranger analyzes this fear: 'It's what people know about themselves inside that makes them afraid.' The town reaction to his is reserved... A group of vigilantes try to kill him... The Stranger repays them with a stick of dynamite... Despite their training, the remaining locals are horrified when they realize that he does not intend to remain for the final showdown...

"High Plains Drifter" is one of the most important Westerns ever made, and when Eastwood takes his rightful place in film history alongside Cooper and Stewart and Wayne, this is the film that will be seen as the quintessential example of his art...
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A superb western
lucifer17 April 2001
As is often the case with a Clint Eastwood western, High Plains Drifter is rather good.

The usual scenario opens, with Eastwood (playing an unnamed character again) riding into a small mining town, Lagos, where a small group of thugs unsuccessfully try to kill him.

This small act serves as an introduction to the local townsfolk: small-minded cowards who are all talk and no action. They also bear a horrifying secret.

Eastwood is eventually approached to help them fend off an upcoming attack from three criminals who have just been released from prison.

He also suffers from a recurring nightmare, which I will leave to you to find out.

Needless to say, all of the pieces come together by the end, and those of you not astute enough to have noticed will be saying, "of course!"

A good story combines with Eastwood's anti-heroic personality (he never really played a good guy, did he?) and a good supporting cast to produce one of the best westerns of the 1970s. As the Maltin summary states: "Half-serious, half tongue-in-cheek, with great role for midget Billy Curtis."

Curtis plays Mortecai, the town dwarf, who shadows Eastwood around Lagos. Some of the scenes in this are extremely funny, but are balanced by some harshly violent moments, of which Eastwood's nightmares are a prime example.

1985's Pale Rider bears similarity to High Plains Drifter in certain areas, but you'll have to watch that yourself to find out where.
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An entertaining and well thought out western
Plaided9 April 2000
I really had no idea what to expect when I grabbed High Plains Drifter from the video store shelf. I recently saw The Outlaw Josey Wales, and really enjoying that film, I figured I couldn't go wrong; I was right. High Plains Drifter is more than just another western with the standard assortment of gun fights, bar scenes, and shots of horseback riding on wide-open prairie. To be sure, it does have its share of the said events, it is a western after all, but what I particularly liked was the film's character development and well thought out story.

I don't want to ruin any of the film's enjoyment for any potential viewers, so I won't go into describing any of the characters. Suffice it to say though that they all have a very realistic quality to them, especially Clint Eastwood's character. No stereotyped good guys/bad guys here, thank you very much.

As I mentioned, the story is also very nicely developed. It has multiple layers which are peeled away as the movie progresses, remaining entertained throughout.

High Plains Drifter is an excellent western. If you're a fan of the genre, you'll no doubt find it to be an entertaining watch.
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Dark western with an eerie music.
Fella_shibby11 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this first in the early 90s on a VHS. Jus revisited this recently. Dee Barton's eerie film score really stood out in making this a mystery western film. The first viewing did create a sense of suspense. In this film Eastwood once again plays a mysterious stranger, this time meting out justice in a corrupt frontier mining town. The scene in which he enters the town, there is this eerie music in the background. The same music is repeated when he departs from the town. I liked the film's dark tone and thought this was more than just a western. The movie has a mystery to it. When I saw it first, I thot that Clint was the dead spirit of the Marshal, but when I saw it recently, I think it's left ambiguous. It cud hav been the brother of the Marshal or some spectator who was hiding in the dark n came back prepared for the revenge. Please feel free to explain me. Nevertheless, its a nice film but not that good compared to other westerns. This is Clints first western to be directed by himself n 2nd as a movie director.
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Completely disturbing, dark, violent western with an interesting Supernatural element
Robert_duder31 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
High Plains Drifter is one of the many Westerns I have seen as of recently. So far it is the most unique, and the most dark, twisted story yet. Clint Eastwood directs but this is far from usual tale. High Plains Drifter is perhaps one of the most unique westerns in existence because of it's Supernatural suggestions and it's disturbing theme. Nonetheless you'll be captivated by it's mood and style and when it's all said and done you'll likely have many questions and want to see it again although it will leave you feeling truly afraid for the first time of The Man With No Name.

Clint Eastwood directs and stars as the mysterious stranger who rides into a small town one day and faces a group of gun slingers hired to keep trash out of the small town. But in true Eastwood style he makes short work of them and suddenly becomes the only gun slinger in town to protect them. But is he protecting them?? This time Eastwood's stranger is disturbed, vicious, violent, completely off the deep end. Whereas the strangers in his previous films have been far more cool and collective there is something evil about this man. As the film is hyped in the first 20 minutes he commits three murders and a rape and takes control of the town. Seeing Eastwood in this role is a little jarring always having pictured him as the Western Hero but still he plays the role to it's fullest and makes this what it is. Billy Curtis plays Mordecai, the man who becomes the stranger's wing man so to speak. Curtis is more of the hero than anyone in town and is mostly under rated by everyone there. He does a great job of adding the overall feeling of gloom to the small town. The rest of the cast that make up the small town including Verna Bloom, Mitch Ryan, Robert Donner, Jack Ging, and Stefan Gierasch do a great job. They all have this distinct air of being dirty, evil, no good, and as the history of this town unfolds we discover their individual sins and deeds that they have committed. Terrific character actor Geoffrey Lewis plays Stacey Bridges, the typical Western villain riding himself into a completely not typical western town where sin is being rectified. When Eastwood is the most evil thing in the Western you'd have to be a good actor to still come across as a bad guy and Lewis does that perfectly. He's a worth adversary to Eastwood's stranger.

High Plains Drifter is one Western I could debate and discuss on for hours and hours. I think Eastwood is a ghost or some sort of angel of Vengeance sent to this town to make them pay for allowing a good man to be whipped to death in front of them in order to hide their shady business dealings with a mine that belonged to the Government. There is so much depth and hidden story to this film that it is just amazing!! The entire back story of this town unfolds while we are watching Eastwood exact his revenge and turn this town into Hell, literally. We don't know exactly what the town has done until it's nearly all over but he gets his vengeance and makes them pay. Without a doubt a disturbing and twisted film and an absolute must see for anyone who loves cinema and wants something different from a classic, tried and true genre like The Western and leave it to Eastwood to pull it off. I think High Plains Drifter is probably one of the most underrated films of all time. The tone of the film and message and story is so disturbing I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again and yet that being said it was so brilliant. I know many have said that Eastwood has explained numerous times the stranger in this film and that he was completely human but I like to look at it from a Supernatural angle because there is a sincere shiver up my spine when Mordecai says to Eastwood's stranger "I don't even know who you are" and Eastwood says..."Yes you do" and rides off into the sunset until he literally vanishes into thin air. It's completely different and a must see!! 9/10
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12th Review: Deconstructing the Western
intelearts20 December 2006
High Plains Drifter looks and feels like a deconstruction of the language of the Western.

A brilliant mix of psychological and macabre, and in places even quite bizarre, it is an investigation of what is created when weakness and desire meet the man driven half to madness (Eastwood) yet seems sane: he is pathological, but is he the only standard of true sanity as a protagonist here? Has he truly lost all sense of ethic?

He starts here as the archetype of antiutilitariansim: nothing he does is for anyone's benefit if it costs him a moment of care. He is cold, brutal, effective. Yet behind this there is a sense that he has a twisted right on his side. Having being so wronged his revenge is more complex than simply killing: it demands retribution, and retribution demands the whole town pays.

More existential than even Once upon A time in the West, or, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly it is about the nihilism and the circle of violence that must be closed.

The filming is supremely confident for a second film: real silences and pauses, laugh out loud lines and situations and cold, cold chills: the language of film is expressed explicitly and implicitly. This is the death knell of the Good vs. Bad traditional Western: it is more like Kurosawa's Yojimbo though here the bad guys are few and the townsfolk are by implication as guilty as the rest because they let evil thrive and let it break a good man.

Never answering it's own questions: like Lago itself it is a world created in isolation and as such is a unique and powerful testament to Eastwood's continuing expression of the darker psyche of the cost of opening up the cowboy image and getting to a colder, starker, realism that defined 70s films.

Compulsive viewing and an important film.
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Welcome to Lago, no actually its Hell!
lost-in-limbo4 August 2005
A mysteriously callous stranger (Clint Eastwood) rides out of the desert into a small town called Lago and terrifies the locals by raping a lady and treading over the townsfolk, but when he kills three cowboys who wanted to make something out of nothing. The inhabitants are grateful that he freed them, but then they try to hire him to protect from three more cowboys who will return back to town when they finish their jail sentence in the next day or two. The stranger refuses the offer at first but when they tell him he can take anything for free and have power over the town he accepts the offer. Through this power he changes things around in town for his pleasure and this causes disruption amongst the locals who seem to regret hiring him.

Oh, I just love this bewildering film and I can't get enough of it! What we get here is a brutally mystical revenge western by Director/Star Clint Eastwood. I was totally mesmerised by it and Eastwood's direction is on the boil by capturing a strong essence of charm and also discomfort. It has a lot of elements going for it that it makes you (well, me) want to watch it over and over again. That's probably a good idea too, as thorough symbolisms and blinding supernatural occurrences fill the cryptic story. Some you might pick up on, while others don't seem to standout but are hidden under the material. Those enigmatic factors really keep your full interest, as the plot is played out very well with an eerie beginning that just pulls you in and then it ends with such a cunning conclusion. Before we get to the conclusion the haunting climax definitely builds sheer dread and packs bite with its visuals… a lot of bite! There's not much action in the film, but the story's subplots is what guides it and slowly builds the questions. You just wonder - There's got to be more to this new stranger in town and the townsfolk seemed to be keeping some hidden secret (or sin) behind close doors? The more the story builds on those the queries the less you seem to worry about the lack of gunfights and brawls. You actually start to read more into these mysteries when some of the questions are answered towards the end. Though, also watching the stranger toy around with the (guilty) townsfolk is pretty riveting stuff.

Another feature that blows you away would be how atmospheric it does get, with a pounding and alienating score that ticks away with its high pitch and howling sounds. These just added more unease to Eastwood's character when he was on screen with this humming score in the background. It just holds such an inspiring awe with its striking rigorous and desolated backdrop that went hand-to-hand with the brood horror and hell that follows the town's inhabitants. Engrossing scenery fills the back-shot with its vast mountains ranges and open spaces of dirt and rocks. One thing that stood out for me was the quieter moments, when it focused on body language and facial expressions to portray emotions. This really added to the alarming mood and a fairly sparse script was incredibly effective in making it highly-strung. Even the uneasy sound effects are used to great effect, especially in a particular nightmare scene. Violence is pretty much in your face and at times rather brutal, but Eastwood paces it superbly and fits it into the story. The humour that fills the story is a bit of a variety as sometimes there would be some subtle and dry humour, but then again when the dwarf was on screen it seems to play more as a loud joke. Steady camera-work is evident with plenty angle shots from behind and above and the occasional zoom. The texture of the film's material and powerful visuals is real moody, daring and it has a fairly cold-hearted tone to it all. It just leaves you with such an empty feeling.

Performance wise the cast was nothing but top-grade. Dauntingly malevolent is a good way to describe Eastwood persona as the mysterious stranger, in which he gives a typically first-rate and hypnotic performance (as usual). Is he some sort of Revenging Angel or a ghost of the past? This is what you ask. But anti-hero definitely comes to mind. The supporting cast is exceptional with the likes of the Verna Bloom, Billy Curtis, Marianna Hill, Mitch Ryan, Stefan Gierasch and Jack Ging.

This is one spellbinding semi-supernatural Western!
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"Well it's what people know about themselves inside that makes 'em afraid."
classicsoncall3 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'm perfectly willing to allow Clint Eastwood his pronouncement of ambiguity regarding the character of 'The Stranger', and have read with interest the many opinions offered in the reviews and threads on this site. I've seen the movie at least a half dozen times over the years, but today it was with the express intent of crystallizing my opinion. As I've felt all along, the character of The Stranger is indeed a mortal man, the brother of the slain town marshal Jim Duncan, and I'll get into that in a minute.

Let's keep in mind that Eastwood himself has had quite some time to reflect on his direction and portrayal in the film, and the subject of a ghostly apparition had time to take hold of viewer consciousness. The film itself has added to the controversy, at least twice via statements made by hotel owner Lewis Belding (Ted Hartley). The first time occurs right after he supervises the evacuation of his hotel, remarking disparagingly to the Preacher (Robert Donner) - "...they're emptyin' my whole hotel, throwing out paying guests right into the street just to make room for our new guardian angel". Later, when addressing Lago's citizens at a town meeting right after the dinner scene with The Stranger and Callie - "...couldn't be worse if the devil himself had ridden right into Lago". So right there you have the seeds planted for both an avenging angel and a demon bent on revenge.

There IS a real mystery to the film, but it's not the identity of 'The Stranger'. To fully understand, it's important to view the movie in it's unedited form via tape or DVD. Watching "High Plains Drifter" on TV, even a cable channel leaves too much out, particularly in the way of dialog, and especially regarding the character of Callie (Marianna Hill) and her relationship to the people in the town.

The movie offers two flashback scenes, the first by 'The Stranger' only about twenty minutes into the story, the second by Mordecai (Billy Curtis), again shortly after the evacuation of the hotel guests. In both flashbacks, one is able to recognize every citizen of Lago that we already know by name, EXCEPT ONE. About midway in each scene, a character is shown entering from, and then retreating back into the shadows, with half of a bearded face visible. It's the face of The Stranger. The reason Eastwood's character can recall with clarity what occurred on the night Marshal Duncan was killed is because he was there. The mystery then becomes why he was powerless at the time to intervene on his brother's behalf. Presumably he wasn't a citizen of Lago, or he would be recognized, so there must have been another reason for him to be there. Visiting his brother, certainly, but for reasons unknown and unexplored, 'The Stranger' did not become involved at the time of his brother's death.

The one person who had an inkling to The Strangers' identity I feel, was Sarah Belding, making reference to the dead marshal in an unmarked grave. But The Stranger wasn't biting, he intended to remain anonymous, a position he affirmed when he first checked into Belding's hotel and didn't register. Sure he could have used a phony name, but then some of the mystique he was attempting to establish would have been compromised.

I'm quite intrigued reading some of the threads maintaining certainty regarding The Stranger being a 'spirit' citing reactions the character has, as if one could actually know how a spirit would go about his business. But since we're playing that game, I'd offer two reasons why he couldn't be a spirit or a demon. On the ride into town, The Stranger's reflection is shown on one of the store front windows as he goes past. Then in the first bar scene, The Stranger's arm casts a shadow on the wall as he takes his beer. Granted, most of my spirit and demon lore has come from other movies and popular literature, but I believe that both of those occurrences aren't possible with beings from the other side. What REALLY intrigues me now is if Eastwood was clever enough to consciously plant those things in the film to keep everyone and his brother (no pun there) guessing. Oh, and one last thing - if The Stranger really WAS a ghost, then who's ghost was the horse he rode in on?

When I first entered a rating for this film on IMDb, I gave it a strong '8' as one of the upper echelon film Westerns, right up there with "High Noon", "Shane", and Eastwood's own "Unforgiven". However now, after having so much fun watching and re-watching the movie, and reading some of the great discussion on this site, that has to warrant at least two bonus points, I'm re-establishing my rating as a '10'.

One last thing - if you're interested in hearing Clint Eastwood himself describe who/what the character of The Stranger represents, head over to his website at http://www.clinteastwood.net/welcome2.html

Follow the links to the movie, and then click on the audio icon for "High Plains Drifter".
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Clint Eastwood's Signature Film!
MonteCarloMan8 July 2005
Of all of his westerns, his performance in 'Drifter was time and again the movie that, unarguably to me, defined his career. From the opening minutes when he rides into town, and coolly walks up to the bar, to the time he vaporizes into thin air when the credits roll, his performance in this film was gritty, flawless and truly Eastwood. Another quality to the movie is it's blend of atmosphere and story, no wonder why its played over and over again on TV. I remember watching it for the first time when I was around 12 (1985) I was very impressionable then and I remember how cool it was to watch Clint go thru his motions during the movie. Nobody knew his name or where he came from, and he didn't oblige them by making them guess throughout the movie. He shot his gun with lethal accuracy when anyone gave him trouble, and was noncommittal to the cowardly townsfolk who wanted his help to take care of the outlaws released from jail. He did things his own way. Those are just some of the reasons why I gave this film 9 stars out of a perfect 10.
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Drifting Winds
sol121821 October 2003
Clint Eastwood revives his signature role as "The Man with no Name" as he seems to come out of nowhere from the distant prairie and descends upon the sleepy little town of Largo and after that things there will never be the same again for the people who live there.

A film that has a lot more to it then what you see at first with Eastwood not being that mysterious and having a past which is seen in flashback every so often in the movie. Styled a lot like "High Noon" but with a twist that builds up slowly at first then takes off like a loose bronco to it's dramatic and fiery conclusion."High Plains Drifter" doesn't follow the well worn standard western scenario which is why it make it unique and thought-provoking at the same time.

Eastwood was never better here as the cool yet pragmatic stranger who's very anonymity makes him both mysterious and threatening to everyone he ruins into, friend or foe. Over the years since "High Plains Drifter" was released, back in 1973, it has reached cult statues and Eastwood has never made another western as good and as "High Plains Drifter" and that includes "The Unforgiven".

Eastwood is more then a match against those out to get him but what they, his enemies as well as the audience, don't know until the very end of the movie is that Clint has something, besides his quick guns and steel nerves, that is far beyond that of mortal man.
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Not a chick flick
DeeNine-210 January 2005
Obviously this was produced before the age of feminist political correctness. The anti-hero with no name--Clint Eastwood, of course, a throwback to his days making spaghetti westerns in Italy with Sergio Leone--comes riding tall in the saddle down into a valley with a mining town by a lake. (The movie was shot around the Mono Lake area of California.) Particularly effective in this unforgettable opening scene is the music sounding like the high whine of the wind off of the desert. This town would be "Lago" later to be renamed "Hell" by Eastwood's character who is identified in the titles as "The Stranger." The stranger really just wants a shave and a bath and something to drink and eat and place to lay his head for the night. What he gets is a bad time from some roughnecks and a woman (Callie Travers, played by Marianna Hill) who has attraction/avoidance feelings for him. He shoots the three guys and rapes the woman before the movie is twenty minutes old. What I mean by this not being politically correct is that, despite herself, she likes it! That sort of thing is not done in cinema these days. The idea that a woman might be turned on by being raped would not play before today's audiences, nor would a Hollywood producer make such a film. I won't go any further into the plot but suffice it to say that Eastwood is just beginning to kick tail. It seems that everybody in town is cowardly and without the will to protect themselves from the bad guys, especially the three who just got out of jail and are headed their way. How Eastwood, who directed from a script by Ernest Tidyman (The French Connection [1971]; Shaft [1971] etc.), handles the familiar revenge theme is interesting. First it is no accident that Eastwood's protagonist is named "the Stranger." That is the English title of a famous novel by Albert Camus that surely influenced Eastwood. Camus's stranger is an existential anti-hero, a kind of benign sociopath who really doesn't feel anything for others except as they affect his life. But he is not particularly violent and just lives from one day to the next without any direction or goal. He just "exists." Eastwood's stranger does more than just exist. He takes action, and he is very good at it. Indeed, I can't recall a western movie in which a gunman could draw faster or shot straighter, or any movie hero who was less afraid of putting his life on the line. So, in a sense what Eastwood has added to Camus's stranger is Nietzsche's superman. And herein lies, I think, the underpinning of Eastwood's philosophy and his "message." Note that the people in the town to a man are cowardly. The only exception is Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) who, like the aforementioned Callie Travers, can't resist the stranger's forceful charm, and falls in love with him. This somehow inspires her to leave the corrupt town. Yes, the town, like most of human society is corrupt. And yes the average man in the street is cowardly and without the will to defend himself. It is only the ubermensch, that rare breed celebrated in the works of the German philosopher, who has the skill, the strength and the will to bend events to his liking and to take on those who would use violence to achieve their ends. So what Eastwood does here in his second directorial effort (following Play Misty for Me, 1971) is to diverge from Leone's formula. While there is some very funny and intentionally ridiculous dialogue in such films as, for example, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), or For a Few Dollars More (1965) or A Fistful of Dollars (1964), there is little that is funny, intentionally or otherwise in High Plains Drifter. Furthermore, whereas Leone just wanted to make a buck and saw that tough-minded heroes or anti-heroes involved in action-filled revenge plots was a good way to do it, Eastwood is interested in also making a philosophic (and perhaps political) statement. We are degenerate, we humans, he is saying, except for those rare individuals who take the law into their own hands, make their own rules, and through superior skill and bravery, make their own luck and create their own reality, as does his stranger. In this film there is also an element of the supernatural, or so it would appear. The stranger "sees" in his head the whipping of a past sheriff of the town. Perhaps it comes from the mind of the dwarf Mordecai (very well played by Billy Curtis, by the way) who witnessed the tortured death while hiding under the saloon. At any rate, the stranger shows that he is just as handy with the whip himself as he is with his six-gun. By all means see this for an early look at the work of Clint Eastwood as both an actor and a director. You will not be bored I can assure you. But don't invite the girl friend over. If there was ever an anti-"chickflick," this is it.
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An Avenger Angel Looking for Revenge
claudio_carvalho18 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In the coastal city of Lago, a stranger (Clint Eastwood) arrives and is challenged by three `bad guys'. He kills them and sooner is invited by the locals to protect the city against three outlaws that would leave a nearby prison in a couple of days. One year ago, these bandits killed Marshal Jim Duncan using whips. The marshal asked for help and the coward persons did not help him. The killers were sent to jail and promised to burn the city when they leave the jail. The citizens offer anything the stranger want `free of charge' if he protects them against the rage of the criminals. What they do not know is that the stranger is the avenger angel of the killed marshal looking for revenge. This movie about revenge is great: we never know whether the `stranger without a name' is a brother or friend of Jim Duncan, or whether he is Jim Duncan himself looking for revenge. Fans of western movies will not be disappointed with this story, no matter whether he is a cowboy or a supernatural character. My vote is seven.
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Poetic Justice Served by Clint Eastwood...
ElMaruecan8216 July 2019
A heat haze reigns over the high plains, making them look like the valleys of the shadow of death. Emerging from the mistiness a lone rider seems to make one with the shadow, coming to our direction. It's not an entrance as much as an appearance, and in the small town of Lago, not the most welcomed one. From the simple by-standers to the business owners, gazes of bewilderment and barely concealed fears converge to his direction, stares that say "who is he?" "where does he come from?" "what is he doing here?". As usual, Clint Eastwood looks like he doesn't give a d***, and we -viewers- know we'll be lucky if one of the three questions gets an answer.

That's the attitude Eastwood built his legend on, as the emerging Western icon after John Wayne but closer to a Bogart-like figure, Eastwood had that edge over Wayne, he didn't need a story, his 'presence' could make a film. Eastwood emerged with the late 60s and his "Man-With-No-Name" character immediately appealed to a young generation of movie goers longing for outcasts who could reflect their own defiance toward the petty preoccupations of a conservative society, minus the insecurity. Eastwood played rebellious characters but with coolness oozing from his apparent detachment, he made his charisma so effortless that he stole Wayne's thunder.

Speaking of Wayne, that he criticized "High Plain Drifters" in an open letter to Eastwood proves the latter's point, he might have played a "right-wing fantasy" in "Dirty Harry" but when you're criticized by Wayne in 1973, you're not in conflict with the Western icon but with the out-of-touch director of "Green Berets". Eastwood was old-fashioned but in a revolutionary way. And this is why his figure as the lonesome stranger coming from nowhere but not for nothing became an enduring trademark of his own, one that stuck to him until his Oscar-winning "Unforgiven". And twenty years later, Eastwood knew the secret ingredient he had to instill in his movies: making his Stranger's character as quiet and stingy in words as his Leone's counterpart and as effective in words and action as his Don Siegel's Harry.

Some critics saw in the film an attempt to imitate the masters but that's an unfair trial because what Eastwood imitates (not without a few ounces of self-awareness) is the character he created and whom he plagiarizes with insistence, because that's the way you build your own style. As a director, he's rather minimalist and linear, with a few flashbacks cleverly inserted to give a needed boost to the plot, until a climax that looks like nothing seen before, not in old Westerns, not in Leone's: surrealism with a meaning. In "Pale Rider", a similar confrontation would be handled in a less showy manner but "High Plain Drifters" redeems its lack of subtlety by the boldness of his protagonist and his personal motives that give a weird of plausibility in his actions, it might even be Eastwood's way to renovate the Western genre, whipping the dust off with a mystical savagery.

That's Eastwood's touch, to infuse spirituality in seemingly ordinary stories, with mysterious but not unreal protagonists, men with a way with the gun and the ladies and yet accessible to the common folks, never too detached, never too straightforward... there's an element of humor and balance that keep his heroes rooted in reality while their aura evokes supernatural elements. Now, it would ruin the experience to reveal what "High Plain Drifters" is about but let's say it involves a town that is so full of coward people that it makes Hadleyville people look like the Magnificent Seven The film opens with the Stranger killing three thugs who were literally begging for it, as a result, the town asks him for protection against three outlaws who are coming to attack them. He accepts, but not without a price.

As the plot moves on, a few hints are given, the sound of a whip alerts the Stranger, a woman bumps into him in a way to 'make acquaintance' What he does after is condemnable and ugly but what the scene denounces is the apathy and lack of reaction of the men not without reminding of "Dirty Harry" and whose correlation with the Stranger's mission is revealed later. Meanwhile, the film oscillates between moments of ominous quietness, brutality and humor, especially when the town is ready to accept any of the Stranger's wishes including the nomination of the town's midget (Billy Curtis) mayor as sheriff and mayor. The Strangers throws customers out of the hotel, making an enemy out of the owner, and a friend out of his wife (Verna Bloom). Later, some treacheries are revealed among the "good" people of Lago, which broadens even more the notions of good and evil, an issue that became persistent in Eastwood's body of work as soon he started making movies.

"High Plain Drifters" denounces the evilness lying in every human being who acts wrongly but also the lack of reaction of the seemingly good citizen, the more violent scenes involves a nasty public lynching by whipping where we see people staring at a good man being tortured, with a silence that truly gives consent. We never really get to know what ties the flashback with the Stranger, however we know there's a record to settle and that some incidents are so dramatic that it takes a certain dose of poetic justice to fix it, a vision of what is right that doesn't necessarily indulge in being good, that might not be the vision of everyone of the West, but it was Eastwood's and it fit the mood of the 70s and we're disillusioned enough to embrace his poetry almost five decades later.

John Wayne was in position to criticize him but time certainly did justice to the director who did justice in his own movies... when he gets back to the heat haze, we know justice was done and it's satisfying enough.
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A Latter Day Western Classic Heavy On Symbolism
AudioFileZ21 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
We all conscientiously form initial impressions as to how to process a movie, a book, music, architecture, clothes, or any number of things. When watching the opening sequence of High Plains Drifter I scratched my head a bit and decided this film was going to explore the dark side of human nature. That would include revenge, jealousy, lust, greed, and hypocrisy.

The town people of Lago are attempting to live in a kind of a bubble. They desire to ignore as much as possible outside their city. They want a kind of closed utopia even if the bond between the various members in the town is all fake as everyone is out for number one with their only shared desire being keeping a profitable mine open. This was solidified after a earlier visit from some dark men resulted in the murder of the Lago sheriff who knew a dark secret about the mine that could destroy the town. After taking care of the sheriff situation the town decided to hire enforcers for what they couldn't stomach themselves. These men would be the filter keeping outsiders out and, also, to protect them from the same dark men who killed the sheriff as they went to prison unexpectedly which if they ever get out could be a revenge call waiting to happen. Now it's clear we have tenuous line between law and order, moral men and those pretending to be.

Clint Eastwood's mysterious character (he isn't even revealing his name) is on the surface as bad as any gun slinging outlaw, but maybe the town can use him to their advantage as in short order the enforcers are all dead and those murderers seeking revenge are thought to be days away from being released from prison (i.e. more commentary on corrupt laws?). Thus a uneasy truce between Eastwood's drifter and the town is born. It's going to be a strange marriage to say the least.

The uneasy truce gets more strange and things, naturally, reach a critical mass. The drifter is all about what you reap you sow it would appear as what is left of Lago will have to start over. Perhaps it will be a very different town sans certain hypocrites and a hideous red paint remaining. Lago is a town that won't be the same and that's for sure. The story is the movie and the movie is the story. It's a bit surreal and dreamy at times, but it's a solid western tragedy rooted in the classics. It's the old story of evil vs. good, just not as straightforward and more cryptic thanks to Eastwood's drifter character. A newer classic is the bottom line.
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Lessons from the masters, well learned in Eastwood's first western as director
OldAle113 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I've been a fairly big Clint Eastwood fan for 20 years - interestingly enough though, I'd only seen this, his second directorial effort and first western as director once, a long time ago. Seeing as how I was going to be re-visiting The Outlaw Josey Wales for a film club though, now was as good a time as any for a re-watch.

The plot couldn't be simpler, in many ways harking back to "A Fistful of Dollars" in its elegant, stripped storyline: A stranger (Clint) rides into the town of Lago, quickly getting into a shootout that he didn't start and besting the three gunfighters that the town had hired to protect them. The townspeople are afraid of another trio who had once been on the payroll also, doing time in prison for a crime committed a year before that the town is complicit in, and due back to wreak vengeance. Seeing as how their protectors are dead, they agree to hire the stranger at any cost, and he proceeds to wreak havoc on the town in more ways than one before proceeding on his way after filling his bargain in apocalyptic fashion.

If the plot's simple, the characters, style and symbolism of the piece are a little less so. The Stranger it seems is haunted by dreams - memories or visions, who can say for sure? of a man who seems to be him, the town's former marshall, whipped to death by those same three men riding back for their own vengeance. "Lago" means "lake" and the town sits on an unnamed body of water; the town seems brand-new, most of the buildings are still under construction and unpainted, though from what we learn it's been around for over a year; the townspeople are greedy and cowardly, and The Stranger is cold, merciless, in the end even demonic. Is he a figure of vengeance, a revenant or demon sent from the real Hell that he names the town after, and that the marshall is seen in one flashback as damning it to, as he orders it painted completely red before the killers arrive in town? Though nearly everybody in the town is unpleasant, a couple of more positive images do stand out - Verna Bloom in one of the two significant female roles is the hotel-keeper's wife, who seems at first to despise The Stranger but seemingly just because he's another brutal bastard - when she realizes that he's the only man in the town with guts she softens, and he beds her just before the showdown. A dwarf, Mordecai (Billy Curtis), is also treated more softly, with The Stranger proclaiming him sheriff and mayor, pumping him up to the point where he alone of all the townsmen shows any guts at the eventual gun battle. I suppose it could be said that Clint's vengeful figure is capable of some charity and feeling towards the only two positive and "good" characters in the film. Significantly enough the other female character, a single woman (perhaps a whore? it's never very clear) named Callie (Marianna Hill) who he rapes shortly after entering town, develops an ambiguous love-hate attitude towards him and it's left quite ambiguous as to how much has to do with the rape (which both The Stranger and other townspeople deny) or because he then ignores her for the most part, even after she betrays him at one point.

A town that seemed promising and new, fresh and full of vitality at the beginning of the film, perched on a cool lake and apparently prosperous, at the end has been half-burnt and decimated through a supernatural wrath, a vengeance for the greed and cowardice that killed a marshall and cowers before his redeemer - this is old-Testament film-making of a pure kind that Eastwood never really returned to in such an obvious way. There are certainly obvious odes to his spaghetti years, in the dirt and violence and unpleasantness of the townspeople and their souls, in Dee Barton's wonderfully eclectic, eerie score and of course in Eastwood's character; I also think it shares some kinship with the Don Siegel-directed Civil War film The Beguiled from 1971, another film with more than a touch of the supernatural, and few redeeming characters. But Clint makes it his own through the economy and his refusal to make things any more flashy or outré than the screenplay calls for (which is plenty). The cast is terrific, mostly made up of names that were second-tier at best at the time and are largely forgotten now. Bloom and Curtis are especially good Perhaps not one of the very best 70s westerns, and I'd certainly still put it behind "Josey Wales" and "Unforgiven" in Eastwood's western-ography, but it's definitely one of the weirder and more fascinating examples of the genre from America during the period.
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so many obviously don't get it
buny10112 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is essentially a Western Ghost story. Someone thought maybe he was the brother of the dead Marshall, but what we have is a story of a man wrongfully killed and then not given a final resting spot. As one of the characters in the movie states, "Without a headstone, the dead roam (paraphrase)." Marshall Duncan was set up and murdered due to the greed of the town leaders and businesses. And the townspeople did nothing to stop or help. They, in the eyes of Marshall Duncan, are all guilty to some degree. Those that don't like the movie decry the violence and rape and thuggery of Clint. Well, it was because they were being punished for either their active participation in Marshall Duncan's murder, or their passive allowance of it. Oh, he is after the actual perpetrators, for sure, but everyone must be punished. The whole town. There are no innocent people, you see. Not in this town, at least.
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Lesson to Lago
johno-217 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There once was a frontier mining town called Lago where all it's residents lived in greed, hypocrisy and fear. The town had a Marshall to keep order but instead of the town backing the law to fight off gunslingers who were skimming money from the mines they figured they would be better off hiring the gunslingers to run the town so they in effect sanctioned the Marshall's death. The town's most prominent prostitute conspired with the gunslingers to rid the town of him. The towns clergy and congregation stood by and did nothing and the mayor and townspeople stood by and watched. The town eventually turned on these three murderers and they got sent to prison and they hired three more gunslingers to take their place. The time came for the three to be released from prison and at the same time a drifter from out of nowhere or maybe just from the nearby the high plains rode into town. A man who went by no name. A gunslinger himself who would dispense a frontier justice of his own to the entire town and befriend only those who the town got a kick out of making fun of. A midget and a couple of Indians. For every other person and in fact every building that stood in the town he had another plan. The three gunslingers on their return to Lago will find that Lago has had a change of administration since their absence and a change of name. Lago is now Hell. Clint Eastwood directs. He would make only three more Westerns in his career in The Outlaw Josey Wales in '76. Pale Rider in '85 and The Unforgiven in '92. Ernest Tidyman who wrote the series of Shaft movies had just come off an Oscar win for his screenplay for The French Connection when he wrote the screenplay for High Plains Drifter. Eastwood had just come off his directorial debut in his acclaimed film Play Misty for Me. This is a surreal film that pays homage to Eastwood mentor Sergio Leone and says good bye to the man with no name character except for in 1985 when Eastwood revived the no name character in a slightly different incarnation as the preacher in Pale Rider. This is a good and different kind of movie and I would give it a 9.0 on a scale of 10.
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My Favorite Clint Eastwood Western
ramsfan18 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
While other Clint Eastwood westerns have received more fanfare (The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven come to mind), this is my favorite of them all. This most certainly isn't your Daddy's traditional John Wayne fare, and those expecting to see as such will be surely disappointed or at the very least surprised. Eastwood made a name for himself in the 60's as the "Man With no Name" in several Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, and he continues this anti-hero character in 1973's High Plains Drifter, a dark revenge fantasy many viewers (mistakenly) think has supernatural elements to it.

Eastwood rides into the town of Lago and immediately guns down three "troubleshooters" who goad him into a fight. We quickly find out the dead men had been hired to protect the town from three other criminals who are due to get out of a territorial prison and seek revenge on those in Lago who had been responsible for their imprisonment. Realizing he is their best chance to save the town and themselves from impending destruction, several town leaders unsuccessfully seek his help. After initially refusing their request, Eastwood relents when he is promised "anything he wants" in exchange for his services. Throughout the film he takes full advantage of the town's offer through humiliating requests, outrageous demands and inconveniencing its many residents- while ostensibly setting up an ambush for the arriving criminals.

We find out through a recurring dream that former sheriff Jim Duncan was whipped to death in the center of town while cowardly townspeople watched and refused to help. Eastwood's arrival is no accident: it is implied much later in the film (and by Eastwood himself off camera) that he is the brother of the dead sheriff out to seek justice, thus explaining his no-nonsense demeanor and harsh treatment of the townspeople.

We root for the Eastwood character not because he is a genuinely good person but because everyone in town is either crooked (the mining officials), gutless (bartender, barber, sheriff) or simply unable to stand up for themselves (the women, the midget). We revel in Eastwood's actions simply because everyone else receives their just comeuppance. This film is well acted, well paced and entertaining. Present are many fine character actors- Mitchell Ryan, Stefan Gierasch, Walter Barnes, Geoffrey Lewis, and many others- who all lend to the enjoyment of the film. A must view for all Eastwood fans and another fine addition to his outstanding canon of work.
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Clint Eastwood vehicle playing his usual character as avenger gunslinger
ma-cortes30 July 2009
This violent Western is set on Northern outdoors and the star is a mysterious revenger, ¨a man without name¨ , who comes to the aid of embattled citizens. It deals about a gunfighter (Clint Eastwood) arriving a little town called Lago that has the usual shops and buildings, as General merchandise, Livery stable, Hardware, Barber shop, Saloon , Hotel and of course the Church. The drifter donning his six-guns is contracted by townspeople to protect them from a trio of avenge-seeking outlaws(Geoffrey Lewis, Dan Vadis, Anthony James)who have justly released from jail. But the villagers wind up painting the little town and calling it : ¨Hell¨.

Well crafted Western with interesting screenplay by Ernest Tidyman. Although atmospheric , it's also downbeat and sometimes just downright nasty. The story is almost terrific as the drifter comes to strange frontier town just in time to reckoning villagers and bandits. This stirring picture contains a powerful examination of morality and hypocrisy on people of a little town. Good casting with several secondaries as Michell Ryan, Marianna Hill, Verna Bloom, Walter Barnes, Robert Donner and special mention to Billy Curtis as midget become Sheriff and Mayor. Exquisitely shot by Robert Surtees with a magnificent cinematography on the barren exteriors and snowy mountains backgrounds. Thrilling and suspenseful musical score by Dee Burton. The film is made in somewhat similar style to ¨Pale rider (1985)¨, only this time the drifter appears to have been sent from hell rather than heaven to right from ordinary injustices. Later on, Eastwood produced and directed another successful Western ¨Unforgiven(1992)¨ also with some common theme.
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" Ghosts, Lawmen and Spirits that go bang in the night "
thinker16912 January 2009
Of all the films which strike directly into the hearts of men, this film is special. The movie " High Plains Drifter " is part fact, part revenge and part moral tale. A marshal is hired in the town of Lago and discovers that leading townsmen are illegally mining on government land. When the Lawman decides to arrest them, these same citizens send a trio of gunmen to kill him. After, he is bull whipped to death in front of everyone, they close the case and pretend it didn't happen. All is forgotten, until a desert stranger (Clint Eastwood) appears and reminds the town-folks of it's unfinished obligation. Fearing retribution from the three unruly gunmen whom they falsely imprisoned, they hire the stranger to protect them. Granting him a 'free' hand in anything he might want, the citizens soon come to regret their hasty decision as the stranger makes them all pay for their spineless behavior. What transpires is a bit of Twlight Zone, pay-the-piper and holy retribution for their cowardly sins. Much to the credit of director and star Clint Eastwood and to the cast which includes Billy Curtis as Mordecai, Mitch Ryan as Dave Drake, Jack Ging as Morgan Allen, Stefan Gierasch as Mayor Jason Hobart and Geoffrey Lewis as Stacey Bridges. Dark drama, murder, rape and loathsome human interaction marks this story and collects enough entertainment to brand it as a cult Classic. ****
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Eastwood's only great film as director?
funkyfry11 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent, spare western is Eastwood's unacknowledged masterpiece. Features Mordecai the midget (Curtis), whom Eastwood's gunman turns into the town marshall and mayor. Basic Yojimbo-inspired plot embellished by powerful social commentary and violent, hallucinatory nightmare sequences. the only thing that makes Eastwood's destructive, cynical hero palatable is how pathetic the townspeople he's humiliating are. He paints the town red, watches everyone die, and returns to the grave. A must-see for fans of continental Westerns for its quality, depth, and for the clarity of its hellish vision. Great photography, nice location to fit the desolate mood of the story.
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