HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973)
- Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Clint Eastwood (director)A small town in the far North is beset by a band of outlaws. The townspeople turn to The Stranger (Eastwood) for protection, a man who has ridden into town out of nowhere. He sneers at their desperate pleas for help but eventually agrees to prepare the town—but only on his own terms. It turns out that years before, The Stranger had been a victim of both the gang coming in from prison and the town itself.High Plains Drifterwas Clint Eastwood’s first Western as director. Unlike his spaghetti Westerns set in Mexican deserts replete with images of dust and desolation, this film is set in the northern desert at the base of snow-capped mountains. It is a classic revenge Western. The Stranger, still a Man with No Name, is consumed with unexamined lust for revenge against both the townspeople who hire him and the gang that humiliated him in the past. Eastwood leaves no question that the town deserves the complete destruction wrought on it at the end. All townspeople are hypocrites; the whore is no worse than the preacher. Only the hotel owner’s wife represents normative values, but hers is a minor role and we never know if her values are the same as The Stranger’s. The destruction and purification of the town by fire is reminiscent of Hell’s Hinges (1916).
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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