Get ready to paint the town red, because High Plains Drifter is the Greatest Movie EVER!
Click on the Bluray cover or the title above to download our review of the film,
featuring Sean ‘Hollywood’ Hunting.
Review in a Nutshell: A revisionist Western with a splash of the supernatural added in, High Plains Drifter is well-constructed but morally bleak film that weaves a tale of lost souls, greed, conspiracy, and revenge from beyond the grave.
I’m glad you and Sean did High Plains Drifter, and I hope you do some more westerns. This one and the podcasts Quigley Down Under and The Proposition are some of your best. Keep up the good work.
Tammy wants to know why you didn’t do THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES instead – it’s one of her favorite movies, and elements from it keep cropping up in her books.
Yeah, I’d agree that HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is “morally bleak”….
I couldn’t believe when I seen this pop up in my podcast feed. Listened to it straight away. Clint Eastwood is as hard as coffin nails.
Fantastic. Would love to here some more from you on some of his films doesn’t have to be a western Kellys Heroes, Dirty Harry anything. I have his whole collection.
I was in the mood for something a little surreal, and I remembered the film being more surreal that it turned out to be on revisiting it. I’d also only ever seen it edited for television, so I didn’t know how morally bleak it really was, especially with regards to the character of the Stranger.
As for The Outlaw Josie Wales, I’ve never seen it. Sean is probably going to yell at me for admitting that.
Paul, I think you’d really enjoy THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES – after the first half hour setting up why he’s The Outlaw Josie Wales and a deadly shot, it’s mostly about him accreting a family of eccentrics to replace the one the Vicious Union “Red Leg” Cavalry killed.
If you wanted surreal, PALE RIDER is a stronger movie….
The Outlaw Josie Wales is not only Eastwood’s best western, I think it’s his best film. I absolutely love that movie.
I might argue UNFORGIVEN is a bit better, though bleaker, movie, Solid Muldoon – and UNDER FIRE is probably his best work as an actor, though it’s the first “hired gun” movie he’s done in decades.
Buy YMMV – and OUTLAW JOSIE WALES is definitely worth an episode.
I’m glad that Sean things that Pale Rider is one of the best Westerns of the 1980s. It really is a fantastic movie, and the build-up to the awesome showdown between Eastwood and the hired guns from the mining corporation is amazingly done. Eastwood gives another “man with no name” performance, clearly channeling his work in earlier films, but the movie has a more 1980s sensibility as far as themes like violence, environmentalism, big business, etc go. Pale Rider is a really unique movie despite its obvious similarities to Eastwood’s earlier work. I really love that film.
High Plains Drifter is definitely an interesting one to discuss since it came out right around the time the Western was starting to fall out of fashion as being one of the staple genres of films produced by American movie studios, as had been the case for the previous 30 years.
I imagine that was a sign of the times. High Plains Drifter was released in time with the highly publicized end of America’s [direct] military involvement in Vietnam: a highly unpopular conflict that we not only lost but most believed we were morally in the wrong to be part of. That all flew directly in the face of the myth of the “classic” Westerns of American cinema: episodes of American history set in actual places for which the violent deeds of our heroes were ultimately moral and justifiable: “good people banding together to tame a wilderness and bring about civilization to the uncivilized.”
By the early 70s, audiences and studios alike weren’t buying into that so much. But High Plains Drifter wasn’t any of that stuff. Eastwood’s Stranger comes in to ostensibly save the town of Lago for dubious reasons nobody there quite understands, then proceeds to wreck the place? Well, that came straight out of our Bến Tre playbook! None of this could possibly be sold as historical dramatization of that era. It’s a moralistic fable set in an implausibly fictional landscape. High Plains Drifter was a continuation/response to what Eastwood was doing over in Italy while also being an inversion of the classic Western scenarios people had come to know. Here, the townsfolk get armed, the bad guys arrive, the wandering gunslinger gets on his horse and strides forth…and then he just up and leaves everybody high and dry. Definitely not “magnificent.”
Italian and revisionist Westerns are certainly my preference, but–and here’s the part that it took me a few years to realize–that isn’t to say that the John Wayne Westerns are squarely the domain of a conservative naiveté longing for an ideal myth of America’s past that never was. John Wayne may not have liked what Eastwood had done here, but I think it had less to do with the fact that it was a revisionist Western and more to do with the fact that if you view JUST High Plains Drifter on its own–as Wayne would have done, at the time of this infamous letter which I will confess to never having actually read; anyone know if a copy got reprinted anywhere?–you can’t easily tell whether Eastwood is condoning the actions and deeds of his lead character or not. It’s only when you take it along with the other Eastwood-directed films that came later that you can see “okay, no he does not.”
Certainly, John Wayne and John Ford had done high-profile revisionist Westerns themselves, years before there was ever a “man with no name” in the first place. Both The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are working against the classic image of the West that Ford and Wayne themselves helped perpetuate, and later John Wayne movies like the already-mentioned True Grit as well as The Shootist did so as well. The Shootist was basically art imitating life in a few ways, but The Searchers in particular is something that costs like $7 on Blu-Ray which I think would be interesting to hear talked about on GME!.
Daryl – the only reason I would disagree with a GME episode on THE SEARCHERS is because everybody does THE SEARCHERS. There are books that are about nothing but the themes and elements of THE SEARCHERS. Several podcasts about classic movies have already done entire episodes on THE SEARCHERS. I’m pretty sure there’s a college course somewhere devoted entirely to critically viewing THE SEARCHERS. It’s kind of like CITIZEN KANE, CASABLANCA or EYES WITHOUT A FACE – though if it’s a movie Paul has a different take on, or you have one and would like Paul to moderate, then yes it would be worth an episode.
Personally, I’d think THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALLANCE, or a talk about the differences between a John Wayne Western and a Clint Eastwood Western – would make a better episode….