High Plains Drifter (1973)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Obviously Clint was going to tackle a western at some point in his directorial career, and this was his first such film… unlike our last film, I kind of went into this one without as much positive anticipation; I first and last saw this probably some time in the late 90s, and liked it but was not hugely blown away. Having felt a bit let down by Rio Bravo on revisiting it, I was hoping I might have a better experience with HPD… and I’m not sure that I did, although I’ll say this much for it, it may be a slow burner like the earlier film but I had a somewhat greater sense of it all building up to something. That “something” is pretty fucking nasty, too; my old VHS of it was still rated R when I got it back in the day, and though it’s been rated down to M in more recent times… yeah.  If Eastwood’s latest man-with-no-name figure strikes terror into the good (?) townsfolk of Lago by his mere arrival there, his rather casual shooting of three men not long thereafter followed by the rape of one of the local women establishes the film as something hard and nasty; this is a hell of a putative hero. Clint himself is at his most muttering as the possibly supernatural figure (arguable; according to Wikipedia it kind of depends on which language you see the film in) on a quest for vengeance, coming to yet another corrupt western town (with almost everyone having been complicit to some degree in the pretty horrendous act he’s there to avenge) of the sort we’ve seen a few times so far this month and literally painting it red. Grim stuff, and such humour as there is tends to be kind of bleak; I’d actually kind of forgotten just how dark the thing really is. I still can’t say I’m bowled over by High Plains Drifter—it’s another one of those “good but not that good” films on the 1001 Movies list for me—but at least it was nice to actually see it in widescreen at last if nothing else…

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