Friday, August 31, 2012
|9:05 p.m.||High Plains Drifter|
Clint Eastwood (U.S., 1973)
Watch the trailer
Watch the trailer
A mysterious stranger wreaks havoc on a small Western town that allowed its sheriff to be whipped to death by a gang of thugs. Similar to the townspeople in High Noon, the inhabitants of the small community at the edge of a large lake on the plains could populate several rings of Dante’s Inferno. The Stranger actually has the town painted red and renames it “Hell.” Clint Eastwood went through an extensive apprenticeship at Universal in the 1950s before becoming a star in Rawhide, one of many popular Western series on television. When the series ended, Eastwood unexpectedly became a superstar in Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns, beginning with A Fistful of Dollars (1964). After starring in several more American westerns, Eastwood chose High Plains Drifter for his second directorial outing, now considered one of his masterpieces. A stylized, revisionist Western in the manner of Leone, it allows Eastwood the opportunity to pay homage to his Italian mentor, by marking one of the gravestones in the cemetery “Sergio Leone.” The film’s opening sequence, five minutes without any dialogue, is also a nod to Leone, whose characters are men of few words. As with Eastwood’s later quasi-religious Western, Pale Rider (1985), High Plains Drifter leaves it unclear whether The Stranger is a flesh-and-blood human being or a ghost. His arrival and departure is filmed with a telephoto lens through hazy waves of heat, a physical materialization out of nothingness and disappearance back into the ether, like an angel of death.
• Written by Ernest Tidyman, Dean Riesner. Photographed by Bruce Surtees. With Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Mariana Hill, Mitchell Ryan. (105 mins, Color, 35mm)