Tuesday, April 21, 2009

High Plains Drifter (1973)

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Westerns don't get enough credit for sophisticated storytelling. "High Noon" is the granddaddy of them all, a great fable about personal demons. Clint Eastwood directed this and was clearly determined to do justice to a story as great as "High Noon," although the moral is pointed more down the barrel of the gun from the protagonist, as is often the case in Clint's tales.

I don't have a lot of time right now to rehash this story but in an effort to nail it in a couple of sentences, the people of the town of Lago have a dark secret and now they're paying for it because they're being bullied by a gang of toughs and have no sheriff to uphold the law. So they hire Clint to defend the town, who seems to be a drifter with no name but happens to be willing to take the job despite a tremendous chip on his shoulder that, being a mysterious drifter, would have to have come from nowhere, right?

Well, if I do say so myself, that's a damn good two-sentence summary and tease. There's a metaphysical nature to this that you don't often see in a western, too. The only thing not to its credit -- you don't tend to see rape scenes anymore in Hollywood pictures unless they're integral to the plot -- and this one has two, one of them the most dated kind, where the girl gives in halfway through because she realizes she's Into It. Eeesh. But please, don't let that keep you away from what's got to be one of the best westerns ever made.

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