Wednesday, July 24, 2013
High Plains Drifter
Directed and starring Clint Eastwood and written by Ernest Tidyman, High Plains Drifter is the story about a mysterious gunfighter who is hired by locals from a frontier mining town to fight against criminals and corruption. The film is a look into a man helping locals defend themselves against injustice while dealing with a band of criminals seeking to reap the hard work of the people. Also starring Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Geoffrey Lewis, Billy Curtis, and Mitchell Ryan. High Plains Drifter is a thrilling yet mesmerizing film from Clint Eastwood.
The film is a simple story about a mysterious gunfighter who arrives at a small mining town to fight against bandits yet there’s more to this story as it involves corruption and the death of a marshal (Buddy Van Horn) in the hands of the bandits. The mysterious gunfighter (Clint Eastwood) is a man with no name but he is someone who knows how to fight against bandits as he tries to rally this small town to fight against bandits. Yet, there are those in the town like some local officials who feel uneasy about the gunfighter’s presence and his willingness to change things as they would try to attack him. When it comes time to face a trio of bandits, trouble brews forcing the gunfighter to handle things himself.
Ernest Tidyman’s screenplay doesn’t carry much of a plot but it does have a lot of ambiguity into its protagonist as he’s a man that is just drifting into town. He arrives as someone that can wipe out bandits but there are people in this town who find him to be an unwelcoming presence including the local whore (Marianna Hill) and some of the town’s council led by a civic leader (Mitchell Ryan) as he thinks there’s a way to profit from this. The story is interesting as there’s bits of humor that includes the presence of a half-man named Mordecai (Billy Curtis) who befriends the stranger. There are moments in the story where it takes some time for things to get moving in the first act while another flaw in the story is the way women are portrayed as the local whore is just very nagging while the wife of a hotel owner (Verna Bloom) is also ambiguous as she’s a character that is underwritten.
Clint Eastwood’s direction is quite engaging not just for the compositions he creates but also in the way he maintains some air of suspense that is mixed in with humor and drama. Still, it is a western at heart though it doesn’t follow some of its themes other than to bring justice and such as the stranger is a very mysterious individual who has some very odd ideas. Eastwood’s compositions is filled with some gorgeous imagery as well as very stark portrayals of violence as it’s obvious that he’s drawing ideas from two filmmakers who shaped his career in Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Notably in the wide-shots, some tracking shots, and some hand-held work where Eastwood allows a sense of energy in the action while creating some dream-like moments that involve the death of the marshal. Overall, Eastwood crafts a very chilling yet exciting western about a stranger fighting for what is right.
Cinematographer Bruce Sturees does excellent work with the film‘s very vast and colorful looking including the gorgeous wide shots of the location set in Mono Lake, California. Editor Ferris Webster does brilliant work with the editing from the use of jump-cuts and rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s violence to the use of dissolves in the flashback scene showing the marshal‘s death. Art director Henry Bumstead and set decorator George Milo do fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the town including a key look for the film’s climax.
The sound work of James R. Alexander is superb for some of its sound editing in the sound of the whips and gunfire along with some of the intimate moments in the film. The film’s music by Dee Barton is amazing for its eerie and hypnotic score that is a mixture of orchestral music with something that is close to chilling electronic pieces to play up some of its suspense.
The casting by William Batliner and Robert J. LaSanka is terrific for the cast that is assembled as it features some notable small performances from Stefan Gierasch as the town’s mayor, Buddy Van Horn as the marshal who is killed by the bandits, Ted Hartley as the hotel owner Lewis Belding, Walter Barnes as the town sheriff, Robert Donner as the preacher, Jack Ging as a corrupt civic leader, and Mitchell Ryan as the lead civic leader who decides to cheat the stranger. Other noteworthy small roles include Dan Vadis and Anthony James as two of the bandits and Geoffrey Lewis as the lead bandit Stacey Bridges. Billy Curtis is excellent as the half-man Mordecai as the guy who becomes the stranger’s aide and later be the guy to run the town. Marianna Hill is just terrible as the town whore who antagonizes the stranger only to get raped and is just hysterical for most of the film.
Verna Bloom is good in an underwritten role as Belding’s wife Sarah who is wary of the stranger though is aware of what he’s really doing though it’s a role that doesn’t have much depth as she eventually sleeps with the stranger. Finally, there’s Clint Eastwood in a remarkable performance as the mysterious stranger as it’s a role where Eastwood does play this very quiet but charming gunslinger who is also a man that knows right from wrong while being a bit of a brute but also one that can get the job done and not be trifled with.
High Plains Drifter is an excellent film from Clint Eastwood that definitely stands as one of his finest westerns. Though it’s a bit flawed, it is still engaging for its simple story as well as its enchanting direction. Especially as it has enough action that western fans can love as well as the character that Eastwood plays. In the end, High Plains Drifter is a superb film from Clint Eastwood.
(Five Obstructions #2 Interview)
Clint Eastwood Films: (Play Misty for Me) - (Breezy) - (The Eiger Sanction) - (The Outlaw Josey Wales) - (The Gauntlet) - (Bronco Billy) - (Firefox) - (Honkytonk Man) - Sudden Impact - (Pale Rider) - (Heartbreak Ridge) - (Bird) - (White Hunter Black Heart) - (The Rookie) - Unforgiven - (A Perfect World) - (The Bridges of Madison County) - (Absolute Power) - (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) - (True Crime) - (Space Cowboys) - (Blood Work) - (Mystic River) - Million Dollar Baby - Flags of Our Fathers - Letters from Iwo Jima - Changeling - (Gran Torino) - (Invictus) - (Hereafter) - (J. Edgar) - (Jersey Boys) - American Sniper - (Sully)
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