Eastwood Week Movie 1 – High Plains Drifter (1973)
How have I not seen High Plains Drifter before this? this 1973 Western is a gritty, dark tale. A tale of deceit, of murder and vengeance. Heck, it’s even a ghost story. This is a very unique film, and a very good one at that. A drifter enters a small town, apparently looking for a drink, a shave, a bath and a bed. Once there he is confronted by three guys, Company men, they are called. In defense he kills all three. The local sheriff tells him they were known to be trouble and that he didn’t have to worry about charges. Heck, the sheriff would like to hire him to protect the town from three gun fighters, just released from jail that will most likely be coming back to the town to seek vengeance for their incarceration. The stranger, played by Clint Eastwood, at first declines, but when the sheriff offers him “anything he wants,” he accepts the job, and goes about making big changes to the town. These changes cause some of the town to question the decision to put him in charge of the town’s defense. The stranger is also troubled by dreams, dreams of the town’s Marshal being whipped to death by the men who he is hired to protect the town. While the murder is taking place, the people of the town stand by and do nothing to stop it. Is it a dream? Or are these memories? It seems pretty obvious to me. The stranger gets the town busy making changes. He run drills simulating an attack and has the town folk put up resistance, preparing them for the inevitable attack that is to come. He also orders unusual things to be done, like painting the town red, and having the towns people tear apart a livery barn to build picnic tables an such… The business men of the town are really questioning their initial decision to hire this stranger. So much so that they try to kill him themselves… Yeah, good luck boys. When the attack comes, the towns people’s weak attempts at fighting off the gun men come to little, and eventually (hell, pretty damned quickly), they have the upper hand, and have gathered the remaining towns folk together in the saloon. Well, this isn’t over folks – they still have to deal with the Stranger…
Okay, let’s not give it all away. I will say that this is a creepy, dark Western. It’s also one of the best Westerns I have ever seen. Actually this is just a really good movie, chock full of darkness and hidden meanings. Heck, it’s a Western and a Ghost story, and it does both great. For the first movie of Eastwood Week, I have to say it’s an incredible start. Check out the trailer below, and then immediately go find yourself a copy and watch it today!