High Plains Drifter
|High Plains Drifter|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Produced by||Robert Daley|
|Written by||Ernest Tidyman|
|Music by||Dee Barton|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Studio||The Malpaso Company|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
|Running time||105 minutes|
High Plains Drifter is a 1973 American Western film, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and produced by Robert Daley for The Malpaso Company and Universal Studios. Eastwood plays a mysterious gunfighter hired by the residents of a corrupt frontier mining town to defend them against a group of criminals. The film was influenced by the work of Eastwood's two major collaborators Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.
The film was shot on location on the shores of Mono Lake, California. The screenplay was written by Ernest Tidyman, who also wrote the novelization. Dee Barton provided the film score. The film was critically acclaimed at the time of its initial release and still is, holding a score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
A stranger on horseback rides into the mining town of Lago. Three gun-toting men follow him into the saloon, taunting him. When they follow him to the barbershop, he kills all three of them. Impressed with this performance, a dwarf named Mordecai befriends the Stranger. An attractive woman named Callie Travers bumps into him in the street and insults and badgers him. When she slaps him, he drags her into the livery stable and rapes her. Next, he rents a room at the hotel. That night, he dreams about a man being brutally whipped. It is revealed later that Marshal Jim Duncan was whipped to death by gunfighters Stacey Bridges, Dan Carlin, and Cole Carlin while the people of Lago looked on. Only Sarah Belding, wife of hotelier Lewis Belding, made any attempt to rescue him.
The next day, Sheriff Shaw tells the stranger he will not be charged for killing the three men. Meanwhile, the townsmen discuss Bridges and the Carlin brothers, who are due to be released from prison that day. The town double-crossed the three gunfighters after they killed Duncan, and the men are expected to seek vengeance. Since the men slain by the Stranger were the mining company's new protectors, the townsmen decide to hire the Stranger as their replacement.
Presenting the offer to the Stranger, Shaw explains that the three gunfighters were caught stealing gold from the mining company, although he admits the gold was poorly protected. The Stranger declines the job until Shaw tells him he can have anything he wants. Accepting these terms, the Stranger indulges in the town's goods and services, makes Mordecai both sheriff and mayor, has the entire town painted red, and paints the word "HELL" on the "LAGO" sign just outside of town.
While the Stranger trains the townspeople to defend themselves, Bridges and the Carlin brothers are released from prison and make their way to Lago. They begin on foot but kill three men and take their horses.
A group of men try to ambush the Stranger in the hotel, but he kills most of them. After Belding inadvertently divulges his complicity in the attack, which left the hotel destroyed, the Stranger drags Belding's wife into their room and she sleeps with him willingly.
In the morning, the Stranger rides out and finds the gunfighters, has a brief shootout with them, and returns to Lago. With the town painted red, townsmen with rifles stationed on rooftops, and a picnic and welcoming banner set up for the gunfighters, the Stranger mounts his horse and rides away. When the gunfighters arrive, they encounter almost no resistance, and by nightfall they have the townspeople collected in the saloon. The Stranger returns and kills the gunfighters one by one. Mordecai shoots Belding when he attempts to shoot the Stranger in the back.
The next day, the Stranger begins to ride out of the ruined town, as Mordecai carves a headstone for Duncan's grave. Mordecai comments to the departing Stranger that he never did know his name, to which the Stranger cryptically replies, "Yes, you do." He rides off into the distance, eventually seeming to vanish.
Under a joint production between Malpaso and Universal, the script was created by Ernest Tidyman, an acclaimed writer who had won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for The French Connection. Holes in the plot were filled in with black humor and allegory, influenced by Sergio Leone.
Eastwood scouted locations for filming in a pickup truck while driving alone through Oregon, Nevada, and California. He had an entire town built on the shores of Mono Lake for the project, as he considered the area "highly photogenic". Over 40 technicians and 10 construction workers built the town in 18 days using 150,000 feet of timber. Additional scenes were filmed at Reno, Nevada's Winnemucca Lake and California's Inyo National Forest. Eastwood filmed High Plains Drifter in sequence. Filming was completed in only six weeks.
Eastwood has noted that the graveyard set featured in the film's finale had tombstones reading "Sergio Leone" and "Don Siegel", intended as a humorous tribute to the two directors. The character of Marshal Duncan was played by the stuntman Buddy Van Horn, a long-time stunt coordinator for Clint Eastwood, in order to create some ambiguity as to whether he and the Stranger are one and the same. During an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Eastwood commented that earlier versions of the script made the Stranger the dead marshal's brother. He favored a less explicit and more supernatural interpretation, however, and excised the reference, although the Italian, Spanish, French and German dubbings restore it.
Universal released the R-rated High Plains Drifter in the US in April 1973, and the film eventually grossed $15.7 million domestically, ultimately making it the sixth-highest grossing Western in North America in the decade of the 1970s and the 20th highest grossing film released in 1973. John Wayne, however, disdained High Plains Drifter and its iconoclastic approach, writing Eastwood a letter declaring, "That isn't what the West was all about. That isn't the American people who settled this country." The film received positive reception from critics, and has 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, they did have some criticisms. A number of critics thought Eastwood's directing derivative; Arthur Knight in Saturday Review remarked that Eastwood had "absorbed the approaches of Siegel and Leone and fused them with his own paranoid vision of society".Jon Landau of Rolling Stone concurred, remarking that it is his thematic shallowness and verbal archness which is where the film fell apart, yet he expressed approval of the dramatic scenery and cinematography.
Eastwood reflected on the film's meaning, indicating "it's just an allegory...a speculation on what happens when they go ahead and kill the sheriff and somebody comes back and calls the town's conscience to bear. There's always retribution for your deeds."
- Box Office Information for High Plains Drifter. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- Box Office Information for High Plains Drifter. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- Kaminsky, Stuart. Clint Eastwood, Signet Books, 1975. ISBN 978-0-451-06159-1
- McGilligan (1999), p. 221
- Gentry, p. 63
- Hughes, p. 28
- Eliot (2009), p. 144
- Peter Biskind, "Any Which Way He Can," Premiere, April 1993.
- McGilligan, p. 223
- Hughes, pp. 30–31
- Eliot, Marc (2009). American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-33688-0.
- Gentry, Ric (1999). "Director Clint Eastwood: Attention to Detail and Involvement for the Audience". In Robert E., Kapsis; Coblentz, Kathie. Clint Eastwood: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 62–75. ISBN 1-57806-070-2.
- Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-902-7.
- McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-638354-8.
- Other source
- Guérif, François (1986). Clint Eastwood, p. 94. St Martins Pr. ISB
- High Plains Drifter at the Internet Movie Database
- High Plains Drifter at Rotten Tomatoes
- Cast of High Plains Drifter