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High Plains Drifter (1973) Poster

Trivia

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Shortly after the film's release, Clint Eastwood wrote to John Wayne, suggesting that they make a western together. Wayne sent back an angry letter in reply, in which he denounced this film for its violence and revisionist portrayal of the Old West. Eastwood did not bother to answer his criticisms, and consequently they did not work together.
Universal Pictures wanted the film to be shot on the studio lot. Instead, Clint Eastwood had a whole town built in the desert near Mono Lake in the California Sierras. Many of the buildings were complete and three-dimensional, so that interiors could be shot on location.
The character of Marshal Duncan was played by stuntman Buddy Van Horn, a long-time stunt coordinator for Clint Eastwood, in order to create some ambiguity over whether he and The Stranger are one and the same.
One of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.
The film came in under budget and two days ahead of schedule. Clint Eastwood is famous for being an extremely efficient director.
The town of Lago was built 300 miles away from Hollywood. A 46-man crew of technicians and 10 laborers worked 10-hours a day for 18 days constructing 14 houses and a two-story hotel. They were burned down at the film's completion.
During an interview on Inside the Actors Studio (1994), Clint Eastwood commented that earlier versions of the script made The Stranger the dead marshal's brother. He favoured a less explicit and more supernatural interpretation and excised the reference. Although the Italian, Spanish, French and German dubbings retain it.
Its seven minutes before Clint Eastwood says a word of dialogue, despite being in the film from the very first frame.
The strange colors make the town of Lago look different throughout the day scenes. Clint Eastwood supplemented this with eerie music, idiosyncratic photography as well as a weird dream sequence all adding to the supernatural atmosphere of the movie.
Controversial in its day but still a commercial hit, High Plains Drifter (1973) is listed in the Motion Picture Guide as one of the best Westerns of the 1970s. However, some critics thought Eastwood's direction was too derivative of his mentor Don Siegel and the works of Sergio Leone.
Clint Eastwood scouted the locations himself while driving a pickup truck through Oregon, Nevada and California. He chose the shores of Mono Lake because he considered the area highly photogenic. Additional scenes were filmed at Reno, Nevada's Winnemucca Lake and California's Inyo National Forest.
The first time Clint Eastwood directed one of his Westerns.
Filmed in sequence.
Other headstones bear the names of Don Siegel (Clint Eastwood's director on five films, four of which preceded this one) and Brian G. Hutton (director of Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Kelly's Heroes (1970)). Patrick McGilligan's 2002 Eastwood biography quotes the star as saying, "I buried my directors."
Filmed in six weeks.
Editing of the film was done in a log cabin on the shores of Mono Lake.
Holds the 11th position of the highest grossing 1970s Westerns.
Billy Curtis got a stiff neck from working with Clint Eastwood, but he said it was worth it to play such a wonderful part.
The first rape scene in a Clint Eastwood directed film, and he's the one committing the act. The first rape scene in a Clint Eastwood film was in For a Few Dollars More (1965).
The name of the town was Lago. The name that it was changed to was Hell. After the change, during filming, Clint Eastwood constantly told the cast and crew to "Go to Hell!'.
The Stranger is similar to The Man With No Name persona familiar to Clint Eastwood's Spaghetti Westerns, and they even wear a similar hat. The character in the film has no personal name and is only referred to in the billing as The Stranger.
The opening/closing scenes are identical.
Any holes in the plot were filled with black humour and allegory to Sergio Leone. Eastwood thought the allegory of the film was "a speculation on what happens when they go ahead and kill the sheriff and someone comes back and calls the town's conscience to bear. There's always retribution for your deeds."
The amount of paint that was used to paint the western town red was 380 gallons.
A possible alternate ending would had seen The Stranger, after riding away back into the desert wilderness and saying goodbye to Mordecai, confused and appears to be suffering from memory loss and doesn't remember arriving or leaving Lago and rides on to points unknown. That ending would had indicated that The Stranger had been possessed by the ghost of Marshal Jim Duncan and why The Stranger doesn't remember Lago, Mordecai, Callie Travers, the story of Marshal Duncan's murder or anything and Duncan's spirit has left his body and is now at peace, now his death has been avenged.
One of the first Westerns that took a revisionist stance as opposed to the traditional ones of the genre.
The Bible verse on the wall of the church is Isaiah 53:3-4 which reads, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted"
High Plains Drifter (1973) was made by Clint Eastwood's own Malpaso Productions, so he produced, directed and starred in it. He doesn't mind multitasking, as long as he can concentrate on his job(s).
Clint Eastwood read a 9-page proposal for High Plains Drifter (1973) while at Universal. He liked its offbeat quality and wanted to direct it.
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The actors began to paint the houses of Lago red, but professionals finished them off.
150,000 feet of timber were used to build the town of Lago.
First of seven Clint Eastwood movies to feature character actor Geoffrey Lewis, the others are Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Bronco Billy (1980), Any Which Way You Can (1980), Pink Cadillac (1989), and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997).
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Clint Eastwood wanted an offbeat look for High Plains Drifter (1973); not the conventional look of a Western.
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For the climax, Clint Eastwood told everybody to "report to Hell".
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There is no spoken dialogue until six minutes into the film.
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Influenced by Clint Eastwood's two major collaborators Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.
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Although the whipping scene takes almost three minutes, Clint Eastwood has since reported he could have done it in two had not the quality of the leather in the whip used been compromised.
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Although Clint Eastwood is in the last four minutes of the film, he is absent for much of the climax.
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Clint Eastwood's second film as director after he debuted with Play Misty for Me (1971).
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One of two occasions where a Dirty Harry sequel and a western directed by Clint Eastwood were released the same year. This movie was released in the summer of 1973 with the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force released that winter. Three years later, the Clint Eastwood western The Outlaw Josey Wales was released in the summer with the Dirty Harry sequel The Enforcer released that winter.
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Actor Mitchell Ryan would work again with Clint Eastwood immediately in Magnum Force (1973). These are the only two movies they made together.
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The scene when Clint Eastwood lights a stick of dynamite on fire with his cigar is an homage to his spaghetti westerns from director Sergio Leone where he lights dynamite and cannons on fire with his cigar or cigarette. Another homage to his Man With No Name trilogy is when he shoots hats off people's heads.
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Both this movie and his last western Unforgiven (1992) open and close with the same location, camera angle, and time of day that bookend each movie.
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Actor John Mitchum has a small role as a prison warden in this movie. He played DiGeorgio in the first three Dirty Harry movies and the character Al in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
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Clint Eastwood's next directed movie Breezy (1973) has a poster of High Plains Drifter at the movie theater.
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Sheriff Sam Shaw says "Forgive and forget. That's our motto." The tagline on the poster says, "They'll never forget the day he drifted into town."
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The whipping scenes go on for almost three minutes.
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Most of the film is shot in daytime; only three sections of the film are shot at night.
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Scriptwriter Ernest Tidyman also wrote the novelization for the film.
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The framed photo on the wall of the saloon is of Mathew Brady, famous for his photos of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.
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The Stranger is quite a misogynistic character; e.g. his masochistic rape of Marianna Hill, etc.
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A possible alternate ending would had seen Sarah Belding deciding to go with The Stranger when he leaves Lago.
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Dean Riesner did uncredited contributions to the script.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Second of five movies Clint Eastwood made with character actor William O' Connell (The Barber). The other movies are Paint Your Wagon (1969), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980).
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Actor Walter Barnes would reteam with Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Bronco Billy (1980).
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Oddly, actor Walter Barnes was previously in a movie called Clint the Stranger (1967).
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First of two times actress Verna Bloom worked with actor/director Clint Eastwood. They would reteam in Honkytonk Man (1982) nine years later.
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First of five times actor Dan Vadis worked with Clint Eastwood. The other movies are The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Any Which Way You Can (1980) and Bronco Billy (1980).
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Actors Geoffrey Lewis, Walter Barnes and Dan Vadis would all work with Clint Eastwood in the "Which Way" comedies and Bronco Billy (1980).
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The following actors William O' Connell, John Quade and John Mitchum would work with Clint Eastwood in his next Western The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
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Of the four Westerns Clint Eastwood directed, this is the only one not from Warner Bros. Universal Pictures released it.
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Actors Clint Eastwood, Paul Brinegar, Robert Donner and William O' Connell were all on episodes of the TV series Rawhide (1969-1965).
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The film is not just a western, it is also a mystery and a thriller. The Stranger is a mysterious character.
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The character Lewis Belding owns the hotel. Whenever the door to the hotel opens, the bell at the top goes "Ding!"
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

He's the devil version of Jim Duncan. Here's proof: 1. He has no name and towards the end when the midget sheriff/mayor says he doesn't know his name, the stranger replies, "Yes you do." He rides off and vanishes. Before vanishing, the camera pans to the gravestone that says "Here Lies Jim Duncan" which was just carved by Mordecai the midget before the stranger took off. One of the characters even said a few scenes earlier, "They say the dead don't rest without a marker of some kind." 2. Why did he dream of a sheriff getting whipped to death if he wasn't there when the memory happened? Because it must be him getting whipped to death. In fact, the actor who played the sheriff in the flashbacks was Eastwood's stunt double Buddy Van Horn. 3. He paints the town red. This also symbolizes blood because of blood on the hands of the townspeople for standing around and doing nothing about the murder of their sheriff and that hell is a fiery red image, or anger which is red as an expression. Plus the devil is red anyhow. 4. The Belding's character says in a town meeting inside the church, "It couldn't be worse if the devil himself rode right into Lago." The next shot is of the stranger. 5. Why would the unmarked gravestone remain unmarked for all this time until after the stranger leaves when no one expected him to arrive? 6. Towards the end before Stacey Bridges is shot and killed, the stranger whispers, "Help Me!" Help Me!" How would he know the sheriff said those words the night he was killed? 7. When he whipped one of the cousins to death, how did he know the sheriff was also whipped? Also, the town was in flames in the background of the Stranger while the whipping happened. More of a sign that it's Hell. 8. The first time the stranger reacts to anything in Lago is the sound of a horse whip. He turns around looking scared. Suppose the whip reminded him how he died? 9. Another sign is when a woman says "You're the kind of man that makes people afraid and that's dangerous." Eastwood replies, "Well, it's what people don't know about themselves inside that make them afraid." The final sentence proves he's showing his inner demons by returning with a beard, hat and personality that he never had before. Sort of like Jekyll and Hyde. 10. Besides, when he's asked by the girl "Have you ever heard of a man named Jim Duncan?" He says, "I've heard a lot of things. Why?" No one mentioned Jim Duncan to him and when a dead sheriff was brought to his attention earlier, the name wasn't. She didn't mention that Jim was sheriff until after his response.
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The ending hints on three possibilities on who The Stranger is. 1) The Stranger could be the ghost of Marshall Jim Duncan. 2) The Stranger could be Marshall Duncan's brother or 3) The Stranger just happens to have the same name as Marshall Duncan.
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Has a surprising amount of similarities with the Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact released a decade later. Not only were they both directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, but both movies have haunting flashbacks that are revenge stories. Harry gets beaten up by three men similar to the Marshall getting whipped by three men. Both movies have rape. The first time Eastwood uses his gun in the beginning of both movies, three characters are shot and killed. The climax in both movies take place where the flashbacks were with Eastwood killing the remaining villians at night. They're also the only two Clint Eastwood movies to costar actor Russ McCubbin. He plays Fred Short in High Plains Drifter (1973) and Eddie in Sudden Impact (1983).
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