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A gold mining camp in the California foothills is besieged by a neighboring landowner intent on stealing their claims. A preacher rides into camp and uses all of his powers of persuasion to convince the landowner to give up his attacks on the miners. Written by
David J. Kiseleski <email@example.com>
"Pale Rider" is Producer/Director/Star Clint Eastwood's unofficial remake of George Stevens' "Shane" (1953). I've never heard that he's acknowledged it as such but the two stories are more than a little similar. The film also presents Eastwood in another variation of his "man with no name" character, similar to the one he portrayed in "High Plains Drifter" (1973).
The story begins with a raid on a small mining community by rival miners trying to drive the residents off of their claims and take them over. Among the miners are Hull Barret (Michael Moriarity), his intended Sarah Wheller (Carrie Snodgrass) and her budding teenage daughter Megan (Sydney Penny). When Megan's dog is killed during the raid, she prays for someone to help her against the oppressors.
Out of the mist comes a mysterious stranger (Eastwood), whom the scriptural passage Megan is reading describes him as "death riding a pale horse". The stranger saves Barret from a beating at the hands of the town bullies and comes home with him wherein he reveals himself to be a preacher. We learn that mining magnate Coy La Hood (Richard Dysart) and his son Josh (Christopher Penn) are behind all of the troubles.
When LaHood's men including McGill (Charles Hallahan and the gigantic Club (Richard Kiel) are unable to handle this preacher, he sends for gunslinging Marshal Stockburn (John Russell) and his six deputies. Meanwhile, one of the miners, Spider Conway (Doug McGrath) goes into town alone after striking it rich and is goaded into a gunfight with Stockburn & Co. Conway is brutally gunned down in front of his two young sons after which Stockburn tells the boys to tell the preacher to meet him on the street the following morning.
The preacher then goes to retrieve a strong box containing his hardware and into which he tosses his preacher's collar. He and Barret then start for town where............
Eastwood's character as in "High Plains Drifter" appears to embody elements of the supernatural. We see the scars of several bullet holes in his back and at one point is recognized by Stockburn as someone he had killed years before. The teen-aged Megan throws herself at the preacher (she's only 14 in the story) but he wisely (for the sake of the censors) let's her down easy while having an eye for her mother.
The comparison between this film and "Shane" is inevitable. In "Shane we have the squatters versus the cattlemen; here its between the powerful miner and the "tin panners". There's the solitary gunfighter who helps out the underdogs, the vicious hired gun, the loner who gets gunned down in the street, the bad guy who turns good and the hero who rides off into the sunset all common to both films.
Though not Eastwood's best western it is nevertheless good enough to wish that he had made more of them.
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