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Red Headed Stranger (1986)

 -  Western  -  31 October 1986 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 279 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 1 critic

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(as Bill Wittliff)


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Title: Red Headed Stranger (1986)

Red Headed Stranger (1986) on IMDb 6.5/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Raysha Shay
Sheriff Reese Scoby, Driscoll Montana
Larn Claver
Odie Claver
Ted J. Crum ...
Cauley Felps
Marinell Madden ...
Cindy Logan
Bryan Fowler ...
Nathan, Laurie's Son
Paul English ...
Avery Claver
Bee Spears ...
Eugene Claver
Calvin Claver
Mark Jenkins ...
Victor Claver
Berkley Garrett ...
Reverend Longley
Elberta Hunter ...
Mrs. Longley


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R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

31 October 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Red Headed Stranger  »

Filming Locations:


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Did You Know?


Levon Helm was originally cast in the movie as a U.S. Marshal. Before filming began, Helm shot himself in the leg while practicing quick-draw techniques in his backyard and the role had to be recast. See more »


In a long shot with a windmill, the windmill is turning, but facing away from the wind's direction as revealed by dust blowing, etc. (the wrong way). See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Behind the Laughter (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Elements of Reality in a Western Drama
18 April 2003 | by (Houston, TX) – See all my reviews

This is a story about a preacher man who speaks what he understands to be the truth and willing to work hard to accomplish good. He sees trouble, understands it for what it is, and with courage meets it head on. With words or with action, he sticks to his beliefs. "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Unfortunately, he fails to see a truth too close to his heart until after it's too late, then the reality sets in and turns his heart to stone. He then goes about making payments where payments are due, hard and cold, in the only way his heart will let him. Along the way he comes across another kindred soul. The resulting reflection gives him pause. Katherine Ross later asks him, "What made you do that? Just show up here that one day and start plowing?" To that, Willie Nelson replies, "I guess I had already gone as far as I could go the other way."

After reverting to rightness he has what one could interpret as a final relapse. In working to help another man recover his pride, Nelson's character goes back to make one final payment and close all accounts.

This film didn't get high ratings but it can be riveting in its delivery. Haunting lyrics sung by Nelson himself parallel the film's drama. The single and slow guitar notes are genius. Danger is portrayed as much more than mere physical peril. Action is brutal and cold. The film's slow pace makes it a dramatic effort, with hard action for good measure. Location properties look genuine. It must have taken good work and attention to details to get them to look so real. Camera shots are good enough. Interestingly, the overall film's style resembles Sam Peckinpah in "The Wild Bunch" (1969). Although "Red-Headed Stranger" is not the best Western, it's pretty good. I consider this Nelson's best film, the ratings notwithstanding.

A mystery remained unexplained. Looking at life from his perspective with equivalent responses, how did he become a preacher? What did he do before choosing the life of a preacher?

This film was released in 1986. My short research revealed the soundtrack came from his vinyl album "Red-Headed Stranger" which came out in 1975 causing trepidation among Columbia Records management before its release. Recorded in Texas, it cost Willie $20,000 and he used his personal seven-piece touring band. All management fears disappeared after the album was released and it "launched Willie into the stratosphere," after years as a hit songwriter and modestly successful singer. [paraphrased and quoted from a review by Rich Kienzle]. So, the album came first, then the film 11 years later. Good match. Good film.

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