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High Plains Drifter (1973)

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A gunfighting stranger comes to the small settlement of Lago and is hired to bring the townsfolk together in an attempt to hold off three outlaws who are on their way.

Director:

Clint Eastwood

Writer:

Ernest Tidyman
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Clint Eastwood ... The Stranger
Verna Bloom ... Sarah Belding
Marianna Hill ... Callie Travers (as Mariana Hill)
Mitchell Ryan ... Dave Drake
Jack Ging ... Morgan Allen
Stefan Gierasch ... Mayor Jason Hobart
Ted Hartley Ted Hartley ... Lewis Belding
Billy Curtis ... Mordecai
Geoffrey Lewis ... Stacey Bridges
Scott Walker Scott Walker ... Bill Borders
Walter Barnes ... Sheriff Sam Shaw
Paul Brinegar ... Lutie Naylor
Richard Bull ... Asa Goodwin
Robert Donner ... Preacher
John Hillerman ... Bootmaker
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Storyline

A Stranger rides into in the dusty mining town of Lago, where the townspeople are living in the shadow of a dark secret. After a shootout leaves the town's hired-gun protectors dead, the town's leaders petition the Stranger to stay and protect them from three ruthless outlaws who are soon to be released from prison. The three have their sights set on returning to Lago to wreak havoc and take care of some unfinished business. A series of events soon has the townspeople questioning whether siding with the Stranger was a wise idea as they quickly learn the price that they each must pay for his services. As the outlaws make their way back into Lago, they discover that the town is not exactly as they had left it, and waiting in the shadows is the Stranger, ready to expose the town's secret and serve up his own brand of justice. Written by bob-oconnor1964

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

They didn't know his face - They didn't know his name. But they'd never forget the day he drifted into town. See more »

Genres:

Mystery | Western

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 August 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La venganza del muerto See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$15,700,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film came in under budget and two days ahead of schedule. Clint Eastwood is famous for being an extremely efficient director. See more »

Goofs

When the bad guys return to town for the final showdown, one of the bad guys on horseback knocks one of the townspeople over a table in the street. As the table is tipped over you can clearly see a moving blanket under the table cloth there to protect the stuntman. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
The Stranger: Beer... and a bottle.
Lutie Naylor: Ain't much good, but it's all there is.
[brings drinks]
Lutie Naylor: You want anything else?
The Stranger: Just a peaceful hour to drink it in.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The closing shot of The Stranger disappearing into the heatwaves plays out over the end credits. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Blackcatloner: Red Hook High School Drifter (2016) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Clint Eastwood's First Masterpiece
11 April 2006 | by jluis1984See all my reviews

By the early 70s, actor Clint Eastwood's career had gone from being a mere extra to a well-known Hollywood star. Thanks to the success of Sergio Leone's immortal Westerns, Eastwood was noticed and soon he began to work in very good projects, with great results. Despite being a respected actor, nobody could have imagined that his talent as director was even superior to his acting skills, and after a fairly good debut in 1971 (the thriller "Play Misty for Me"), he crafted his first masterpiece in 1973 as a tribute to his own artistic mentors: the haunting western "High Plains Drifter".

"High Plains Drifter" is the story of a small mining town named "Lago" which is constantly troubled by outlaws and gunfighters. One day a stranger (Clint Eastwood) comes to town, and manages to kill three of those outlaws, gaining instant recognition and the offer of having whatever he wants from the town if he gets rid of the rest of the gang. He accepts but the town doesn't know that the mysterious stranger has a secret that will change their lives for ever.

The figure of the stranger comes to town to alter the fragile equilibrium of their existence, and soon the town's own demons return to haunt them. Eastwood's character is not exactly the hero we know, but a morally ambiguous cruel man that doesn't hesitate to use and abuse the townspeople and that clearly has an agenda of his own. Written by Ernest Tidyman, this is a dark tale that explores the ambiguous morality of people and the concepts of justice and revenge.

Eastwood's second directorial effort is a powerful movie that brilliantly combines the elements of Western with those of suspense and thriller. Due to his solid career in Westerns, Eastwood knows the genre's characteristics and pushes them forward to create something more, a movie beyond its genre. With brilliant camera-work, he goes from dream sequences out of a nightmare to day sequences in Leone's Spaghetti Western style. This is definitely a tribute to his mentors (In fact, he included a small reference to his directors in a cemetery scene).

The acting is remarkably good, with Eastwood himself leading the cast with great skill and his powerful presence. His character is a lot more complex than his "Man With No Name" and it could be said that he mixes in one character the characteristics of the three outlaws of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly". The underrated Billy Curtis is great as Mordecai, probably the only one in town who knows (and understands) the stranger's secret. The rest of the cast is very good and even those in small roles (such as William O'Connell as the barber) give performances of high quality. Apparently Eastwood's talent with people was there from the beginning.

Tidyman's story is very well-constructed, and can be seen from diverse points of view. Every character in town is well-defined no matter how long their screen-time is, and Eastwood makes the most of it. It's hard to find a flaw in this movie and I really can't praise it enough. It is a story that once that grabs you never lets you go.

"High Plains Drifter" is a must-see, not only for Western fans, it is a powerful story that is more than what it seems. Great camera-work, haunting images, terrific script, superb acting, all pieces fit to create Clint Eastwood's first masterpiece. This dark western sets the path of Eastwood's career as a director and one can see why is he one of the best directors alive. 10/10


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