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USA 1985
Directed by
Clint Eastwood
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Pale Rider

This Western could have been called “The Magnificent One”. In lieu of John Sturges’s seven anti-heroes, director/star Clint Eastwood, in a slightly more voluble variant on his Man With No Name identity, is back as The Preacher, this time defending a passle of small-time gold prospectors from the over-bearing tactics of town boss Coy LaHood and his son (Richard Dysart and Chris Penn respectively).

Pale Rider is stock-standard stuff done competently enough on a clearly modest budget (although when The Preacher first appears he throws a bucket of water over a villain with a lighted match. The villain gets wet but the match doesn’t go out. How much effort would it have been to shoot that scene again?) but with a rather discomforting relish in coldly ruthless violence. This reaches its height in the film’s latter stage once Marshall Stockburn (John Russell) turns up with his gang of hirelings to wipe out the prospectors and needless to say, Clint steps in to save the day . There’s also a rather prominent theme of The Preacher's sexual charisma that has the only females of any presence in the film, Sarah Wheeler (Carrie Snodgrass) and her 15 year old daughter, Megan (Sydney Penny), all hot and bothered over The Man With A Collar.

Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack’s script has some good lines for Eastwood to drawl, Bruce Surtees’s photography makes the film look appealing (although there are a lot of continuity problems with the weather in the exterior shots) and, needless to say, Eastwood is a dab hand at this kind of character, but the feeling that he is pandering to near-psychotic delusions of grandeur in a most rudimentary way makes one feel uncomfortable in giving time to his film.




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