High Plains Drifter (1973) – Review

A mysterious figure known only as the “Stranger” (Clint Eastwood) stumbles across the small settlement of Lago and is consequently hired by its residents to bring the townsfolk together in an attempt to hold off three outlaws who are soon to be released from jail. The three have their sights set on returning to Lago to wreak havoc and take care of some unfinished business. A dark, menacing and sinister western that is often held in high regard by many reviewers. High Plains Drifter is currently streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Ernest Tidyman
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Billy Curtis

After the success of Joe Kidd (1972), Clint Eastwood decided to once again star in a western production, with the only difference this time being the fact that he’d be the one directing the entire flick, in what would be his directional debut of a western. Written by Ernest Tidyman, who took inspiration from the real-life murder of Kitty Genovese, High Plains Drifter was released to cinemas in April of 1973 and is considered to some as one of Eastwood’s finest releases.

That statement, however, is probably not one I’d side with. The story presented was more than engaging and straightforward enough, but one I found to be slightly repetitive at times with several scenes repeating themselves throughout the one-hundred and five-minute runtime. Not only did certain scenes seem a little repetitive, but the small amount of humour that was injected into the picture was somewhat outdated, as were some of the scenes in general and behaviours of certain characters.

Despite the flaws, there were great positives too – particularly the setting in which the filmmakers opted to base the movie around. Mono Lake in California Sierras was used as the primary filming location and must go down as one of the most iconic in the western genre. One thing that made this location even more intriguing is the fact that the entire town in which the film was based – the town of Lago – was built specially for this feature, three-hundred miles away from Hollywood. A 46-man crew of technicians and ten laborers worked ten hours a day for eighteen days constructing fourteen houses and a two-story hotel in the process.

In terms of the cast, Clint Eastwood spearheaded most of the scenes in his iconic role as the mysterious “Stranger”, while support came from various angles, most notably from Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill and Billy Curtis, who adopted the roles of Sarah Belding, Callie Travers and Mordecai, respectively. Elsewhere, there were also appearances from Mitchell Ryan and Jack Ging who starred as Dave Drake and Morgan Allen.

For as much as I wanted to adore High Plains Drifter, it sadly just wasn’t a film that I’d rate highly enough to recommend to a movie lover in a hurry. The outdatedness of certain scenes really stood out and I’d most certainly regard Joe Kidd (1972), released the previous year, to be a much better experience in general. It’s worth noting that High Plains Drifter is now streaming on Netflix.

All these people, are they your sisters and brothers?

Stranger – High Plains Drifter


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