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High Plains Drifter

I watched High Plains Drifter – Clint Eastwood’s second directorial feature – two nights ago, and I enjoyed it a fair amount. This isn’t a review, I just want to share my thoughts on it.

Now, my first thought when the credits began to roll was “Why was this rated 18?” Sure, there’s a rape scene, and a fair few people get killed, but it’s all pretty tame my today’s standards; there is barely a drop of blood, the only nudity we get is Clint Eastwood topless as he undresses for a bath, and the overall tone of the film is nowhere near as dark as a film like A Fistful of Dollars, which is rated 15 over here.

I would have no qualms about showing this movie to even a 15-year-old; if they can walk into HMV and pick up a copy of Hot Fuzz, which has numerable uses of “cunt” and “fuck”, as well as lot more explicit violence and gore, I don’t see why they are not allowed to buy this. It is also a valuable tool in film education, as it is yet another reason to fall in love with Clint Eastwood, possibly the greatest person ever to have lived.

To quickly summarise the plot, Clint plays, unsurprisingly, a high plains drifter, who drifts into a small town called Lago, which is steeling itself for the return of three notorious outlaw types, who are due to be released from prison in the next couple of days. Clint’s first action is to kill Lago’s three self-styled protectors, obviously, because he is awesome. It is just after this that he commits what is possibly the tamest rape I have seen on screen. Despite its tameness, it was a bit creepy given that Mordecai, the town midget, is watching them.

I really don’t understand how the certification of this film works at all, and the BBFC website has no information, so I guess I stay stuck in this state of confusion and bewilderment.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is a spoiler, so don’t read on after this if you don’t want High Plains Drifter spoiled for you. To be fair, if you don’t figure it out in the first 20 minutes, if not the first five, there is something wrong with you.

***********************************SPOILERS*************************

 

 

 

So Clint is a ghost, or something. He is Marshall Jim Duncan, once of Lago. He was killed by the three dickheads that are coming back to town and was buried in an unmarked grave. Early in the film, one of the female characters says something along the lines of “If you’re buried in an unmarked grave, you’re destined to wander the earth forever, looking for something.” Or something like that. This is an obvious clue, along with Clint’s flashbacks to being savagely attacked in the middle of the town, with no-one helping him.

I get why maybe they thought this was a good idea, but it just seems a little weird to me. To be fair, if he had just been a nice guy who came in and helped, I would probably be writing something like “I don’t get why Clint would help out this little town for no reason, blah blah blah…”, so maybe this plot element is warranted.

However, due to my sanity, I don’t believe in ghosts, and generally when one watches a movie about ghosts, the whole notion is very stylised or fantastical in a way that makes it acceptable to show me ghosts. When I watch a western, it’s all about real badasses doing real badass things, and the idea that ghosts could be a part of this bothered me quite deeply. I did enjoy the film, but a lot of the time I was thinking “Well, why would a ghost do that?” Why didn’t he just go and murder the criminals in their cells? Why did he make Mordecai the sheriff and the mayor? Why did he paint the town red?…That was really weird. It has to be said that sometimes I read films slightly naively, but this time, the red thing really went over my head. I understand that he ripped off the townspeople because they let him die, but certain elements seemed very odd.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on High Plains Drifter – a very good film, but not my favourite Clint movie or my favourite western. Very accomplished, and very entertaining, but the supernatural stuff did irritate me slightly. It’s a solid movie, and if you like westerns, you’ll like this. If you don’t like westerns, a) you probably won’t like this and b) what is wrong with you?

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