HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER [1973] movie review

December 31, 2011 · Print This Article

Like the stranger Clint Eastwood plays in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, I too have vague memories of the happenings of the movie from a no doubt decades long ago viewing, partial or whole. The premise of the story is the standard small town in trouble hires protection against an outside force, first established in THE SEVEN SAMURAI. However, all the other key elements of the story, in particular the small town being deserving of protection, are not standard in DRIFTER.

Eastwood is of course a squint-eyed loner, as he is in every western, who (very) slowly rides into and down the main street of a very small lakeside town. This kind of scene is one of the reasons why I love a western. No Internet, no movie theater, back then a stranger coming into town was the entertainment.


He does not take long to make an impact and give the town’s undertaker a good amount of work. Despite this, the town needs his deadly skills for their own protection. Why the town is in need is slowly revealed over the rest of the movie, revealing a place where no one is innocent.


Eastwood prepares the town to defend itself against three low-lifes whose job it once was to protect the town. The town has already paid a price in fear and now pays Eastwood whatever he wants to do the job they ask. So he helps himself to boots, cigars and gives to others, including transferring the mayorship.


The third act is a confusion of revenge being sort by everyone and everything leaving nothing untouched. The feel of the ending is definitely characteristic of a 1970s movie, i.e. grim.


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