This was the second film that Clint directed, the first being “Play Misty For Me“, and already, he was starting to come into his own as a filmmaker, developing the trademark style present in all of his later films.
In High Plains Drifter, Eastwood plays a mysterious stranger, a man very similar to Eastwood’s famous “Man With No Name” character. The stranger stumbles into a god-fearing town full of a variety of incoherent and naïve townspeople. After Eastwood kills the town’s only three gunfighters, the citizens beg him to defend the town against three blood-thirsty outlaws, who seek revenge for years of imprisonment.
The character Eastwood portrays in the film is more of a spiritual being than an actual man. He is an antichrist, awakened from hell to shake up a town full of god-fearing morons. He even paints the town red and renames it hell for the film’s finale. There is a lot to be analyzed in this film: the stranger in this film is much deeper than “The Man With No Name” in that he represents something more than what he appears to be, whether it be the returned soul of a dead sheriff or the devil himself, it’s all up to the audiences imagination.
In addition to the action and suspense, there is an abundant amount of comedy in the film. The reactions of these uptight, phony townspeople to this bizarre stranger is priceless. It’s like he’s deliberately doing things just to piss them off. For example, he makes a power obsessed dwarf the new sheriff of the town. He ends up destroying the town before the outlaws even arrive.
High Plains Drifter is classic Eastwood from the engaging start to the climactic and action packed end. It’s definently one of his more philosophical and cryptic films, leaving the audience space to fill in the blanks for themselves as opposed to giving them all the awnsers on a silver platter. High Plains Drifter is a great film, and I highly recommend it.