0580: High Plains Drifter (1973)

High Plains Drifter

Rating: 3.5/10

Truthfully, I would have given it a 4.5, or even a 5 maybe, but there was a really weird rape scene near the beginning of the film by our protagonist (only named The Stranger) to a woman who is rude to him and then it turns out to not really be a rape?… I guess?…

Okay, what happened was he rapes her, in the next scene he’s taking a bath and she comes in to shoot him, but she’s a terrible shot so she can’t even hit a man in a bath at point-blank range with three shots, so he lives. Then later in the movie she confronts him again and he’s like “You wanted it.” And she’s like “You know what, I did want it.” Or something and they have consensual sex then? It just feels like someone wrote in an earlier draft of the script this rape scene to show how ruthless The Stranger is and then they decided to change it to show he’s really a nice guy? “It wasn’t really rape, she wanted it!” I can hear some producer saying. I guess this was before the days of #MeToo and whatnot so they must have thought rape was okay in the 70s as long as “she wants it.” I’m sure that argument held up in court all the time. Anyway, rape that “she wants” makes this film lose a full point, and I’m being generous.

Outside of that, I thought the movie was fine, nothing really great, nothing that stood out about it compared to other westerns I’ve seen. I thought it was kind of funny that by the end of the movie I felt that there wasn’t a single thing redeemable about any of the characters. They were terrible people! All of them! I just kept thinking that if everyone in this town the movie takes place in was shot and killed by the Stranger, they would have deserved it. I might have liked the Stranger but with the rape it just made me think that the screenwriters wanted him to be unlikable, like an antihero with a heart that is as black as his soul. Then later they seemed to change their minds and tried to make him likable despite how ruthless he was. It was very off putting and unbelievable. I think maybe the people making the movie thought life was just like that back then. Well, except John Wayne wrote to Clint Eastwood to specifically tell him that “the Old West wasn’t like that!” But who’s to say who is right.

I guess there were a lot of shootouts too, which I enjoy in my Westerns, but these were in between very long slow scenes where nothing much happens. I know this was part of the style of the time to have these large tracking shots but, from today’s standards, I think it’s usually better to keep your pacing tight.

Why I Think It’s On The List: I’m guessing because it’s the first Western that Clint Eastwood directed. Considering that it was compared, correctly too, to Sergio Leone to the point that Eastwood was accused of blatantly ripping him off, and Sergio’s done much better westerns than this one, some of which star Clint Eastwood. So…why not watch one of those instead?

2 thoughts on “0580: High Plains Drifter (1973)

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