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on January 16, 2005
In "Pale Rider", director/leading man Clint Eastwood helps to resurrect the western with a tribute to two of the greatest in history, "Shane" and "High Noon". Eastwood's character, "Preacher" rides into the lives of some gold miners who are being threatened by one of the largest mine owners in the West who wants to add their stake to his own.

Just as Alan Ladd was in "Shane", Eastwood's "Preacher" is a larger than life character who's able to inspire the pan miners to stand up against the Lahoud family and their dozens of men. Even when Lahoud calls for back-up in the form of a mercenary sheriff (John Russell) and his six deputies, the "Preacher" stands tall. The body count ends up almost as high as a Sam Peckinpaugh western but without the slow motion death scenes and jets of blood. I don't have to go into much more detail about the plot because most viewers will figure out the ultimate ending long before the film is halfway completed.

Fans of the Eastwood style of Western ("Hang 'Em High", "Unforgiven", and all of the spaghetti westerns, just to mention a few) will certainly like "Pale Rider". It's action-filled and and has few "draggy" scenes. The supporting cast is strong with Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass, Robert Dysart, Chris Penn and classic western bad guy, John Russell all playing solid characters. Even Richard Kiel ("Jaws" in the James Bond movies) is present and gets hit in the groin once again by a mega-star (the other time was by Paul Newman's "Butch Cassidy").

While the DVD is not loaded with much in the way of extras (limited to scene selection, cast & crew biographies, and a couple of trailers), it is a pretty good transfer and the sound quality and cinematography are outstanding.

RECOMMENDED FOR ALL EASTWOOD AND WESTERN FANS!
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on October 27, 2000
Although the story is almost identical to Shane, no one makes a better western than Clint. This one completes my Clint Eastwood western trilogy. While this ranks third behind The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven, it is still one of the best westerns ever made. The movie is intense and all the actors do a great job. The DVD copy is not great. The surround sound is great but the picture flutters quite a bit.
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on April 10, 2009
Version: ALL / Warner / Region Free
VC-1 BD-25 / Advanced Profile 3 / AACS
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Running time: 1:55:46
Movie size: 24,33 GB
Disc size: 24,85 GB
Total bit rate: 28.03 Mbps
Average video bit rate: 21.38 Mbps

Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1559 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1559 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio German 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Japanese 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles: English SDH, Swedish, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese
Number of chapters: 28

#Theatrical Trailer
22 comments10 of 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Whether viewed as an homage to (or ripoff of) "Shane," or an inferior retread of Eastwood's own "High Plains Drifter," the director-star's last western prior to the Oscar winning "Unforgiven" is beautifully photographed, well-acted by a terrific cast (most notably Michael Moriarty), and exciting, if not particularly deep.
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"Pale Rider" as others have pointed out has a lot of parallels with "Shane" although, in the case of Clint Eastwood's movie the main character Preacher (according to Eastwood)is a ghost (much like in "High Plains Drifter"). Although "Pale Rider" isn't quite up to the quality of "The Outlaw Josey Wales" it has a lot of memorable scenes in it.

The religious overtones are quite deliberate according to interviews that Eastwood did at the time with biblical parallels throughout the film.

The Blu-ray version of the movie although it has a new cover uses the same transfer as the previous Blu-ray and there's no extras to speak of except trailers for this film and "Unforgiven". The transfer looks good but not great--there's scenes where detail isn't quite as sharp as it should be and the compression/codec uses makes for a couple of unsteady images within the frame (for example the scene where a girl prays in the woods the bark appears a bit jittery in relation to the rest of the image or the sky when we first see the Preacher arriving into town with the snow covered mountains in the backdrop--the clouds jittery a bit).

Blacks and skin textures look fine while the film itself has nice skin tones, colors, etc.

Audio sounds quite good with a lossless presentation that isn't quite as bold as that for "The Outlaw Josey Wales".

It's a pity this film doesn't get more love--it would be nice to see a featurette (even the vintage one produced around the time the film was produced)or short documentar/commentary track included as an extra here.

Hopefully fairly soon we'll see a Blu-ray for "High Plains Drifter" one of Eastwood's finest westerns as a director with special features (although I wouldn't count on it--Universal is notorious for not providing a lot of extras for their catalog titles--a good example being the recent reissue on Blu-ray of "Brazil")and maybe one of these days we'll see a deluxe edition for this fine underrated western.
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Oh ye of little age and early vigor: you do not know the hellish days of the 1980s. We were awash with desperation; we longed for jobs but the well was dry. President Reagan had just started ravishing the nation nearly to death. Eastwood hadn't made a Western in 10 years, and his one Western before PALE RIDER was pale indeed.

The wife and I went to see PALE RIDER at our happy old haunt that is now torn down, thanks to the same desperation that gave birth to this film. We'd been married less than a year...and we were drooling to see this flick.

We were never quite so happy to see a film in our lives.

Briefly: a mysterious person (Eastwood) rides into a northern California gold mining camp, full of nice but bullied people. Accompanied by the leader of the camp, he is all silence and majesty. He is marked by one of them as a "gunfighter" and some arguing ensues about his presence--but when he's invited to dinner and appears dressed in clericals, they are gobsmacked. The preacher asks if all the fuss is about him.

Naturally he has come to their aid. The friendly leader of the miners (Moriarty) takes a shine to this preacher, especially after the preacher has rescued him from a savage beating in town (which is how meets the preacher in the first place). A fat rich cat (Dysart) wants the land, and is trying to get everyone's legal claims. Finally, fat cat (read: corporation) hires an outlaw posing as a San Francisco marshall to deal with the preacher. Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of a shirtless Eastwood...

This man's been riddled with bullets and hanged and unmanned and God knows what else. Yet there he stands. It's the disgusting anti-marshall who did it to him, years before. The marshall and his six pukes get dealt with, end of story.

Is the preacher an angel? A ghost? I wonder: why would an angel have sex with an old miner woman? Why would a ghost have to hide himself in order to get the jump on bad guys? I think here, Eastwood is simply the human spirit, that can't just get whipped out of existence, can survive, and come fight another day. That is exactly what he does here...and what a message! We'd never, ever seen any Western like it before. People stood up in the theater and cheered! Including me!

People, within their nature I guess, unfairly compare this film to Eastwood's work from decades later. Within just over ten years, he'd made MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. In the next ten years we'd see the likes of UNFORGIVEN, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and GRAN TORINO. To compare PALE RIDER to any of these would be like comparing Beethoven to Erik Satie. (I think.)

No, this film has to stand for what it is: the most unique and fascinating Western ever made. John Wayne never played so controversial a figure: Eastwood's preacher was the subject of deep theological debate for over 20 years. Apparently he still is.

What isn't up for debate is this great film. With its warts, outdated air and its flaws--and there are a few--it stands strong and proud. Even the characters speak the way they ought to, not the way modern people speak.

If you haven't seen this, you haven't lived. If you haven't collected it, well, now's the time. All I can add is, don't run out and buy yourself a parson's collar. Or a gun. It takes an Eastwood to put those two together and make it work out like a symphony!
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Hull Barret (Michael Morairty) is the defacto leader of a group of pan miners dreaming of finding their big nuggets of gold on their tiny stakes. But the powerful Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) wants to run them off their claims so he can seize them and use his powerful hydraulic mining techniques to get at the gold he is sure is there. His son, Josh (Christopher Penn), runs the day to day operations and uses some of his workers to harass and injure the pan miners so they will give up and move away.

When Hull takes a risky trip into town to get supplies, some of the LaHood thugs beat him and start to set fire to his wagon, but in comes a stranger that we come to know only as the Preacher (Clint Eastwood) he shows the thugs how to really use a good piece of hickory (an ax handle). The Preacher seems to be interested in helping the pan miners to pull together, find the strength they don't even know they have and stand up for themselves. Yet, he also negotiates a good deal for the pan miners to sell their claims. They reject the offer, in part because they believe the Preacher will fight with (for) them. However, the Preacher disappears. Their courage fails them.

How all this works out isn't hard to guess, but I will let you watch the film for yourself. There is also a rather uncomfortable love complication with the widow, Sarah Wheeler (Carrie Snodgrass) who is supposedly Hull's woman (they are just living together). She is obviously taken with the strong Preacher over the merely normal Hull. Sarah's daughter Megan (Sydney Penny) has also fallen head over heels for the Preacher and throws herself at him in an acutely painful scene. Again, you can see for yourself how this works out.

There are some memorably funny scenes. For example, The 7' 2" Richard Kiel plays a LaHood henchman named Club who is sent to intimidate the miners. He approaches the Preacher and Hull who are hammering hard on a boulder that Hull believes is hiding a big nugget of gold. Each blow removes a handful or rock and it will be slow going, but Club takes one of the sledgehammers and splits the boulder with one blow. After the Preacher dispatches with him (to Club's profound respect) attention returns to the boulder. The Preacher adds to his mystic nature (one thread of the story says he is dead) by also splitting the boulder with one blow.

This is a good movie and very much worth seeing. The performances are all good and the story, for all its Western conventions, has some fresh takes and an interesting story. I particularly liked its positive themes rather than the usual post-Western-Western bleakness. Yes, some of the special effects and props are a bit weak, but who cares. The movie is about the story rather than the visuals.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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on March 4, 2007
Clint Eastwood's 1985 Western "Pale Rider" is an obvious combination of two earlier Westerns: "Shane" from 1953 and Eastwood's own "High Plains Drifter" from 1973. "Pale Rider" is, no doubt, an homage to these films rather than a rip-off.

THE STORY: A mysterious drifter with a clerical collar rides into town as an angel of mercy to the local miner settlers and an angel of punishment to their rich oppressor and his men.

The difference between "Pale Rider" and "Shane" is that "Pale Rider" is a much more modern take on the same basic story; plus, unlike "Shane," "Rider" possesses a supernatural element. Although "Shane" is definitely the better film in a historical sense, "Rider" is a more entertaining experience to modern viewers. Hence, "Pale Rider" IS the better film.

As for comparisons to "High Plains Drifter," "Pale Rider" is a much better picture. "Drifter" has a slow, tedious vibe and all the characters are unlikable (but two). Eastwood plays a mean anti-hero who enacts revenge on an entire town and three villains; he only displays kindness to two people. In "Drifter" he's SOLELY an agent of vengeance. This is not the case with "Pale Rider." Eastwood's character in "Rider," known only as 'The Preacher,' is equal parts mysterious, intriguing, heroic and supernatural. In other words, the viewer both likes and roots for 'The Preacher.'

As noted above, "Pale Rider" features one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history. Megan, an almost-15-year-old girl, informs The Preacher that she thinks she loves him. The Preacher coolly responds: "Nothing wrong with that. If there was more love in the world there'd be a lot less dying." It's a powerful scene/line and good advice for us to live by.
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After a nine-year hiatus, Eastwood returns to the western genre in perhaps his most unusual western role. He plays a mysterious preacher who rides into town one day and decides to take on the local heavy, a wealthy but corrupt mine owner, and change the balance of power.

The preacher is as deadly with an axe handle as with a gun, and there's a very martial-arts like stick fight between the preacher and four of the bad guys at the very beginning of the movie that was a unique touch. After soundly trouncing the townies when they attacked Michael Moriarty's character, Moriarty offers Eastwood a meal and a place to sleep in the tin panner's gold mining camp. After seeing the destruction wrought by the wealthy miner's men during a recent raid, he decides to throw his lot in with the tin panners who are losing the battle to resist the wealthy miner's attempts to drive them off their gold claim and take their land.

The last fight scene between the hired "sheriff" and his deputies in the town is a classic. Eastwood isn't just a fast Old West style gunslinger; in his movies he often wins as much by cleverness and waiting for his opponent to make a mistake as by his blinding speed with a six gun.

Eastwood is an underrated actor; he can communicate as much with a look and a glance from his stern visage in this movie as with any bit of dialog. And his recent Gran Torino showed that he really is a superb actor as well. I hope that movie wins best actor or director for Eastwood because it's certainly deserving of it.
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on August 17, 2004
I agree with one of the previous reviewers (Robert Morris) in his comparative analysis of Pale Rider and Shane. I would only add that the colors and atmosphere of Shane are much warmer, and the feeling in the film is one of new life and fresh starts, with the homesteading family and the young boy, a child, far from grown, all striving against the cattle ranchers in Wyoming. By contrast in Pale Rider, it seems clear Eastwood wanted to show a family struggling at the end of their rope, at their last gasp, far from any new beginning. The child in Pale Rider is a teen girl, about to become a woman and take on the hard life of women in a mining town. Her mother looks worn out but is probably supposed to be not yet thirty. The colors in Pale Ride are pale and bleak, the atmosphere snowy and cold and gray, the earth ravaged by the mining operation. The feeling of Pale Rider is bleak and scary, even though Eastwood saves the day in the end. Shane is much more upbeat, even though there is the sadness of the hero riding off alone in the end.
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