14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
an atmospheric story
, October 26, 2002
This review is from: Pale Rider (Widescreen Edition) [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Climbing back into the saddle after a nine year break from Westerns Clint Eastwood shows us he is the best in the business when it comes to this genre.In this outing he takes not only to the saddle but to the Directors chair,and the result is a visually spectacular and wholly atmospheric story.
The setting is Northern California,1860,(though the film was actually shot on location in Idaho's Sawtooth National Park)and centres around a group of gold-miners in a place called Carbon Canyon,the last area of land where mining mogul Coy LaHood(Richard Dysart) hasn't been able to set up his land-scarring hydraulic monitors.Even after numerous raids by his workers the stubborn 'tin panners' refuse to leave.But their resolve is waning.
A young girl(Sydney Penny),strong in her faith,prays for a miracle after a particulary brutal raid one morning.Enter Clint Eastwood.
I have watched this movie many times and still I am unsure of Clints character.And that's why this movie works.His aloof and mysterious 'Preacher',all the way through,begs the question is he real or is he a ghost?A suggestive script opens doors to this mans past but he himself coyly skirts around any direct answers with a dry mono-syllabic dialogue as to his true identity.He becomes an enigma to us,while outwardly to the miners of Carbon Canyon he becomes a savior in a clerical collar who seems to know how to use a six-shooter to full effect.
The two main female characters,Sarah Wheeler(Carrie Snodgress) and her daughter Megan(Sydney) are drawn to this lone stranger which causes a somewhat awkward sub-plot to the story but I feel it is entirely plausible and makes you really understand what motivates these two richly drawn characters.Alot of the female roles in Westerns are one-dimensional,Sarah and Megan are anything but.
After negotiations fail between LaHood and the tin-pans Coy enlists the services of a corrupt Marshal(the late John Russell) and his six Deputies to rid the canyon of this troublesome Preacher.The showdown is set,and amidst the spectacular backdrop of the snow swept mountains and an eerie wind that you can almost feel the Preacher drops the Deputies one by one as they hunt for him in the small town of LaHood.Then he finally reveals himself to the Marshal,who up til now has had his suspicions as to his identity."But the man I'm thinking of is dead" he tells Coy earlier in the scene.
As the Preacher lifts his head,the shadow of his hat-brim taking flight and revealing a stubbled face with cold penetrating eyes Marshal Stockburn is clearly shocked."You!" he stammers.And here we realise that indeed these two men have met before and a few pieces of the puzzle fall into place as to the Preachers history,but somehow he remains as enigmatic as ever.
This story is just that well written.
If you haven't seen this movie I won't spoil it by explaining the ending,but it is reminiscient of Shane in some respects.I highly recommend this classic Western,by far,in my opinion,the best one ever made.
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