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HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER


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My interpretation has always been to consider the Drifter as the original murdered sheriff who has taken corporeal form on his return to the real world in order to take his revenge on the killers and townspeople responsible. The whole town pays in some fashion with those who just stood by and kept their mouths shut being subjugated to some degree. Made fools of. The closer they were to the actual act of murder or the people behind and responsible for it, the more severe their payment to the Drifter.

 

Another thought I had entertained was the Drifter was the brother of the murdered sheriff. I prefer the above.

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After the Drifter says, "Yes, you do," the camera immediately moves to the tombstone, which reads, "Marshal Jim Duncan, Rest in Peace." So that's the Drifter's name: Jim Duncan, the murdered marshal. Then as the Drifter rides away, he fades away and disappears -- like the ghost that he is.

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When I first saw *Pale Rider*, I thought it may be a continuation of the same character - a ghost rider. Although he pretty much performed the same function, it appeared as if this one was real and alive with a different history or, at least, a part of his history as yet unknown to us at the time.

 

I'm getting the feeling Clint Eastwood is tying all of his characters together as John Wayne did with *The Shootist.* *Unforgiven* gave me that idea. I wonder what his last starring film will give us.

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There will be no more Eastwood westerns.

 

'Unforgiven' was his final statement - and it is his uncompromising vision of 1880's plains-dwelling reality. No hero, no anti-hero, no nod to moral excuses or phony embellishments. Just the hardness of small, mean existence in a hard, mean reality.

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That is truly a shame. As well as he covers other subjects I would still pay good money to see another of his westerns, as I'm sure many people would. If we're lucky, maybe he'll do a cameo in someone else's western.. perhaps as the comic sidekick - or something like Henry Fonda in *Wanda Nevada.* Here's hoping.

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> When I first saw Pale Rider, I thought it may be a continuation of the same character - a ghost rider. Although he pretty much performed the same function, it appeared as if this one was real and alive with a different history or, at least, a part of his history as yet unknown to us at the time.

 

> I'm getting the feeling Clint Eastwood is tying all of his characters together as John Wayne did with The Shootist. Unforgiven gave me that idea. I wonder what his last starring film will give us.

 

> When I first saw Pale Rider, I thought it may be a continuation of the same character - a ghost rider. Although he pretty much performed the same function, it appeared as if this one was real and alive with a different history or, at least, a part of his history as yet unknown to us at the time.

 

> I'm getting the feeling Clint Eastwood is tying all of his characters together as John Wayne did with The Shootist. Unforgiven gave me that idea. I wonder what his last starring film will give us.

 

 

Back in 1985 when Siskel & Ebert reviewed Pale Rider they both felt it was very much in the vein of High Plains Drifter and of course they didn't exactly approve of Clint ripping off Shane...but then again I never cared too much for what those two self-important schtootzes had to say about anything. Great acting by Marianna Hill incidently after the drifter drags her off into the stable. :) It always cracks me up when Mordecai offers the drifter a cigar after he's thru. lol :)

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I get a kick out of her busting into the bath room in the barber shop, unloading six shots into and around the tub, and Clint not getting a scratch. "What do you suppose took her so long to get mad?"

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I'm not clear on what you mean when you say 'that might be possible' since your reply is to the creator of this thread.

 

I only see two theories here; That Clint is the actual murdered sheriff (or marshal), or that he is a relative of the murdered man.

 

I assume that Clint made it confusing on purpose since it really doesn?t matter one way or the other (unless he was planning on a sequel!).

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Kid_Dab and faceinthecrowd,

 

I think your interpretations are correct. The spirit of Jim Duncan has assumed a different corpereal existence to exact his revenge.

 

At one point the Stranger dreams about Jim Duncan being whipped to death and isn't there a shot of the whip marks on the Stranger's (Clint Eastwood's) face?

 

Good observation about him disappearing after the shot of Jim Duncan's tombstone. He is finally at peace because he now has a marked grave. (There was a conversation betwen the Stranger and the hotel owner's wife about Jim's unmarked grave.)

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I always took the drifter to be the corporeal return of Marshall Duncan, too.

 

This was, and still is, one of the strangest "westerns" to ever be produced. A plot far different from the standard fare, it combines the age old western motif with a twist of reality.

 

I've often wondered how it was that nobody recognized the drifter as the dead Marshall, as there was no attempt, other than a beard, to make a difference in appearance. But of course, I reckoned that since the Marshall was dead, and people in those times didn't believe in such things, the connect would never be made.

 

I also wondered how many Clint Eastwood movies did DICK PEABODY, "LittleJohn" from TV's "Combat" appear in, if only for a brief time?

 

Sepiatone

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Haha, James.

 

All I meant was that there are more people today that consider such a thing to be possible than there probably was in the old West.

 

Just look at the popularity in shows like "Ghost Hunters", "Paranormal Witness" and other crap of that nature. People today take all of it in with a grain of salt.

 

Sepiatone

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I think this almost 50/50 split provided this film with an ending that was open to basically two interpretations. If you like the idea of ghosts and want to believe in them, then the Drifter was the ghost of the murdered marshal. If you're a debunker of such ideas, then you can believe the Drifter was the brother of the murdered man.

 

I think either interpretation is valid, though I have to say if he was a ghost, he sure seemed unduly interested in the pleasures of the material world - sex, food, drink, a comfy bed. Maybe he missed those things?

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*I've always seen the entity played by Eastwood in this supernatural western drama as an avenging spirit.*

 

I've long considered the film as a supernatural variant on HIGH NOON. Sort of a Will Kane character who was let down by the town and defeated by the bad guys. Now we have the same situation of four men returning to the town from prison, but this time, vengeance is waiting - for all concerned.

 

Eastwood would use a similar approach to tackle SHANE when he made PALE RIDER.

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> Eastwood would use a similar approach to tackle SHANE when he made PALE RIDER.

 

The difference being that in SHANE, he(Shane) had no previous knowledge of who the cattleman was, but in PALE RIDER the "Preacher" had a history with the hired "Marshall" that we never learn the full scope of. We can stretch to the "supernatural" aspect in the belief that NO man, not even Eastwood's Preacher, could survive that many bullets in the back.

 

Sepiatone

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I'm sorry, but I not following: "We can stretch to the "supernatural" aspect in the belief that NO man, not even Eastwood's Preacher, could survive that many bullets in the back" as it relates to Pale Rider.

 

Who was shot in the back?

 

All I remember is thqt the Preacher did have a history with the hired gun man. It was clear that both of them knew something about the other. But I don't remember anything said about the Preacher ever being shot by someone multiple times prior to joining up with the settlers.

 

As for a comparison to Shane. Yes, there is a pale comparision there. (Ok, forgive me for that one!).

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