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HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER


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Yes, right before the last shot fired, the Marshall looks at the Preacher's face close-up and says "You!" He recognized him from the previous encounter.

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There's another film that may have been an influence on HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, one that I purchased under the title THE STRANGER'S GUNDOWN, aka DJANGO THE BASTARD. Here's my user comment from the IMDb.


A most unusual item for an Italian western - or for a western from any source. There were probably two-dozen films featuring the Django character first made famous by Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci's DJANGO in 1966 - and that's just counting the ones with Django in the title. That film spawned as many imitators as the Sergio Leone film FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, and while not all featured the name "Django" in the title, there was a character with that name doing all of the shooting. From what I've seen of a sample of them, they all appear to have the commonality of a hero clad entirely in black. This one stars Anthony Steffen (Antonio De Teff?) who was previously in A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO - thus proving the inspirational sources, or at least the desire to repeat their respective successes. Whatever Steffen lacks in the terms of Eastwood's or even Nero's charisma, he makes up for in his having co-authored the very original screenplay with director Sergio Garrone.

Coincidentally, what this may lack in terms of originality of being yet another Django outing, it is actually more of an inspirational venture than an imitation. A gunman apparently returns from the dead to seek vengeance on those who betrayed him. Sound familiar? Does HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER come to mind? Other characters have flashbacks of him in his final moments - in the Eastwood film it is his character who has the flashbacks. Both films feature the gunman spinning around in a chair to shoot a few enemies, but actually that was more an homage on the part of Eastwood and this film's director, Sergio Garrone, to a similar scene in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. The final shot of both THE STRANGER'S GUNDOWN and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is most similar in theme if not in actual execution - in here Django walks rather than rides away.

This Django appears in rooms and locales out of nowhere, adding to the horror content - along with a music score similar to the both the Eastwood film, and especially to some Hammer horror outings. One of his calling cards is to announce his arrival with a cross designed as a tombstone - the next victim's name and his date of death is marked on it. Unlike most vengeance seekers, Django is clearly here to avenge his own death. In another scene, he sends three dispatched villains back to town propped on horses with cross-like supports behind them in order that no one realizes until they are close that these men have gone to that great round-up in the sky.

The performances are what one would expect - and after all, hard to gauge via the often flat English dubbing. While Paolo Gozlino makes little impression as the head bad guy Rod Murdoch, the character's nutty brother Luke does, here Luciano Rossi provides the film's best performance with a character reminiscent of Klaus Kinski's hunchback in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE - minus the physical affliction. Luke is considered to be so stupid that his brother Rod had to pay a woman to marry him. But Luke isn't so dumb as he's able to capture Django twice - if only momentarily, but that's more than any other character manages to accomplish. Luke is clearly more crazy than dumb, but so are the guys in the Murdoch gang who play a game of catch with a stick of lighted dynamite.

Much of the daylight cinematography is poorly lit, yet Gino Santini does an admirable job in the night scenes of which there are plenty. It has its slow spots, and the Civil War scenes appear to be done on the cheap, but overall the "few dollars" appear to have been spent wisely. Not that the VCI transfer helps any - there are lines and scratches, and some color distortion, but at 10 bucks for the DVD, I was happy enough just getting a widescreen transfer.

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> 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?

 

I myself would have preferred Eastwood not gone the supernatural route with High Plains Drifter but I believe that is the correct interpretation. After the drifter goes up to his room to crash out for awhile after his eventful arrival he has a dream depicting the bullwhipping of Marshal Duncan. It has always been clear to me that these are the drifter's own recollections which means he's supposed to be Duncan...plus the fade-in/out at the beginning and the end also make it clear the drifter is a ghost...but there are inconsistencies in Eastwood's execution like the drifter saying to the sheriff *"Besides, I have nothing against these men"*.

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  • 4 months later...

It was clear to Eastwood's drifter that he wasn't recognized as the spectre of Duncan, so his claim of having "nothing against these men" may have been to not show his hand.  At any rate, it seemed to me that the notion of a supernatural figure, or avenging family member or whatever the drifter actually was intended to be was ingeniuosly left up to the audience, which makes it a shrewd piece of film making.

 

Sepiatone

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