By Marc S. Sanders

Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider is more or less a simple western film with a storyline you’ve seen countless times before.  It’s an old west tale that has the The Magnificent Seven (or Seven Samurai) feel, but this might as well be called The Magnificent One, perhaps.

Pale Rider is nothing special in its assemblage to be another Hollywood western.  However, it’s delivery from Producer/Director Clint Eastwood is what kept me engaged.  Seeing it for the first time, nearly forty years following its theatrical release, I took great pleasure in recognizing the tough and intimidating persona that Eastwood became famous for in his spaghetti westerns and tough cop films.  The scowl and squint across his chiseled face are here along with his imposing height, with his black hat resting perfectly atop his head.  Eastwood knows how to capture himself on camera better than most any other actor/directors.  He capitalizes on his foreboding and intimidating presence.  He does it very well in Pale Rider when he points his camera at a distance down the dirt road where he’s saddled perfectly still upon his steed.  He does a shot like this as well in his Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact, where he positions his silhouette against bright carnival lights in the background with his loaded gun held at his side.  This guy makes himself scarier than Freddy Krueger in moments like these, and in film history, the images are iconic.

Again, Pale Rider has all the trappings of what audiences used to love in Hollywood Westerns.  It has reminders of Shane and High Noon.  Yet, it’s a bit more brutal, because 1980’s cinema allowed that, and this film falls in the tradition of Eastwood’s continuous violent work at the time.  Still, that’s not why you watch an updated picture like this.  You take in Pale Rider as a Clint Eastwood vehicle.  The familiarity of Eastwood’s unnamed dangerous man that bad guys should’ve walked away from was treasured long before he thankfully segued into his anti-violent themes of films yet to come (Unforgiven, A Perfect World).  The point is that I recommend the film because…well…I’ll never tire of that scowl and squint.

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