High Plains Drifter [DVD] [1973]

Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter -- only the second movie he ever directed -- makes its second appearance on DVD in an edition altered only slightly from its first, mostly in the form of its design, which was restructured to bring it into line with the 2003 "Universal Western Collection," of which it is now a part, alongside classics such as Winchester '73 and studio-generated filler such as The Redhead From Wyoming. (As few Eastwood fans need be told, High Plains Drifter is much closer in quality to the former than the latter.) The film-to-video transfer is a significant improvement over the old laserdisc edition, which was one of the earlier Universal letterboxed releases. It is sort of essential to see it in this format, as AMC -- where it turns up most frequently -- usually shows the movie full-frame; but even when they show the letterboxed version, they never air the R-rated cut with the uncensored language and violence. The 2.35:1 transfer offers good contrast and brings out such details as a wonderful shot eight and a half-minutes into the movie in which Eastwood's nameless stranger runs across to a trio of thugs at a saloon; his end of the shot is framed by his wide-brimmed hat, which, as he raises his head, reveals the presence of a further set of onlookers, including his soon-to-be-ally Mordecai (Billy Curtis). The detail of the transfer is exquisite, right down to the fabric of the wool blankets that Eastwood's stranger loads into the arms of a downtrodden Native American at the general store. One wishes there was an accompanying narration by Eastwood, but in its place there is a decent production history in the supplements, over a series of easy-to-access onscreen frames. One reason the movie has always looked as strange as it does is that Eastwood specifically chose to shoot it at the other end of California from Hollywood -- at Lake Mono in the California Sierras. He had the entire town, including interiors for all of the buildings, constructed to order from scratch, and shot everything there, adjacent to the lake, which had the helpful quality of changing its appearance and hue with virtually each new shot, adding to the unearthly feel of the action. The movie would probably have been better received by critics if it had not appeared in the wake of Dirty Harry, which had left most middle-of-the-road and liberal journalists and writers aghast, and also despising Eastwood. High Plains Drifter was a success despite mixed reviews, and has since come to be regarded as one of the most influential Westerns of the '70s. The other major supplement on the disc is the original trailer, which emphasizes the movie's violence more than its gallows humor and which has been modified into a mixture of full-screen and letterboxed shots. The menu must be accessed manually -- the disc goes automatically to the movie and startup mode -- and is easy to manipulate, going to a third layer in language selection (French, Spanish), with Spanish subtitles and English captions available. The 16 chapters fit the movie perfectly, covering every major scene.
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Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
Rating 4.8 out of 5 stars.
100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (23 out of 23)

Special Features

  • Production notes
  • Talent bios
  • Film highlights
  • Theatrical trailer


High Plains Drifter
"Who are you?" the dwarf Mordecai (Billy Curtis) asks Clint Eastwood's Stranger at the end of Eastwood's 1973 western High Plains Drifter. "You know," he replies, before vanishing into the desert heat waves near California's Mono Lake. Adapting the amorally enigmatic and violent Man With No Name persona from his films with Sergio Leone, Eastwood's second film as director begins as his drifter emerges from that heat haze and rides into the odd lakefront settlement of Lago. Lago's residents are not particularly friendly, but once the Stranger shows his skills as a gunfighter, they beg him to defend them against a group of outlaws (led by Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis) who have a score to settle with the town. He agrees to train them in self-defense, but Mordecai and innkeeper's wife Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) soon suspect that the Stranger has another, more personal agenda. By the time the Stranger makes the corrupt community paint their town red and re-name it "Hell," it is clear that he is not just another gunslinger. With its fragmented flashbacks and bizarre, austere locations, High Plains Drifter's stylistic eccentricity lends an air of unsettling eeriness to its revenge story, adding an uncanny slant to Eastwood's antiheroic westerner. Seminal western hero John Wayne was so offended by Eastwood's harshly revisionist view of a frontier town that he wrote to Eastwood, objecting that this was not what the spirit of the West was all about. Eastwood's audience, however, was not so put off, and an exhibitors' poll named Eastwood a top box-office draw for 1973. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Clint Eastwood
    Clint Eastwood - Stranger
  • Verna Bloom
    Verna Bloom - Sarah Belding
  • Marianna Hill
    Marianna Hill - Callie Travers
  • Mitchell Ryan
    Mitchell Ryan - Dave Drake
  • Jack Ging
    Jack Ging - Morgan Allen

Overall Customer Rating

4.8 out of 54.8
23 Reviews
100%of customers recommend this product.

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