Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pale Rider

This 1985 film, produced, directed, and starring Clint Eastwood, pleasantly surprised me. I had watched part of one of his spaghetti Westerns but couldn't see it through to the end, and didn't particularly care for Unforgiven when it came out (I should watch it again) so I wasn't sure what to expect from Pale Rider. But with a character named Preacher at its core, I had to see it!

This Preacher resembles Robert Donner's Preacher (Never Trust an Honest Man) in that he also has a mysterious background and can shoot real well. He rides into a mining camp--Sacramento is mentioned but the movie was at least partially filmed in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, and looks beautiful--after saving a gold miner from a severe beating in town. The prospector, played by Michael Moriarty, is looking after a woman and her daughter, and Preacher ends up staying with them for a while. He protects the prospectors from a greedy mine owner who owns both the town and the surrounding land and wants the canyon where the miners work for his own, and won't stop until he gets it.

Pale Rider captures the details of life in a mining camp exceedingly well: the hardships of mining, the joy of finding a gold nugget, what living in a cramped cabin with few luxuries is like, as well as the antagonism of small-time miners versus a large, more industrial-oriented mine and its workers who are destroying the land in their search for gold. There are predictable plot turns but the acting is excellent. In one scene in the second half of the movie, the greedy landowner bullies one of the miners who has come to town into doing a dance and of course that reminded me of Kid being forced to do the jig in The McCreedy Bust: Going, Going, Gone. But what happens after the miner does the dance is very different from what Kid did.

The final showdown in Pale Rider is classic Western fare. The last few scenes of the movie echo a very famous Western but I don't want to spoil it for anyone by revealing which movie it is. I invite readers to post a comment and guess!