***************CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS***************"
I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named death, and Hades was following close behind him" Revelations Chapter 6 verse 8.
The title of the film is taken from the above passage from the bible, describing one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The strongly religious tone of the film, make it one of Clint Eastwood's more ambitious and interesting films. It possesses a depth that many of his films fail to reach. In essence it is almost a scene for scene remake of that classic fairy tale western "Shane", that also contains an idea carried over from "High Plains Drifter". In that film a ghost was resurrected from the past to wreak vengeance for past and present evils. The idea is used again in this film and to good effect.
In the film a mysterious stranger wearing a clerical collar rides into a small mining community that is oppressed by a businessman intent on taking over the land they are mining with hard labour. This may already sound familiar to those who have seen "Shane". The businessman whose clumsy attempts at scaring the miners off fail, then resorts to violence and hires a gang of killers. The leader of this gang is known to the stranger from the past. We head to a bloody climax between the preacher and the gang. The assassin is forced to face his nemesis from the past. One that he disturbingly thought was dead and buried.
I had much fun watching the film and spotting the scenes recreated from "Shane". The classic scene where Starrett and Shane battle to uproot a stump is re-enacted substituting a boulder. Elisha Cook's emphatic death in the mud is replicated, only this time there are seven guns and not just those of the deliciously evil Jack Palance. Even the famous ending is copied. Where the film does diverge is with the two main characters from the films. Shane is a semi mythical character who comes with a past, but he is of flesh and blood. But the preacher it is made clear early in the film is a ghost. When we see him take a wash early in the film we see the scars of many bullet wounds in areas that no human being could possibly have survived.
The film contains some good performances. Eastwood is excellent in the lead and Michael Moriarty in the Van Heflin role lends good support. The veteran John Russell is also very good as the hired killer. He had a hard act to follow in Jack Palance, who possibly gave the best performance of screen villainy in cinematic history. Richard Kiel also appears in a rather eccentric bit of casting as a heavy with a heart. His role seems slightly out of step with the rest of the film. But this is a minor criticism. The film was shot in the stunning Boulder mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation area in Idaho, which adds a powerful raw beauty to the cinematography. "Pale Rider" is a very fine effort, and Mr Eastwood who also directed is to be congratulated. Not that I suppose he will worry about my opinion as he sits on his throne in Carmel! Although not as good as the film it openly plagiarizes, it is also no pale imitation. Recommended.
The opening to Pale Rider is just excellent, at first all is calm and serene, but then the peace is shattered by the thundering of hooves. A group of men employed by Coy LaHood, tear thru a small mining community, shooting guns and trampling over all in their way. During this callous act of bullying, one of the men shoots and kills young Megan's dog. When Megan buries her beloved pet, she calls to god to send someone to help them against the greedy LaHood, because LaHood is intent on stripping the locals of their claims, and he literally will stop at nothing to get them. Later on Megan is reading from the bible, she reads aloud to her mother about "beholding a pale horse and that the man who sat on it was death", we then see a lone horseman riding towards this under fire place...
Behold the pale horse because the man that sat on him was Clint Eastwood! And that's all you really want to know as regards what drives the film on. It had been quite some time since the movie watching world had witnessed a damn good Western, so it is obvious that Eastwood, knowing the genre inside out, felt it time to remind all and sundry about this engrossing genre and all its little peccadilloes. Riffing on his own High Plains Drifter from 1973 and homaging Shane in the process, Eastwood again uses supernatural leanings to play out this intriguing tale. Pale Rider works well because Eastwood cares for the genre so much, no frame is wasted and the acting on show delivers the necessary amount of quality to enhance the picture's impact. From the thundering opening to the gorgeous final shot, Pale Rider is an expertly crafted Western that still holds up today as a great entry on Eastwood's CV. Pale Rider. 8/10
Take the typical Eastwood western character, add a mysterious past, a clerical collar and a title quoting from the Bible and you have "Pale Rider", a film I enjoyed but did not think too deeply about. I have only taken Clint Eastwood really seriously, in terms of his films' content and what he is trying to say, relatively recently - "Flags of our Fathers", "Letters from Iwo Jima", "Gran Torino" - but his output has been prolific both as actor and director and he is obviously one of the greats of the film-industry. One of the few actors who made the director move and succeeded, he has a subtle eye capable of going well beyond the stereotypical and anticipated shot. Thirty five titles as director, thirty-four as producer and fifty-five as actor (and still counting) makes him a force to be reckoned with and one of the most experienced Hollywooders around and a long ways from "Go ahead, make my day" partner.
In "Pale Rider", directed by Eastwood but written by Michael Butler and Dennis Shyrack, like "Shane", the main character (mostly unexplained) seems to be making a life-change from the gun-fighting character the "Old West" must have been populated with to a less violent, more community thoughtful person; like Shane who struggles with the tree-stump helping his new family friends as the wife looks on amazed at her two men, now unable to choose but leaning towards the "tall stranger", the Preacher helps to break a huge boulder blocking the stream, preventing their small mining operations. Again the wife looks on yearningly from the darkness as her men, dripping with righteous sweat from the true labour of their task, gradually destroy the boulder, freeing the stream and their mining lives.
A slight complication is the daughter looking on too, later feeling her mother has already got her man, so why does she need two. It's mean. Later, in a violent rape scene, the Preacher appears on the horizon, shoots with unerring accuracy, wordlessly helps the daughter onto the horse and rides off having saved her from the men of the greedy mining company. (Remember the ranchers in "Shane".)
Despite the stereotypical characters and story, it is an enjoyable film, well-acted (in western terms) and directed succinctly, with style, even if many of the shots are well-worked, old standards.
Stepping out of the storyline, the film does capture some of the harshness and realities of life in the west in the pioneering days in California - the lawlessness, empire-building and ruthless business corporations, nature at its finest and families trying to make a life for themselves, establish communities and conquer all that nature could throw at them. I think the real lives were probably much worse and not fit to capture realistically on the silver-screen. " ... human kind / Cannot bear very much reality", especially in the cinema.
Although I may be doing Clint Eastwood a great dis-service, and, as the auteur theory would have it, this director's film may reflect the director's personal creative vision, made in 1985 and classified as an action western, I think that is what it is, albeit an excellent example of its kind and one which helped to sustain his name, made his money, thereby allowing him to make better films later when, as "auteur", I feel he did have something much deeper to say and was filming it.
Just enjoy it. I did, even if the more I consider it, the more there is to write.
on 18 March 2012
...looks as it should, dark and brooding, sometimes annoyingly so, but this is how I remember it from the cinema, back in the day...as they say. Occasionally, the image goes soft, especially in some of the darkest scenes. On the whole a good transfer and a damned fine piece of hickory.
on 15 June 2014
This 1985 production starring and directed by Clint Eastwood, Pale Rider was the first Western that Eastwood had made in nine years which is the story of pan mining gold miners in California who are besieged by the neighbouring landowner who is intent on stealing on their claims.
This Blu-ray was released in 2010 with a different cover to the 2008 version both issues are region free and are both 25GB discs as well as both being encoded using the VC-1 codec in full 1080p resolution and both are in 2.40.1 aspect ratio which is different from the original cinema release which was 2.35.1 aspect ratio having not seen the earlier released Blu-ray so I am unable to comment on that transfer but what I can comment on is the difference between DVD and the Blu-ray format; the DVD looks like you are viewing the film through fog the colours where pastel looking and lacked any brightness and depth compared to Blu-ray version which has a better range of blacks and hues both issues of the Blu-ray's appear to have the same audio tracks English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French, Spanish, Japanese Dolby Mono tracks along with the same subtitles which are as follows:- English subtitles for the hard of Hearing, French, Portuguese German, German for the hard of Hearing, Italian, Italian for the hard of Hearing, Danish, Finnish and Swedish both Blu-ray's have no extra features except the original theatrical trailer.
A worthy up-date from the DVD issue if you can find the Blu-ray at a decent price...
on 5 June 2016
This movie still stands up. Beautifully shot and directed, with powerful, naturalistic performances, plus a(nother) mythical turn from Eastwood. Quite a "green" film, in some ways, with its critical evocation of strip mining and the men who pursue it.
on 16 March 2013
A rich land baron, who's into his mining, falls out with a ragtag bunch of gold prospecting settlers during a dispute over land claims. After implementing some strong arm tactics, a mysterious preacher shows up and sides with the meek, causing the mining baddies no end of problems with the settlers' renewed spirit. Eventually though the mining boss gets fed up and calls in a vicious and corrupt Marshall along with his po~faced deputies, leaving the vicar no choice other than to bash more than his bible..
Sadly not one of Clint's better westerns this one. The scenery is nice and some of the action is good, with a solid, haunting, supernatural feel in a few places, but unfortunately its just not dangerous or atmospheric enough, with the supernatural edge giving way far too often to a 'Little House on the Morality Prairie' vibe that didn't work for me. There's nowhere near enough bloodshed or meanness and a lot of the scripting and humour is predictable and dull.
Don't get me wrong, Clint plays his usual tough, scarred stranger persona and because of that, this is superior to many westerns (he is, after all, the main reason to watch this!) but if you compare this to the likes of ...Josey Wales, The Unforgiven, the 'Dollars' trilogy and High Plains Drifter, to which it bears many resemblances, there is no comparison. Hats off however to the support cast, as with the likes of a young Penn, Snodgress (good in Murphy's law too) and Moriarty, as is usual, they do a decent job.
The bluray looks good enough, no major complaints but for the fact that it's the kind of film they surely could have made look spectacular?!
All round, Pale Rider is a decent enough attempt but don't be fooled into thinking this is a classic, because in my opinion it isn't and scored against its peers I would only award it 3.25/5.
A girl kneels over the grave of her murdered dog, praying for a miracle, while off in the distance, a man rides toward town on a pale horse. Clint Eastwood's PALE RIDER was the filmmaker's first Western in nearly a decade. It finds a pleasant balance between the mystical revisionism of films such as HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and the traditional Western. Eastwood stars as the Preacher, who wanders into a dusty California town and tries to rescue a community of gold prospectors that is being terrorized by the local corporate mining operation, which is strip-mining the land. He's taken in by Hull Barrett (Michael Moriarty), who lives with Sarah Wheeler (Carrie Snodgrass) and her 14-year-old daughter, she of the murdered pooch, Megan (Sydney Penny). The Preacher is something of a blend of Eastwood's Man with No Name and the title character of George Stevens's SHANE. The story and treatment are straightforward and entertaining, and the strong performances draw the audience in. The Preacher remains a mysterious character, but in the end, as he takes on the evil mining corporation's hired guns, it's impossible not to root for him.
on 16 July 2012
I think I'm very much in a minority here, but this film was a big disappointment to me.
Generally, I'm a Clint Eastwood fan, and especially liked the amgibuity of High Plains Drifter - is he a man, is he an avenging angel, is he a devil? - and Pale Rider shares a very similar plot with that film, so I expected to like this one a lot. Eastwood cleaning up gangs of guffawing hoodlums floats my boat.
But there was a lot wrong in this film. Eastwood's performance is very poor. I think he was trying to play more complex, rounded character than his usual Man With No Name, but here's proof that he can't do rounded. And the man playing the leader of the miners gives a truly dreadful performance - alternating from wooden to hammy.
The action sequences, usually the best part of an Eastwood film, are lifeless, and the scene where Eastwood beats up the baddies with a piece of wood was the least convincing beating-up I've ever seen. Five men taking it in turns to swing slowly at a middle-aged man, giving him enough time to give them a light tap on the chin and lay them out. And what was the twirling the wood like a drum majorette about? Was this some kind of pastiche of martial arts movies? If so, French and Saunders could have done it with more of a sense of realism.
Thought also that the scene where the 14 year-old girl asks the 55 year-old Eastwood to make love to her was very poorly judged, to put it mildly. I mean, come on.
Wish I'd liked this more. The other comments here seem to be very positive, so I'm surprised that I found it so disappointing.
on 12 November 2014
This film is obviously derivative (Shane etc) and is full of cliches. However, it is good entertainment. Always good to see Clint in action. The supernatural aspect to the story gives an interesting twist, and leaves one wondering about the 'Pale Rider's' history, and his nature.