Jed Cooper starts out as a cattle rancher when a group of men surround him, claiming that the man he bought his cattle from killed the herd's true owner. Cooper says he knew nothing about the murder but they hang him anyway and leave him for dead. A Federal Marshal finds Cooper and cuts him down, claps him in irons and takes him to Fort Grant for a judge to determine his fate. The judge finds him not guilty and sets him free. He is offered a job as a Deputy U.S. Marshal so he can bring the men in who lynched him. He also warns Cooper not to kill the men. Cooper accepts. Cooper tracks the first man, Reno, down and attempts to arrest him, but Reno draws his gun and Cooper is forced to shoot to kill. He finds out that most of the hanging posse are respected members of the community, but the local sheriff honors the warrants for their arrest nevertheless. Cooper is ambushed and barely survives after the posse escapes. Slowly recovering, Cooper is back on their trail...
Made between Leone's Dollar Trilogy and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, this actually is my least favorite Eastwood westerns - which still makes it better than 99 % of the American-made westerns. HANG 'EM HIGH lacks the violence and the dark hero of the other Eastwood movies (don't be fooled by the 18 Certificate, this deserves a 12 or 15 at the most, it is a PG-13 in the States). Overall it is a rather tame movie. HANG 'EM HIGH was a major success in 1968. It also was the first production of the Malpaso Company, Eastwood's production company. Sergio Leone was asked to direct this movie, but he was busy directing ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, so Ted Post, who also directed Eastwood's second Dirty Harry movie MAGNUM FORCE 5 years later, was hired instead. Post did a decent directing job. The acting is top notch, with great performances by Eastwood (of course), Pat Hingle as Judge Fenton, Ben Johnson as Marshal Bliss, Ed Begley as Captain Wilson and be on the lookout for Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper and L.Q. Jones in minor roles as well! Overall HANG 'EM HIGH is a solid 4-star movie with a few flaws, but the great actors make up for it.
Reviewed version: 2011 20th Century Fox US Blu-ray (reissue) Feature running time: 115 mins. (uncut) Rating: PG-13 (MPAA) / 18 (BBFC) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / 16x9 Audio: English DTS HD 5.1, English 2.0 Mono Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish Extras: Nothing Region: A, B, C (region free)
Picture: B Audio: B Extras: F
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