High Plains Drifter

High Plains Drifter ★★★

56/100

Pungent little revenge tale that's unfortunately soured by a certain, how shall I put it, rapeyness. Eastwood's treatment of women in his early films always makes my skin crawl, and here we have not one but two gals who despise The Stranger until he forces himself on them, whereupon they decide that he's dreamy after all. (Though it's unclear to me whether the one he outright rapes later sleeps with him merely so that she can unlock his door for the assassins. Couldn't she just stick a knife in his heart while he sleeps?) That significant ickiness aside, though, the film has fun with its darkly comic scenario, which amounts to a one-man inversion of Seven Samurai in which the ronin is secretly really pissed off at the farmers. Eastwood pilfers compositions from Leone and tone from Siegel, and the combination mostly feels respectful rather than derivative; you can see how much he's learned right from the opening, which he purposefully draaaaags out until your every muscle is tensed. (Superb sound design, too—those are some ominous spurs.) Still, the more I see of these formative works, the more I feel for Sondra Locke.