Pale Rider, released in 1985, might best be described as a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western that cannot be called a spaghetti western, since it was filmed in the USA, and was made long after the "real" Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. Nevertheless, like preceding films such as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), we have all the elements: a mysterious stranger with no name suddenly appears to restore the balance between good and evil, a powerful bad guy with plenty of friends, and a (more or less, but not quite) married woman who sees the mysterious stranger as being more of a man than her mate. There's also a bit of 1973's High Plains Drifter in this movie - is the mysterious stranger a real person?
Clearly, then, if you enjoyed the other movies mentioned above, you'll enjoy Pale Rider. Clint Eastwood is older, but just as cool and just as tough. Michael Moriarty has an interesting role as a man who appears to want to be cool and tough. Carrie Snodgress has the lead female role, and the entire movie is made more interesting by the addition of her character's adolescent daughter, Megan, played terrifically by Sydney Penny. Chris Penn seems a trifle miscast, but he's an interesting addition to the cast as the primary villain's son.
All in all, Pale Rider was one of the best Westerns to come out of the 1980's, a time not rich in Westerns. It's entertaining, if a bit predictable. Clint Eastwood is as good in this film as in any of his films, and that's saying a great deal. Sydney Penny's character, teetering on the edge of womanhood, holds a great deal of interest. The scenery - the movie was filmed in Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho - is breathtaking.
Complaints? They're minor. One - the plot's overall predictability - has already been mentioned. The other is that the film lacks any compelling music, which the "real" spaghetti westerns had in abundance.
The title of this movie is a reference to one of the most haunting passages in the New Testament, which we thought it appropriate to add here:
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 6:8, King James Edition.
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