Pale Rider (1985)
By: Devon B. on March 27, 2013 | Comments
Warner Bros. | Region Free | 2.40:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 115 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Pale Rider Cover Art
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eatwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Christopher Penn, Richard Kiel, John Russell
Screenplay: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack
Country: USA
External Links
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I'd seen a few of Clint Eastwood's movies before high school, but it was when I was in my late teens that a friend and I discovered Eastwood's Westerns. I don't always like Eastwood in more modern tales, but put the guy on a horse while wearing a dirty hat and I'm sold. We worked our way through Eastwood's catalogue, and the only Eastwood Western we didn't love (not counting Paint Your Wagon which we completely sidestepped) was High Plains Drifter. I'd heard that Pale Rider was similar to High Plains Drifter except Eastwood was older and creakier, so we weren't expecting much when we finally got around to hiring it. And then it kicked our asses.

A greedy dude wants to take away some miners' land, and with their spirits almost totally broken the miners seem about to give in. Then a nameless preacher (Eastwood) comes in to town and, ahem, livens things up. This ain't an ordinary preacher, for one thing he dispenses more lead than prayers, and at the very least he's a man looking to leave behind his violent past but still willing to use violence where necessary. At most, he may be something a whole lot more. Either way, the greedy dude is in for much more than he bargained for.

The film is a little ambiguous with its overall story but it can be viewed as a straight western, though perhaps would be a bit of a dull one if just taken at face value since there's a lot of talking. Even putting aside some of the implications of the story, there're many messages within the film for people looking for more depth. The film is brimming with social commentary about ecological concerns, big business responsibilities, corruption and a sense of community, but at the end of the day it can all be about Eastwood if the viewer wants it to be. Not that that's a bad thing, because he's intense as all hell in this one, with characters even discussing Eastwood's eyes after succumbing to the stare that makes him such a mean lookin' motherfucker. He's 82 now and I still wouldn't want to mess with a guy that looks like he could knock you over with just his chaw spit, never mind his fist or six-shooter. Eastwood wasn't quite 82 at the time of Pale Rider, more like mid 50s, but he had long been established as a Western king, and this film further played on his status, harking back to his legendary "Man With No Name" Spaghetti Western trilogy by having Eastwood play another nameless character. This guy could be The Man With No Name a bit greyer around the temples, or Josey Wales or a whole bunch of Eastwood's previous characters. Except it's probably not the guy from The Beguiled because that guy was a dick. It could even be viewed as a direct sequel to one of Eastwood's other films, but I can't say which because that would be a spoiler.

Eastwood may be the movie's inspiration and raison d'être, but there're other good things, too. Michael Moriarty, friend to horror fans everywhere, puts in a great performance as the pseudo-leader of the miners. There're other familiar faces in the cast like Chris Penn and that guy who played Jaws in some spy movie, and Western staple John Russell makes an imposing antagonist. Talent was also prevalent behind the camera, so Pale Rider is full of brilliant cinematography that captures the mountains and other scenery spectacularly, not to mention several iconic images of our heroic gunman.

Pale Rider doesn't have action from go to whoa, but the film is well paced so I never find it dull. The only thing I'm not sure about is the bit where Eastwood and co. start breaking a rock with hammers, but they don't wear gloves. I'd wear gloves, but Eastwood clearly has no fear of blisters. The fact I do just proves I'll never be as tough as him, even if I live to be 82.
The Disc
The film is mostly clean, only having a few spots, but there is a light bit of grain visible throughout the film and I don't think any DNR was applied. Detail can be good, and there're only minor examples of transfer issues like trailing and macroblocking, however there was some image bleed. The only real issue is that the movie looks too dark, so some detail is swallowed up in the blacks. Some have said this is an intentional look of the film, however it looks brighter in the trailer.

The English audio is available as a TrueHD 5.1 or lossy 5.1 mix. Some sounds seem toned down when compared to the mono dubs, but the TrueHD track isn't that far from the mono ones for the most part. It's a front heavy mix, with a few directional touches, but at least it's not a problematic remix like Outlaw Josey Wales was. My disc did not have the Japanese dub that is listed on the slick.

The only extras are the not as dark trailer and the trailer for Unforgiven.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Pale Rider is less wandery than Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales, but as a trade off it is also less groundbreaking. I forgot how much I loved this movie, but I rank it right up there with all my favourite Eastwood Westerns, which is pretty much any Western he made that wasn't High Plains Drifter (or Paint Your Wagon). I suspect the film could look better, and would like to have a lossless track of the original audio, but since I only paid like $7 for this Blu-ray I guess I can't expect everything.

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