HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. 1973. DIRECTED BY CLINT EASTWOOD. WRITTEN BY ERNEST TIDYMAN. MUSIC BY DEE BARTON. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY BRUCE SURTEES.

STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, VERNA BLOOM, MARIANA HILL, BILLY CURTIS, STEFAN GIERASCH AND GEOFFREY LEWIS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love my Westerns, spaghetti or otherwise. This film was shot in California but was heavily influenced by Clint Eastwood’s regular collaborator, Sergio Leone, he of decidedly spaghetti western fame.

Thanks to Leone’s DOLLARS trilogy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY), Clint Eastwood was already an international cinema star with his own film production company, the Malpaso Company, by the time he made HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.

It’s an excellent and entertaining revenge Western with a possible bit of a ghost story thrown in. No-one plays a Mysterious Stranger Who Rides Into Town And Does A Bunch Of Macho Stuff like Clint Eastwood does, and in this film he’s possibly at his most mysterious and macho, or at least the most so that I’ve ever seen him.

His ‘Man With No Name’ character was already well established by now. Clint had played him in each of the DOLLARS trilogy. Though he was given nicknames like ‘Joe’ or ‘Blondie’ or even ‘Boy’ in the trilogy, he essentially remained formally nameless and without an identity or back story.

We may find out the back story of characters like Colonel Douglas Mortimer (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) or Tuco the Bandit (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) but Clint’s character remains an enigma. He’s the ultimate Mystery Man, A Man Without A Past. We know nothing of his past or possible future, only his present.

Anyway, in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, Clint, again nameless, arrives in the tiny seaside mining town of Lago and immediately starts stirring things up big-time, putting the townspeoples’ backs up and having forced- or is it…?- sexual congress with what can only be described as… ahem… the town slut.

Within his first few minutes of landing in Lago, he shoots three men dead in self-defence and rapes a beautiful local woman called Callie Travers who deliberately singles him out and starts an argument with him. He decides to ‘teach her some manners’ by dragging her into a nearby barn and raping her. That’ll learn her, lol.

You see, I think she’s seeking out Clint’s attentions on purpose on account of he’s the best-looking man to arrive in Lago in many a day. And she looks like she’s enjoying herself to me. Sure, she cries ‘rape’ afterwards to save face but later in the film she joins Clint for dinner and goes to bed with him willingly, openly this time.

Of course, the feminists and the ‘me too’ brigade would be up in arms if such a thing happened in a film today but, back then, stuff like that happened all the time and no-one batted an eyelid.

Just like no-one bats an eyelid in Lago when Callie Travers runs around screaming ‘Rape! Rape!’ after the event in the barn. Some of the townspeople might even decide that that slut Callie got what was coming to her.

I’m a woman and I enjoy watching that scene and find it exciting. I don’t think it means I want to be dragged down a dark alley by a knife-wielding stranger and violated. I just think that Clint Eastwood was one of the handsomest film stars of all time and it’s exciting to watch him having rough sex with a woman in the rather Neanderthal style of the time, that’s all. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, lol.

Anyway, it turns out that the people of Lago need the super-tough, enigmatic Stranger a ‘hell’ of a lot more than he needs them. (See what I did there?) They need him, in fact, to protect them from a trio of lowlifes who are being released from prison in the near future and who are expected to be gunning for the people of Lago who’ve previously double-crossed them in a deal.

The deal apparently involved a previous Marshal of the town called Jim Duncan who, when he became a painful inconvenience to the townspeople, was bull-whipped to death on the main street of Lago by Stacey Bridges (Geoffrey Lewis, the grave-digger from SALEM’S LOT) and the Carlin brothers, Dan and Cole, the trio of degenerates.

Well, I suppose that in prison you have a lot of time to think, and it seems like most screen villains don’t waste a minute repenting of their sins and former lifestyles but only entertain thoughts of revenge. Fantasising about vengeance against the person or people who put them in jail is what gets them through their sentence. 

So now the trio of gurriers- that’s what we call lowlifes in Ireland- are riding to Lago to revenge themselves on the townspeople, who have plenty on their consciences themselves. They stood by and did nothing while a man, a fellow human being, endured an agonising death at the hands- and whips- of the three thugs. How can they live with themselves after what they did? A little too easily, it seems to me. 

The Stranger decides to stay and help out the undeserving citizens of Lago when the townspeople promise him that he can have anything he wants, free, gratis and for nothing, from any of the establishments in Lago.

He makes good use of their offer, partaking liberally of free wine and steak dinners while enjoying the willing company of Callie Travers, the blonde woman he ‘raped’ when he first landed in Lago. It’s not a terribly politically correct film, but then again, it probably wasn’t a terribly politically correct era for film-making, as we’ve already discussed.

The Stranger also has sexual congress with Verna Bloom as Sarah Belding, an unhappily married woman who at first appears to resist the Stranger’s advances but who then capitulates to his stubbly and no doubt ever-so-slightly malodorous charms.

Her husband, the hotel-keeper, is so useless and lily-livered that he stands by like a mouse and does nothing when he thinks that his wife, whom he presumably promised to love, honour and cherish till death do them part, is about to be raped by Clint. He doesn’t deserve a good strong woman like Sarah, the only person in the whole miserable town of Lago to speak out against the horribly inhumane death of Marshall Duncan.

The Stranger, aided and abetted by a dwarf called Mordecai, the only person he troubles to befriend in Lago and whom he has ‘promoted’ to the twin roles of Marshal and Mayor, wreaks havoc in Lago.

He forces the townspeople to paint every building in town bright red and paints the word ‘HELL’ over the town sign as an ominous welcome to the little gang of hoodlums. He trashes the town completely in the name of ‘helping’ them, and I think it’s because he figures they deserve it. They got away scot-free after the death of Jim Duncan, after all.

Anyway, the three lads eventually turn up and start shooting up the town but it’s not too long before Clint, at his enigmatic best, dishes out some good old-fashioned Wild West retribution with a little whip-action of his own.

“So, you guys all like whipping then, do you…?” he so easily could have said, though he doesn’t. “Well then, me buckos, let’s see how you like THIS…” Whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack a-WAAAAAY and so on and so forth…

I love the character of the cowardly sheriff because he openly admits that he only got the badge by sort of default when Jim Duncan died. (That’s how Police Chief Wiggum in THE SIMPSONS got HIS badge…!)

I love the cowardly- and mercenary- town preacher too and I’m certain I’ve seen him in other films before in a similar role. I like the cowardly greasy barber with his comb-over as well. There are some great characters amongst the townspeople.

I love that Clint, who’s accused of being ‘cruel’ by the townspeople, is openly kind, decent and generous to the Native American Indians and the Mexicans in Lago. They’re treated like dirt by the townspeople who abuse them (the Indians) and make them do their dirty work for them (the Mexicans). What a rotten lot the townsfolks of Lago are. Clint should leave ’em all to rot in Hell…

You should watch this brilliant sort-of-spaghetti Western if you want to see Clint all bristly and manly and shooting up a storm with, as usual, one hand tied behind his back. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Hey, it works for me.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971): A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) : A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘CAN’T YOU DO ANYTHING NEATLY…???’

Ah, wonderful Amicus Productions, the brainchild of Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Every bit as good as its rival and counterpart Hammer in its own way. Two of my favourite films are Amicus films: TALES FROM THE CRYPT, a portmanteau or anthology film like VAULT OF HORROR, and THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL starring horror legend Vincent Price at probably his most evil, ever, and that’s saying something, lol.

You might say that Amicus specialised in the portmanteau or anthology film, a film that tells four or five short stories all under the umbrella of a piece that links them all together. The films we’re looking at today are two such films, VAULT OF HORROR and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. So come on then, gentle readers. Enter my crypt if ye dare. I made vol-au-vents…

In VAULT OF HORROR, five separate, affluent-looking middle-aged businessmen types enter the same lift and are taken to a place they definitely didn’t press the button for, a comfortable room down in the basement that looks like it might be a gentlemen’s club, a place they never knew existed in their building.

The men decide to stay and avail of the comforts of the club for a while. The conversation turns to the topic of dreams, and each of the men waxes lyrical as he reveals the details of a gruesome recurring nightmare from which he’s been suffering.

The handsome and authoritative-looking Daniel Massey goes first as a man who pays a private detective to track down his sister- played by his real-life sister Anna Massey- for devilishly nefarious purposes. When he then travels to the out-of-the-way town where his sister apparently now resides, he decides to stop off for a ‘bite’ in a most unusual restaurant after he concludes his business with her. ‘Juice, soup, roast, sweet, coffee’ indeed…

Next up, the plummy-voiced Terry-Thomas gets his come-uppance when his character of Arthur, a middle-aged businessman obsessed with tidiness- a place for everything and everything in its place, Eleanor– drives his younger trophy wife to commit a heinous crime…

This is followed by a tale in which an unpleasant husband-and-wife magic act travel to India to get some inspiration for their act. When they think they’ve found it in the form of a beautiful young woman’s ability to charm a rope out of its basket with her haunting musical stylings, it clearly never occurs to them that trying to steal this magic trick from her by violent means might have the most dreadful repercussions…

Next up, an insurance scam artist takes his life in his hands when his deeply unwise decision to ‘play dead’ leads him straight into the open arms of a pair of medical student body-snatchers.

This is follwed by a fun story in which a bizarrely red-bearded artist turns to voodoo to help him to get revenge on a trio of crooked art dealers, headed up by Denholm Elliott, who’ve tricked him royally. Truly, ye shall reap what ye have sown, gentlemen…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD gifts us with five more marvellous vignettes that each take place within a particular old country house which the estate agent, a certain Mr. Stoker, would have us believe is haunted. Stoker, eh? Where have we heard that name before? Heh-heh-heh, good one.

Anyway, this Stoker fella is attempting to convince not just us viewers, but also a police detective called Holloway who’s been called in to investigate the recent mysterious disappearance of a famous horror actor from the house.

The actor playing the detective, incidentally, John Bennett, is the living image of one Joseph Goebbels, a certain Propaganda Minister from a certain now-defunct regime. I’m just saying, is all, lol. Did Goebbels not after all then die in the flames that accompanied the demise of his precious regime, but instead escape to England to become an actor?

In fact, actor John Bennett who plays Detective Inspector Holloway did portray Joseph Goebbels in the 1973 film known as HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS. Legendary actor Alex Guinness does a superb job as the nasty little man with the toothbrush moustache and unflattering side-parting, and he has as his toady a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Goebbels, our man John Bennett. It’s a marvellous film, but I wonder what it must have been like to go through life looking like a former Nazi Propaganda Minister? I know, I know, maybe I should just mind my own damn business, right? Gotcha, lol.

Denholm Elliott (again!) is first up here as a famous horror writer called Charles who comes to the house with his pretty wife Alice to work on his new book, which features as its protagonist a thoroughly unpleasant character called Dominick, a strangler and escaped lunatic. When Charles actually starts to see the strictly fictional Dominick around the place in the flesh, however, one can’t help but feel that something is deeply amiss in the house…

Next up is Peter Cushing as a retired, cravat-wearing and genteel stockbroker called Philip Grayson, who becomes utterly fascinated by the waxwork figure of a beautiful woman in a local Museum of Horrors.

When the wax dummy has the exact same effect on Philip’s visiting friend and former love rival Neville, played by Joss Ackland, the viewer starts to wonder just what it is about the direct gaze of this beautiful waxwork that draws men to her like magnets. Let’s just hope that the two chaps don’t lose their heads over her, that’s all I’m saying…

The devastatingly handsome Christopher Lee is up next as John Reid, a wealthy country gentleman who advertises for a governess- companion for his pretty little daughter Jane, who has no friends and no toys and has never been to school. In fact, she is utterly isolated from other people in every way her father can think up. An attractive governess duly arrives at the house in the form of Miss Anne Norton.

It doesn’t take her long to work out that something is very, very wrong in the Reid household. But is it the uptight Mr. Reid who’s to blame for any strangeness or is it his angelic-faced little daughter? When Mr. Reid starts to suffer terrifying pains about his person, Miss Norton thinks that she’s starting to see the light…

Finally, Jon Pertwee (Wurzel Gummidge, Dr. Who) plays Paul Henderson, the ageing, diva-like horror actor whose disappearance while working on a new film and living in the so-called haunted house is what initially draws Detective Inspector Goebbels into the case, lol.

He’s working on a low-budget horror film called ‘CURSE OF THE BLOOD-SUCKERS’ that he thinks is beneath him. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, and his obvious love and enthusiasm for the horror genre leads him to visit a costumier’s in the village in search of something authentic to wear as part of his costume.

In what is possibly the most delicious part of the whole film, Mr. Von Hartmann, the ancient costumier in his old-fasioned emporium, sells Paul a vampire’s cloak that makes Paul behave in a very uncharacteristic way when he puts it on. You might even say that, like Red Bull if you’re to believe the TV ads for it, it gives him wings…

The fabulously divine Ingrid Pitt (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, COUNTESS DRACULA, THE WICKER MAN) steals the show here as Paul’s gorgeous co-star in the film, Carla. With her blonde tresses, cigarette holder, pearls and white fox fur, she’s enough to take the sight out of your eye, as we say here in Oireland. But there might be more to this foxy wench than meets the eye, if you get me, so Paul had better be careful that he doesn’t get out-foxed by her…

Both films are drawn together in the finale in such a way as to tie up the loose ends neatly. In VAULT OF HORROR, we find out just who these shady businessmen are and why they’re re-enacting for our edification their terrible recurring nightmares.

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD sees Detective Inspector Goebbels (no offence intended here, only joking!) visiting the house of mystery for himself and finding out exactly why it’s earned its evil reputation…

As the red velvet curtain falls on this joint review, let’s take a minute to fondly remember Amicus Productions. Featuring regular everyday streets and taxi-cabs and people and apartments rather than the forest paths and carriages and Counts and Countesses and castles atop mountains that Hammer favoured, the colours they used were quite extraordinary and blow my mind anew every time I see them. The portmanteau or anthology film deserves a re-birth. Any takers…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor