Hang 'Em High

Bruce Dern and Clint Eastwood in Hang 'Em High (dir. Ted Post).

If you stare at that title long enough, it stops looking like English.

The biggest surprise for me about Hang 'Em High--a movie that's been on my must-see list for years--is how novelistic it is--and by "novelistic" I mean slow and talky. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but by about thirty minutes in, you get the feeling that the cast and crew lost the script and just had to wing it. Again, that makes it sound interesting, and it sort of is, as long as you don't have your heart set on a raucous, bloodletting revengefest like High Plains Drifter, or even Unforgiven. There's a segment with James MacArthur as a preacher delivering a sermon before a hanging that seems like it goes on for fifteen minutes (the sermon, not the hanging). In its own way it's as mind-altering as a John Cage composition.

I'm intrigued by Ted Post. His other films include Magnum Force, the underrated Beneath the Planet of the Apes, The Harrad Experiment (god, I'd love to see that: it looks terrible!), and lots and lots of TV stuff from the early fifties through the early nineties. His lack of basic directorial competence sits in an uneasy relationship to his instinct for arresting imaginative scenarios and high moral speculation.

The other noteworthy thing is just how fully developed as an actor Eastwood already is by this point. That could be taken as a backhand compliment, suggesting that his range is extremely limited. Well, that's true, but as narrow ranges go, it's an extremely compelling one. I'd say range-wise he's somewhere between Bela Lugosi and Dick Van Dyke. Like most of us.


mongibeddu said...

You can actually see The Harrad Experiment through Google video. It's horrible in an amusing way. I especially like James Whitmore―he kind of fascinates me.

GFS3 said...

I love this movie. Thanks for the review.