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From the long opening scene, Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is in-effect tried by Wilson (Ed Begley) and henchmen (Alan Hale Jr., Bruce Dern, et al) in his first Hollywood Western starring role, in Hang 'Em High, 1968.
The alpha and omega of Dennis Hopper's memorable if pointless appearance, as Marshal Bliss (Ben Johnson) is rounding up candidates for hanging, including Cooper (Clint Eastwood), in Hang 'Em High, 1968.
For reasons not explained, shopkeeper Rachel (Inger Stevens) gets to inspect fugitives (including Cooper, Clint Eastwood) brought to town for hanging by Bliss (Ben Johnson), Judge Fenton (Pat Hingle) observing, in Hang 'Em High, 1968.
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Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood), an ex-lawman turned rancher, is moving a small herd of cattle when a group of nine men on horseback, led by Captain Wilson (Ed Begley Sr.), ride up and accuse him of having stolen the cattle and killed their owner. They refuse to believe his account, stringing him up by the neck and leaving him for dead. Lucky for him, they don't do the job right, and as Cooper dangles there, barely alive, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bliss (Ben Johnson) spots him and cuts him down. After surviving the next few days in Bliss' tumbleweed wagon with the other prisoners, he is cleared of all accusations and released by Judge Fenton (Pat Hingle). Although Cooper witnesses the hanging of the man who really murdered the owner of the cattle and took Cooper's money, he still wants revenge on the nine men who tried to hang him. Fenton insists that he leave the bringing of them to justice to his deputy marshals. Cooper and Fenton, realizing that they need each other, strike an uneasy bargain, Cooper agrees to wear a badge and bring in the men he's looking for to be tried. This task proves easier said than done as Cooper experiences a number of difficulties in capturing all nine members and bringing them to justice. In the course of his quest, Cooper also makes the acquaintance of a young woman Rachel (Inger Stevens), with her own search for justice. The two of them are drawn together, no more so than when Wilson and two of the others try to gun Cooper down in cold blood. The final confrontation between Cooper and Wilson escalates in violence to its savage, irony-laced conclusion.
In this American version of spaghetti Western, Clint Eastwood plays an innocent rancher who is about to be hung by the angry lynch mob who mistook him for a rustler and killer. Saved at the last moment by a passing marshal (Ben Johnson), Eastwood is taken before a notorious "hanging judge" (Pat Hinge). The judge deputizes Eastwood, provided that Eastwood arrest his tormenters and bring them back for trial. Eastwood is not to be bound by such rules. He seeks out the men who tried to hang him and kills them, one by one, except their leader (Ed Begley), who catches Eastwood off guard and shoots him. Recovered, Eastwood follows Begley to his ranch. There he will find Begley surrounded by henchmen and gunfighters. As for Begley, a dark, ironic fate awaits him... Also in the cast are Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper.
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