The quiet calm of a beautiful autumn day is broken by the thundering sound of hooves coming down the hillside. A cadre of men employed by powerful strip-miner Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) rides into a small mining encampment and begins shooting up the place. One of the terrorists kills

the dog of young Megan Wheeler's (Sydney Penny). As Megan buries her pet, she says a prayer, begging the Lord to send someone to defend them. Later Megan sits with her widowed mother (Carrie Snodgress) and reads from the Bible: "And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was death,

and hell followed him." Then a lone horseman (Clint Eastwood), dressed as a preacher, rides into camp. From its breathtaking opening, PALE RIDER heralds the return of the western. Although PALE RIDER is definitely a step down from producer-director Eastwood's masterpiece, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES

and even from HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (which it most resembles), it had been so long since a quality western had hit America's screens that it appears as if Eastwood purposely set out to remind audiences of all the elements that make the genre work. Eastwood has a deep love and understanding for the

genre, and it shows in every frame of PALE RIDER. The supernatural elements of the story are incidental and handled in a restrained, subtle manner that does not distract from the story but enhances it, bringing another dimension to the oft-told tale. Eastwood the director has delivered a

thought-provoking, well-crafted western.