Hang 'Em High

A minor, though interesting, American version of a spaghetti western. After completing Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY), Eastwood returned to America a major world star and appeared in this derivative, but nonetheless intelligent, western directed by the underrated Ted Post...read more

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A minor, though interesting, American version of a spaghetti western. After completing Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY), Eastwood returned to America a major world star and appeared in this derivative, but nonetheless intelligent, western directed by the underrated Ted Post (whom Eastwood had worked with and liked in his Rawhide television days). Eastwood plays an innocent rancher hanged by an angry, nine-man lynch-mob that mistakes him for a murdering rustler. Saved from imminent death by Marshall Dave Bliss (Ben Johnson), who passes by just after the lynch mob has left, Jed Cooper (Eastwood) is taken to a nearby town and jailed until the marshall can check out his story. Learning that Cooper claims to be a retired lawman, local "hanging judge" Adam Fenton (Pat Hingle) recruits Cooper into his woefully understaffed stable of Oklahoma Territory marshalls. In return for his service, Fenton agrees to allow Cooper to track down the lynch mob, as long as he brings them back to town for trial. Cooper begins hunting down the men, one by one: He's forced to shoot one, Reno (Paul Sorenson), in self-defense; a second, Jenkins (Bob Steele), gives himself up. Cooper arrests both Stone (Alan Hale Jr.), &#151 who's subesequently shot by the sheriff when he tries to break out of jail &#151 and Miller (Bruce Dern), who survives to stand trial. Meanwhile, the lynch mob's leader, wealthy rancher Wilson (Ed Begley), hears that Cooper is alive and at large; he rounds up most of the remaining members of the mob (two flee because they want nothing to do with hunting down Cooper), and catches the vigilante lawman off guard. Cooper survives being shot, this time thanks to local shopkeeper Rachel (Inger Stevens), who nurses him back to health. When Cooper recovers from his wounds, he goes after Wilson, who has retreated to his ranch. After a lengthy gun battle in which

all Wilson's allies are killed, Cooper corners his nemesis, only to find that he's hanged himself. Though the material is nothing special and relies on the "avenging angel" mystique that had been established for Eastwood in the Leone films, director Post squeezes out some fine and memorable moments in the film. Look for Dennis Hopper in a small role as a lunatic prophet.

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