Directed by Clint Eastwood
A mysterious preacher that caught up in a conflict between a group of struggling prospectors and a corrupt mining company trying to run them away from their claim.
Clint Eastwood is the mysterious preacher who obviously is not a preacher. The clues smack you across the face like a frying pan. The Preacher took a group of men when he first showed up. If you were shocked by that reveal, then I don’t know what to tell you.
I am a little confused by something in the movie. It seemed to me as if Hull Barret’s (Michael Moriarty) girlfriend or fiancé or whichever you want to categorize Sarah Wheeler (Carrie Snodgress) as recognized the Preacher, but it is never made really clear. She expressed feelings for him at the end before the final conflict which in my mind confirms that recognition, but I am not sure what was going on there. Hull had met Sarah at the settlement so he would be unaware of any past connection.
If true that would put the whole situation between Sarah’s young daughter Megan (Sydney Penny) and Preacher into a whole new light for me. Sarah was enamored with Preacher and hinted to him as much. Maybe I am reading to much into it. It could be just a badly written romantic subplot that just appeared in the story rather than get developed.
LaHood, where Preacher first enters the story, is supposed to be a small town. I am not talking about the encampment where the miners live but rather the nearby town with the trading post that is named after the movie’s villain LaHood (Richard Dysart) yet where are the people? LaHood does not have to be a bustling mini metropolis but there does not seem to be anybody there besides the one guy at the trading post. All the other store fronts appear to be unused and there are no other citizens moving around the town. I am sure a few extras could have been hired to fill in the background.
The buildings and the general environment look good, but the distinct lack of people just takes me out of the story. Get a handful of people moving back-and-forth and maybe add in some ambient sound. Even if you consider it an outpost and not actually a town then you would still expect some activity since LaHood uses it and it is named after him. It is the center of business for the area.
The acting is good and the story itself is not bad. You can view it as an environmental allegory with the greedy corporation destroying the environment for a quick profit at the expense of the miners. They mention possible forthcoming laws regulating it which did come in real life.
The gunfight at the end is not as frenetic as the gun fights of old but it is still exciting and started off by Preacher faking out the villain’s henchmen. I thought that was rather creative and provided for the highpoint of the event.
It is a good Western, but I do miss the simple stories of good versus evil set amongst the mythology of the West. There are shades of gray here in this story. Clint Eastwood’s Preacher is the savior on horseback but not an upstanding man of the law as you might find in an older Western. Nor are the miners the salt of the Earth. They are very imperfect individuals that feel less civilized than in an old school Western.
I would call this a drama set in a Western rather than an actual Western. As said before there are shades of gray and it does not embrace the mythological West. Such is the nature of Revisionist Westerns. I personally think that is a bit of a loss. We need fluff as much as we need substance. It is good for the psyche to see a good person do thew right thing and overcome those who would do wrong.
There is a strong religious theme starting with the title which is taken from the Book of Revelations from chapter 6, verse 8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Preacher’s arrival is hinted at being connected to a prayer made by Megan at the beginning of the film and he is most certainly a lethal character that leaves almost as mysteriously as he arrived.
My views on this film are conflicted as they often are on newer Westerns. I have a fondness for the older types and their stories and structures. I am not calling Pale Rider “bad” but while this and others can be good, they are of a different breed and I feel they can be lacking. Maybe because it is that I hold John Wayne as the gold standard of what the Western hero should be. Preacher falls short of the good man doing the right thing. He is bad man doing the right thing because his past has caught up with him and perhaps he feels he has no other choice.
Pale Rider is a good Western with some faults. They are minor but for me they stick out. That does not mean it is a bad watch or even a bad film. It is definitely a good work of drama that is worth a view. Watch it!