High Plains Drifter Marks 50th Anniversary

Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter. Courtesy of Universal.

Clint Eastwood’s sophomore directorial outing, High Plains Drifter, marks the 50th anniversary since its theatrical release in 1973.

Kino Lorber released the film last year in 4K UHD. The 4K scan is from the original camera negative and comes just a few years after the Kino Lorber release on Blu-ray. I’m a bit late to watching the film but figured to watch for the 50th anniversary.

The official anniversary, to my knowledge is on April 6. But because of Pesach, I’m running my review today. In any event, Eastwood’s second film pays homage to his work with both Don Siegel and Sergio Leone and not just by way f easter eggs at the cemetery. Instead of The Man With No Name, his character is simply The Stranger. After not starring in his first film, Eastwood takes the leading role in his sophomore outing. Even at this point of his career, he shows promising potential behind the camera. The fact that they filmed it in six weeks also speaks to Eastwood’s efficiency as a filmmaker. He could have filmed on the Universal Studios backlot but opts to film on location in Mono Lake, California. It’s for the best because of what the scenery has to offer.

The gist of High Plains Drifter is that the townspeople of Lago hire The Stranger after he murders three people less than thirty minutes into the film. He’s not quite the new sheriff in town but his gun is the only one standing in the way of vengeful gunman sitting in jail. There’s more drama going on behind the scenes because of U.S. Marshal Jim Duncan’s (Buddy Van Horn) knowledge about the gold mine. Van Horn is Eastwood’s stunt double so when The Stranger informs Mordecai (Billy Curtis) that he knows his name, one is left to wonder if he’s really the marshal.

If you go by what Clint Eastwood has said over the years, the film is an allegory for a town killing their sheriff. What happens here is that justice comes calling in the form of vengeance. Right off the bat, Eastwood’s Stranger kills the very three people hired to protect the town. The idea that Eastwood’s Stranger is really Marshal Jim Duncan is hinted in the Stranger’s dream about Duncan’s death.

There are some not so pleasant aspects of the film. Callie Travers (Mariana Hill) flirts with The Stranger but he ends up raping her after she insults him. Later on in the film, The Stranger drags Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) into her bedroom and have sex. As the late 60s gave way to the 1970s, the output of violence in movies started to increase. A lot of this is because of the Production Code transitioning into what we now know as the Motion Picture Association. In transitioning to the ratings system, it allowed films to be anywhere from tame to violent. There’s no shortage of violence here but it’s definitely not pretty to watch, not with rape or sexual assault taking place. It’s definitely more violent than a John Wayne Western.

In High Plains Drifter, Clint Eastwood already shows off his promising talents as a filmmaker in only his second directing gig.

Bonus Features


  • Brand New HDR/Dolby Vision Master – From a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox
  • 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 Audio
  • Triple-Layered UHD100 Disc
  • Optional English Subtitles


  • Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox
  • LADY VENGEANCE: Interview with Actress Marianna Hill
  • HELL TO PAY: Interview with Actor Mitchell Ryan
  • THE BARBER OF LAGO: Interview with Actor William O’Connell
  • A MAN NAMED EASTWOOD: Vintage Promo in HD
  • TRAILERS FROM HELL Episodes with Josh Olson & Edgar Wright
  • Poster and Image Gallery
  • TV & Radio Spot
  • 2 Theatrical Trailers
  • 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 Audio
  • Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
  • Optional English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
SCREENWRITER: Ernest Tidyman
CAST: Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Mitchell Ryan, Jack Ging, Stefan Gierasch, Ted Hartley, Billy Curtis, Geoffrey Lewis

Universal released High Plains Drifter in theaters on April 6, 1973. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.