Blu-ray Review High Plains Drifter Blu-ray Review - Recommended

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Nov 16, 2013.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Messages:
    3,035
    Likes Received:
    494
    XenForo Template High Plains Drifter Blu-ray Review - Recommended

    High Plains Drifter shoots its way onto Blu-ray with a beautiful edition that provides a new high definition transfer and a high definition sound mix. The movie itself is not one of the best efforts from Clint Eastwood as a director, but it has some historical value as a stepping stone toward the greater work that would come in later years. It’s essentially a reworking of the usual material of Eastwood’s character of “The Man With No Name” with a bit more complexity to the themes, but loaded with the standard gunfights and material one would expect from it. The Blu-ray is a terrific example of how to do a high definition transfer of a good film source – it’s truly marvelous to watch and hear. Fans of Clint Eastwood will no doubt want to add this to their collection. On the strength of the transfer alone, this release is Recommended for purchase.

    Posted Image


    Studio: Universal

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other

    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

    Rating: R

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 45 Mins.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy, UltraViolet

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: ABC

    Release Date: 10/15/2013

    MSRP: $19.98




    The Production Rating: 3/5

    High Plains Drifter occupies an interesting place in the filmography of Clint Eastwood. Taken at face value, it’s a simply told story of Western revenge. A small coastal town is visited by a nameless stranger who exacts vengeance on outlaws and errant townsfolk alike, and who may be someone or something more than he appears to be. It’s really no more complicated than that, and there’s no reason to get into what little story the movie generates. This is more of an exercise for Eastwood as a director and for screenwriter Ernest Tidyman in how to find more depth and complexity in such slight material. We should remember that Tidyman was at the time in high demand, having written the novel Shaft and the first two movies based upon it, and having written the Oscar-winning adaptation of The French Connection. Consequently, this movie has some focus on what happens to a town without a real sense of the law, and a strong sense of what consequences await a town (or modern society) which abandons it. For Eastwood, this was his second feature as a director, following Play Misty for Me. We should keep in mind that this movie directly followed his first outing as Dirty Harry, as well as a lesser known western, Joe Kidd. For this movie, Eastwood went back to familiar territory, revisiting the taciturn Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone movies, only with a bit of a twist this time around. I can’t say that High Plains Drifter is a classic on its own – there are too many issues along the way. The story and the main character are so slight that there isn’t much to hang onto. There’s a casual brutality throughout that was more commonplace in 70s and 80s filmmaking than we tend to see today. (It’s no accident that some of Ernest Tidyman’s other scripts were equally loaded with brutal moments.) But it’s still a bit dispiriting to a current eye to see Eastwood’s character top off his first day in the new town by raping a local girl. If we take a minute to think about where this movie stands in comparison with other Eastwood films, there’s a good lesson to be learned. High Plains Drifter can be seen as the work of a veteran actor (Eastwood had been acting for nearly 20 years by this point) starting to branch into directing. For this film, Eastwood mostly worked within the overall bounds of the ground broken by the movies he did with Sergio Leone – only transplanting the filming location to California, adding some bold splashes of color, and adding that bit of depth. A few years later, he would return to this territory with The Outlaw Josey Wales to take a few further steps in it. (We should note that the latter movie involved much direction by Philip Kaufman.) In 1985, he would revisit the themes of High Plains Drifter in Pale Rider, a movie with a more openly biblical spin to the tale of a mysterious stranger bringing vengeance to a small mining town. And in 1992, with 35+ years of experience under his belt, Eastwood would deliver Unforgiven, his valedictory address on the Western. It is important to note that the 1992 film really came as a result of all the prior movies Eastwood worked, particularly the three Westerns he had previously directed. And while High Plains Drifter is absolutely not the equal of Unforgiven, it can be seen as a necessary step along the way to the 1992 film. As such, High Plains Drifter served well as an important early moment in the learning curve of Clint Eastwood’s directing career. I wouldn’t call it a classic in its own right, but it’s certainly worth seeing as part of a study of Eastwood and his evolution over nearly 60 years in the movie business at this point. Given the high quality of the picture on this disc, and given what viewers may learn by seeing it, I Recommend this disc for purchase by those interested. Fans of Clint Eastwood have no doubt already done so. More casual viewers are encouraged to at least rent the disc – to enjoy the transfer and see the work of a filmmaker in transition from acting out the stories in front of the camera to telling the stories from behind it.High Plains Drifter was released on Blu-ray on October 15th. The Blu-ray edition contains a new high definition transfer, and instructions for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie. A standard definition trailer for the movie is also included.


    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    High Plains Drifter is presented in a 2.35:1 1080p AVC encode that is truly a pleasure to watch. Beyond the shimmering heatwaves seen at the movie’s start and close, there are some startling bursts of color – particularly involving the locals literally painting the town red. The closing showdown, backlit by fire, still shows off plenty of detail where needed, and inky blacks where appropriate. There have been plenty of times where Universal has had issues with its high definition transfers in the past. I am pleased to say that this is not one of those times.



    Audio Rating: 5/5

    High Plains Drifter gets an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which mostly lives in the front channels but uses the surrounds for some atmospheric effects and blasts of the score. The mix is a solid one, adding depth where it can, but not in an intrusive manner. The Blu-ray also holds a French 2.0 DTS mix.


    Special Features Rating: 1/5

    High Plains Drifter includes only the bare minimum of special features. A standard definition trailer for the movie is on the disc, and the packaging includes instructions for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy.Trailer (2:19, 480p) – A standard definition copy of the trailer for the movie is included on the disc. If anything, it illustrates the jump in quality represented by the transfer of the movie itself.Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging has an insert that contains instructions for downloading a digital or ultraviolet copy of the movie. The other side of the insert is an advertisement for individual releases of the Alfred Hitchcock Blu-rays I reviewed here last year.The movie is subtitled in English and Spanish. The usual pop-up menu is present, including a complete chapter menu.


    Overall Rating: 4/5

    High Plains Drifter is not a classic Western, nor is it a classic Clint Eastwood movie. But it is important to understand this movie if one is to understand the later, more evolved material Eastwood would direct years later. As a story, it’s a simple, brutal tale of vengeance finding a sorry small town in the Old West. There are moments of greater complexity here and there, but nothing that detracts from the basics of a standard “Man With No Name” action film. The new Blu-ray has been given a truly lovely high definition transfer, making this a likely must-purchase for fans of Clint Eastwood’s career. This release is Recommended for purchase by more casual fans – both on the strength of the transfer and on the lesson this movie may provide for students of film directing in general.


    Reviewed By: Kevin EK


    Support HTF when you buy this title:

     
  2. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    17,078
    Likes Received:
    1,795
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    This is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies, along with being one of the strangest Westerns of all times. Pale Rider is probably the most well known Western ghost story -- if that's what this is -- but this one goes to more bizarre places. The sense of foreboding in present from the first shot, and stays with you through to the credits.Glad to hear the picture and audio quality are top notch. Thanks for the review.
     
  3. Brett_M

    Brett_M Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Messages:
    1,397
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Mos Eisley Spaceport
    Real Name:
    Brett Meyer
    This is one of my faves, too. I think your review sells it a bit short, in fact. This is an eerie tale of a demon of retribution. View it again with that in mind.
     
  4. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Messages:
    3,035
    Likes Received:
    494
    I was trying to dance around that part and not spoil too much for the viewer who hadn't seen it.

    It's certainly a beautifully shot movie, which is why I was happy to see it get such a nice transfer. I just think Clint Eastwood's later westerns were stronger entries. And I really do find it instructive to look over the broad range of Eastwood's career as a director. You get these great movies along the way - Bird, Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, but you also get more pedestrian fare as well - The Gauntlet, White Hunter Black Heart, The Rookie, True Crime, etc. He's pretty much acted and directed in every possible genre over 60 years. And he even scores his own movies these days. I remember reading a review of one of his more offbeat movies in the monthly Z Magazine - Firefox, I think - and the reviewer was noting that Eastwood could have played it safe and just done a bunch of Dirty Harry and Man With No Name movies. But he didn't play it safe - he tried a whole lot of different things, some of which have worked, some of which have not. So in the end, he isn't just remembered as Dirty Harry Callahan. That's part of the equation but there are plenty of more interesting movies in his resume, all of which are available to us on Blu at this point, I think.
     
  5. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    392
    Likes Received:
    114
    Location:
    the wet coast
    Real Name:
    Jon Paul
    I agree with Brett, above, in that I always thought the main character in the movie was supposed to be supernatural, perhaps even an avatar or henchman of the Devil, showing the townspeople what is was like to reap where they had previously sown. I'm not sure that interpretation really works, not 100%, but I did think that's what the film was striving for, and for sure it has a definitely creepy vibe, right from the opening, as Adam says. Weird and offbeat, for a western, but the 60s and 70s were open to all sorts of revisionist westerns.
     

Share This Page