The story begins as a mysterious stranger (Eastwood) materializes out of the desert heat. He rides into the small town of Lago, where his presence is considered a threat by the mean and cowardly populace. Before too long, he is attacked by three gunmen, and Eastwood kills them all coolly and efficiently. The stranger then rents a hotel room, and the town midget, Curtis (who is also disenfranchised in town due to his size), attends to his needs. At night, Eastwood's dreams are plagued by a recurring nightmare of a helpless man being whipped to death in the street by three sadistic sadistic mining company enforcers while the townsfolk stand by and do nothing to stop it.
Meanwhile, the town council debates how to handle the impending threat created by a group of convicts, who are about to be released after a year in prison. They intend to return to the scene of their crimes — Lago — and destroy it. Desperate, the town's leaders cautiously approach Eastwood and plead with him to save their town from the vengeful enforcers. Eastwood agrees to help them, but then proceeds to turn the town on its head by teaching self-defense and requesting all sorts of strange things from the townsfolk, including having them paint the town red and rename it "Hell."
An eerie, supernatural western that takes the avenging man-with-no-name character created by Eastwood and Leone to its most logical extreme. Eastwood would later bury the character completely in his own THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES only to have him rise like the Phoenix, redefined as a much more human,
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Eastwood directs his first Western, and it's a knockout. HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is a morality tale carved out of the harsh Western desert and directed with a panache that synthesized the styles of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, two directors who had worked with Eastwood frequently. The result is one of the best Westerns of the 1970s.