Although Clint Eastwood hasn’t signed up for another sequel of The Prophecy (well, at least not yet), he does have two Westerns that dabble in the supernatural under his well-worn belt. We’re not talking about a little harmless fun with Ouija boards either: In both High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider (1985), Clint Eastwood assumes the role of a ruthless avenging angel who returns from the dead in the form of a menacing gunslinger sent back to exorcise the demons of a corrupt world. Coincidence?
The similarities don’t end there. In fact, there’s so many parallels
between the two films that they should really be viewed as two parts of
a whole, like an apocalyptic diptych by Hieronymus Bosch. The Revelation-style rhetoric is so strong you can practically smell the fire and brimstone.
To recap: In High Plains Drifter,
Eastwood appears out of the desert to enact Judgment Day on the town of
Lago: he renames the town Hell, setting up a scenario that ends with
bloody retribution for the guilty and the town burning clear to the
ground. (There’s also the continual suggestion that he may be the reincarnation of Lago’s whipped-to-death former sheriff.)
Meanwhile, Eastwood’s first appearance in Pale Rider comes
right after a child prays for help from mining-company goons. They’re
trying to run off a group of independent prospectors, see? Shortly
thereafter, Eastwood comes back to fight for justice, reminding the
thugs of a man they once killed – with a flurry of bullet-holes on his
back, in case things weren’t clear enough. Second coming, anyone?
Besides such notable entries as Grim Prairie Tales and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula
(!), mash-ups between the Western and Horror genres are few and far
between. If they come at all, they usually go straight to video or come
wrapped in high camp. But like the actor’s steely gaze and
uncompromising principles, Eastwood’s pair of supernatural movies are
the real, spooky deal.