The hanging was the best show in town. But they made two mistakes. They hung the wrong man... and they didn't finish the job!Hang 'Em High
is a 1968 western, starring Clint Eastwood
, but not directed by him.
The action starts off with Jed Cooper
being wrongfully accused by nine men of murder and stealing cattle, who then proceed to lynch him—but not very well
; he lives long enough for a passing sheriff to come cut him down. His story of being a one-time lawman for St. Louis checks out, and the judge offers him a job as his marshal—with the understanding that he bring in the men who lynched him alive.
Hang 'Em High provides examples of:
- Big Bad: Captain Wilson, who leads the vigilantes.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: The nine vigilantes display shades of this, and the third mistake becomes their undoing.
Captain Wilson: All right, now that makes three mistakes we've made. The money, we hung an innocent man, and we didn't finish the job. We can't undo the first two... but we can still finish the job.
- Circuit Judge
- Determinator: Jed.
- Evil Overlord List: Upon simply leaving Jed to die after hanging him, the vigilantes broke Rule 13 (relevant parts shown here): "All slain enemies will... have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff."
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: After surviving the hanging, Jed goes through the rest of the story with a large scar across his neck.
- Hanging Judge: Judge Fenton is one of these, though he believes he is entirely justified.
- Kirk Summation: The reason why one of the men scheduled to be hanged en masse (unsuccessfully) uses his last request to try to get the deliverer (a God-fearing young man who was truly repentant for the crimes he got caught up in) of said summation to shut up.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The vigilantes are brought to justice by the man they tried to hang. Turns out, he used to work for law enforcement in St. Louis. Also, the man that framed him gets hanged for the crime that nearly got pinned on him, and he gets to watch the execution from the sheriff's office.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang: Jed's botched hanging is what sets off the whole plot.
- Minion with an F in Evil: One character, realizing they'd hung an innocent man, gives himself up to the Judge and is only imprisoned. At the end of the episode Jed insists that he be released (as he's dying in prison condiditons) if he's going to continue working for the Judge.
- Only Mostly Dead: The protagonist in the opening scene.
- Rape and Revenge: A woman who'd been raped after seeing her husband murdered examines every prisoner brought it to see if she recognises any of them. Averted when she forgoes her mission of revenge to make a new life with Jed.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted.
- Averted at first in that the judge makes it clear to Cooper he wants the nine who hanged him alive. Problem is, some of those nine men are not going to go quietly.
- The whole movie makes it clear that revenge isn't as clean as the characters thought it would be.
- The Rustler
- Shut Up, Kirk!: During the mass hanging, in the form of a last request. It doesn't work.
- Title Drop
- Turn in Your Badge: After the Big Bad hangs himself, Jed does this on his own initiative and retires to a quiet life with his family until the judge needs his services as deputy again.
- Worthy Opponent: The Judge considers Jed this due to their differing views on Justice. He even made a big speech that pretty much stated that he had been waiting for someone like Jed to work for him specifically to Tell him off.
Judge Fenton: You think I judged him too harshly? Used him for kindling my fire of justice? Well, maybe that's inevitable when there's only one man, one court, with the power of final justice over a territory that's five times the size of most states. Mistakes? Oh, I've made 'em, Cooper. Don't you doubt about that. Don't you doubt, either, there are times sitting up there in that judgement seat I wished, I prayed, that there was someone standing between me and God Almighty - someone with the power to say, "You're wrong, Fenton. You've made an error in law - that this man deserves another trial, this man here a reprieve, this man is innocent." But until this territory becomes a state with a governor and a state court of appeals, I am the law here - all the law. If you don't like that, you can cuss me till hell freezes over... or you can join me, Cooper; even fight me. Help me turn this God forsaken territory into a state where no one man calls himself the law.