"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."
A gunslinging drifter
befriends a determined frontier family
and is especially idolized by their child. Their livelihood is threatened by a bigger, more powerful company that seeks to drive them off their land by either force and intimidation, or simply buying them out. The Drifter
fights for the family and defeats the Corrupt Corporate Executive
and his mooks
, but ultimately leaves his friends behind and continues a life of drifting.No, this is not Shane
. This is Pale Rider
, a Western directed by and starring Clint Eastwood
. Eastwood is cast as a Preacher With No Name
who crosses paths with a band of hapless gold miners hoping to strike it rich. The miners are often harassed by thugs hired by La Hood
, the Corrupt Corporate Executive
of a local mining company, who hopes to drive them off the land.
Most of the miners are about to give in—except for spunky protagonist Megan
, her mother, and their friend Hull Barret—when the Preacher shows up. The Preacher intervenes on Hull's behalf, saving him from La Hood's mooks
. With some convincing from Hull and Megan, the rest of the miners unite behind the Preacher against La Hood. Unfortunately, La Hood also recognizes the threat posed by the Preacher and in retaliation he hires Stockburn
, a corrupt marshal
with a deadly posse. It seems as though Stockburn and the Preacher have a history.
The film is notable for being one of the very few Eastwood films to have strong religious and supernatural overtones. Many of its elements are derived from or similar to earlier Eastwood Westerns, namely Dollars Trilogy
and High Plains Drifter
Pale Rider provides examples of:
- As the Good Book Says: Throughout the film (as can be expected when the hero is "The Preacher"), but especially the passage from Revelation (the page quote) that Megan and her mother read as The Preacher rides in.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Stockburn, the marshal, is a villainous take on the trope.
- Back from the Dead: Strongly implied, if the six bullet wounds on The Preacher's back are any indication.
- Badass Longcoat: Stockburn's entire posse wears matching brown coats. When they're all standing in a line looking down at a victim, it's pretty intimidating.
- The Preacher has a Badass duster himself, though he usually wears it closed. Until he takes up his guns....
- Badass Preacher: Comes with having Clint Eastwood play him. Even before he takes up his guns, he manages to keep the La Hoods at bay via mental intimidation.
- Better as Friends: Megan's not too happy with this response.
- The Brute: Club (played by Richard Kiel) is brought in to intimidate Preacher, but falls to a well-aimed Groin Attack.
- Combat Pragmatist: The Preacher is quite clever with his use of surroundings. And instead of fighting Club when they first meet, he manipulates him to help split a rock he an Hull were trying to break.
- The Dragon: Stockburn, when he shows up, becomes this to La Hood.
- Duel to the Death: The finale ends up being Stockburn vs. Preacher
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Preacher. Nobody bothers to ask for his real name throughout the whole film.
- Heel-Face Turn: Initially content to be a Mook for La Hood, Club turns around upon witnessing Megan's near-assault by one of the La Hood sons, and then helps The Preacher and Hull destroy the La Hood mine system.
- Groin Attack: Apparently the Preacher's not above this...
- The Gunslinger: The Preacher seemingly was one, and takes up his guns again to defeat Stockburn and La Hood. Stockburn and his men also count.
- Hired Guns: Hull sort-of hires The Preacher with room and board. La Hood hires Stockburn and his boys.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Title Drop invokes this in its parallel with The Preacher's arrival.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Narrowly averted. The Preacher saves Megan in time.
- It's All My Fault: When Preacher suddenly disappears, Megan is convinced that he'd left because of their fight earlier.
- It's Personal: Implied, between Stockburn and the Preacher.
- Kick the Dog: The thugs shoot a girl's pet puppy in the opening scene. Later on, Stockburn's gang kills one of the miners.
- Love Confession: Megan and her mother both give one to The Preacher.
- Love Triangle: Both Megan and her mother have romantic interest in the Preacher, oddly enough. But he doesn't seem to return the feelings for either of them. Of course, being that he's probably a ghost, it's possible that he can't return their feelings, physically or otherwise.
- Mysterious Past: We never know for sure just who The Preacher is, the exact nature of his past encounters with Stockburn, or even whether he's really a preacher. It's implied his near-death experience (if that's what it was...) was what led to him hanging up his guns and taking up the cloth...but even that's speculation.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: Megan to Preacher at the end
- Nice Guy: Hull's a great guy, just really bland compared to the badass Preacher.
- No Name Given: Just "The Preacher". Not even Stockburn says his "real" name.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Pillaging and burning appear in the beginning of the film, courtesy of the bad guy's mooks. The raping comes later, but the preacher intervenes to stop it going the course.
- Recycled Premise: The film can come across as a loose remake of Shane.
- Rescue Introduction: The Preacher and Hull first meet when the Preacher rescues him from a bunch of thugs.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Done all the time by Preacher to imply his supernatural nature.
- You! Exclamation: When Stockburn finally comes face to face with the Preacher, he just emits a shocked "You!" before drawing his gun.