Hang ‘Em High (1968)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 1968. , . Screenplay by , . Cinematography by , . Produced by Leonard Freeman. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , , . Film Editing by .

is guiding a recently purchased herd of cattle across a river when a group of men set upon him, accusing him of having killed the farmer he bought the herd from before stringing him up on a tree branch to die.

He’s cut down before death by , who brings him to town to face famous “hanging judge” , by which time the error of the accusation against our squinting hero has been revealed and he is released from police custody.

Sensing that Clint has intentions of taking the law into his own hands to get back at the men who tried to kill him, Hingle makes him a federal marshal so that he can arrest them all officially on behalf the government, after which Eastwood gets astride his horse and goes in search of each and every one of his offenders.

After arresting one in his place of business and gunning down another in a bar, Eastwood captures and his two sons after they commit murder and rustle their own herd of cattle, bringing them back to be tried in a court of law, but in doing so finds that Hingle might be as perverted in his sense of justice as the men who tried to lynch him.

There’s still excitement on the wild, western horizon, however, as heroic Clint almost gets killed in a gun battle before seeking out the surviving members of the crew at large (led by ), fulfilling the desire to get vigilante justice while still brandishing his badge.

A marvelous cast and a terrific visual background provide a great deal of energy to this familiar but very enjoyable western, where Eastwood’s Republican distrust of big government is combined rather strangely with director Ted Post’s cynical presentation of the Wild West as less the playground for glamorous adventure and more a chaotic hellmouth where lawlessness is out of control and morality is nowhere to be found.

Post doesn’t get the simmering rage beneath the cool surface that Eastwood often achieves in his collaborations with Don Siegel (or when directing himself), but there’s never a shot where he doesn’t look magnificent. What it boils down to in the end, when the main character has to make a choice between duty and desire, is anyone’s guess, but between the glamour of the star and the escapism of the scenario, you’ll still have a good time.


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