Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Produced by||Clint Eastwood|
|Written by||Michael Butler
|Music by||Lennie Niehaus|
|Editing by||Joel Cox|
|Studio||The Malpaso Company|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||June 26, 1985|
|Running time||116 minutes|
Pale Rider is a 1985 American western film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also stars in the lead role. This movie bears similarities to previous Eastwood films featuring his Man with No Name character and his 1973 western High Plains Drifter. The title is a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as the rider of a pale horse is Death. The film also featured Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Christopher Penn, Richard Dysart, and Richard Kiel.
The film opens near the fictional town of Lahood, California, in the 1880s (based on remarks in the film about outlawing hydraulic mining), where a group of struggling miners and their families are panning for gold. However, thugs sent by rival big-time miner Coy Lahood arrive and shoot up the camp, destroying tents and huts as well. Megan Wheeler, a 14-year old girl there, is horrified when the thugs shoot her dog. The thugs leave the camp torn up and nearly destroyed. Megan buries her dog out in the woods, and prays to God for help. After she prays, we see a stranger heading to the town on horseback.
Megan's mother, Sarah, is keeping company with Hull Barret, the leader of the miners. Hull heads off into town to pick up supplies, but the same thugs start to beat him up. The stranger arrives and swiftly beats up all of the thugs single handedly with a mattock handle. Hull thanks the stranger and invites him to his house, and the stranger reluctantly agrees. Sarah is skeptical of the stranger and is concerned the trouble it may bring. Her mind and that of the daughter are quickly assured when the pale rider appears wearing a clerical collar and is shown to be unarmed, and therefore gets the name of Preacher. The Preacher helps the miners pan for gold and peacefully keeps the thugs from returning to the camp.
The Preacher eventually meets Coy LaHood's son Josh, who attempts to scare the Preacher with a show of strength from his strongest work hand, Club, who smashes with one blow of a hammer a large rock that the Preacher and Hull had been laboring over. When Club attempts to harm the Preacher, the Preacher disarms him, hits him in the face and delivers a hammer blow to Club's groin. After helping Club back onto his horse, the Preacher sends Josh and Club on their way. Coy LaHood finds out about the Preacher through his son, and out of fear of making him a martyr amongst the pan handlers, instead of killing the Preacher, he decides to try to bribe him with money and a church in hopes he will leave the camp, but the Preacher refuses. The Preacher asks if LaHood would be willing to buy the miners out and gets a final offer of $1,000 per claim. If the miners don't leave within 24 hours, LaHood will hire a corrupt Marshal named Stockburn to clear them out.
The miners initially want to take the offer, and ask the Preacher for his advice. He offers little, but Hull reminds them why they came, and what they have sacrificed. The miners decide to stay and fight. The next morning, however, the Preacher deserts the miners, leaving them scared and alone without any help. Megan, who has grown fond of the Preacher, also heads out looking for him, but Josh captures her and attempts to rape her. Club sees what is happening and disapproves, and so moves forward to help her before Josh can do anything serious. At this moment the Preacher arrives on horseback armed with a Remington revolver, and shoots Josh in the hand. The Preacher takes Megan back to her mother in the mining camp.
Stockburn arrives and he and his gang gun down one of the miners, Spider, who was drunkenly excoriating LaHood from the street. LaHood describes the Preacher to Stockburn, and Stockburn says that he sounds like someone that he once knew, but couldn't be, because that man is dead.
The Preacher teams up with Hull and they go to LaHood's mining facility and blow it up with dynamite. In the chaos, Josh LaHood attempts to shoot the Preacher in the back but is stopped by Club out of respect for the Preacher. To stop Hull from following him into battle, the Preacher scares off Hull's horse. The Preacher heads out alone into town where he kills all but two of Coy's thugs. Stockburn then sends his deputies after the Preacher, who shoots all of them one by one throughout town. The Preacher approaches Stockburn and only when he is a few feet away does Stockburn recognize him, crying "You! YOU!" Stockburn reaches for his gun, but the Preacher draws first and empties his gun into Stockburn. As a dying Stockburn tries to raise his gun, the Preacher retrieves a backup pistol and finishes off Stockburn with a shot to the forehead. Coy Lahood, watching from a nearby store, aims a rifle at the Preacher, but Hull comes in through a back door and kills Coy.
The Preacher rides his horse out of a barn. He looks at Hull, who is surveying the remains of the battle and mutters to him, "Long walk." Hull responds with a simple, "Yep." The Preacher smirks and rides off into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Megan gets to the town, but the Preacher has already left. As he rides off into the mountains, Megan cries out to him shouting her thanks and words of love.
- Clint Eastwood as "Preacher"
- Michael Moriarty as Hull Barret
- Carrie Snodgress as Sarah Wheeler
- Richard Dysart as Coy LaHood
- Christopher Penn as Josh LaHood
- Sydney Penny as Megan Wheeler
- Richard Kiel as Club
- Doug McGrath as Spider Conway
- Jeffrey Weissman as Teddy Conway
- John Russell as Marshal Stockburn
- S. A. Griffin as Deputy Folke
- Billy Drago as Deputy Mather
- Charles Hallahan as McGill
- Marvin J. McIntyre as Jagou
- Fran Ryan as Ma Blankenship
- Richard Hamilton as Pa Blankenship
Pale Rider was primarily filmed in the Boulder Mountains and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in central Idaho, just north of Sun Valley in late 1984. The opening credits scene featured the jagged Sawtooth Mountains south of Stanley. Train-station scenes were filmed in Tuolumne County, California, near Jamestown. Scenes of a more established Gold Rush town (in which Eastwood's character picks up his pistol at a Wells Fargo office) were filmed in the real Gold Rush town of Columbia, also in Tuolumne County, California.
Supernatural overtones 
In an audio interview, Clint Eastwood revealed that his character Preacher "is an out-and-out ghost". But whereas High Plains Drifter resolves the supernatural story-line by means of a series of unfolding flash back narratives (although ambiguity still remains), Pale Rider does not include any such obvious clues to the nature and past of the 'Preacher'. One is left to draw one's own conclusions regarding the overall story line and its meaning.
Pale Rider also uses religious and spiritual language. Most notably, the movie's title is a reference to the fourth and most sinister of God's avenging angels of the Apocalypse who rides a pale horse, as told in The Book of Revelation, chapter 6, verse 8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." The reading of the biblical passage describing this character is neatly choreographed to correspond with the sudden appearance of the Preacher, who arrived as a result of a prayer from 14-year-old Megan (Sydney Penny), in which she quoted Psalm 23. The main opponent of the Preacher is called Stockburn, whose name refers to hell. Eastwood's comment after beating one of the villains is, "Well, the Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways." After the temptation to shift his ministry to the town, Preacher says, "You can't serve God and Mammon, Mammon being money." Eastwood himself has admitted that the film contains a great number of biblical parallels. According to Robert Jewett the film's dialogue parallels Paul's teaching on divine retribution (Romans 12:19-21).
Pale Rider was released in the United States in June 1985, and became the highest grossing western of the 1980s. The film received positive reviews, and currently holds a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert praised the film, giving it four out of four stars.
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- Hughes, p.36
- "Clint Eastwood.net Filmography / Pale Rider". Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- Clive Marsh, Gaye Ortiz, Explorations in theology and film: movies and meaning, Blackwell Publishers 1997 (reprint 2001), p. 68
- Hughes, p.38
- "Pale Rider (1985)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
- "Pale Rider movie info". Mooviees!. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
- "Disasters Outnumber Movie Hits". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
- "Festival de Cannes: Pale Rider". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Pale Rider at the Internet Movie Database
- Pale Rider at Rotten Tomatoes
- Pale Rider at the TCM Movie Database
- Pale Rider at AllRovi