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"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
Man 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 The Man With No Name trilogy and High Plains Drifter
Pale Rider provides examples of:
- As the Good Book Says...
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Stockburn, the marshal
- Back From the Dead: Strongly implied.
- Badass Preacher
- 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.
- Chekhov's Gun: Bison model
- Combat Pragmatist: The Preacher
- Conservation of Ninjutsu
- Dead All Along: Much to the shock of Stockburn.
- Defeat Means Friendship / Heel Face Turn: Club ends up helping the Preacher in one of the last fights of the film, grabbing LaHood's son as he's about to shoot Preacher In the Back.
- Determined Prospector Family
- Did They or Didn't They?: Preacher and Sarah.
- The Dragon: Stockburn
- The Drifter
- 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.
- Groin Attack: Apparently the Preacher's not above this...
- The Gunslinger: Plenty of 'em.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Hey look! It's Jaws!
- Hired Guns
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: See Title Drop.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Narrowly averted.
- 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
- 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.
- He was discrete with Sarah. He shut the door of the stable and put the light out.
- Of course, being that he's probably a ghost, it's possible that he can't return their feelings, physically or otherwise.
- Mysterious Past
- 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
- Plucky Girl: Megan
- Precocious Crush: Megan to Preacher.
- Rape, Pillage and Burn: The raping is absent, but pillaging and burning appear in the beginning of the film, courtesy of the Big Bad's mooks.
- The raping comes later, but the preacher intervenes to stop it going the course.
- Recycled Premise
- Rescue Introduction: The Preacher and Hull first meet when the Preacher rescues him from a bunch of thugs.
- Romancing the Widow: Hull and Sarah
- Romantic Runner-Up: Hull, initially
- Scenery Porn
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Sarah ends up with Hull
- Smitten Teenage Girl
- Stealth Hi Bye: Done all the time by Preacher to imply his supernatural nature.
- Stock Quotes: See Title Drop
- Took a Level In Badass Hull
- Title Drop: "I looked and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider was named Death."
- The Un-Reveal
- You!: When Stockburn finally comes face to face with the Preacher, he just emits a shocked "You!" before drawing his gun.