In “Pale Rider, the lonely rider”, Clint Eastwood lends his features to an enigmatic vigilante. If this hero faces his enemies without blinking, his interpreter has experienced more complications during the filming, due to a horse accident.
Pale Rider : a triumphant return to the western
When he starts filming Pale Rider, the lonely rider in the fall of 1984, in the mountains of Idaho, Clint Eastwood returned to the genre that revealed him and from which he deviated for eight years. Since 1976 and Josey Wales Outlaw, the director and actor no longer ventured into the western side, except with the contemporary Bronco Billy.
For this new foray, the filmmaker signs a film at the crossroads of two references. By adopting the point of view of a teenage girl instead of that of a little boy, and by pitting miners against artisanal miners instead of farmers resisting stanchions, the feature film is openly inspired by The man of the lost valleys.
Like the character of Shane played by Alan Ladd in the George Stevens classic, an enigmatic Preacher suddenly appears in California to help an oppressed community. And the entry on the scene, the troubled past and the lack of identity of this vigilante returned from the dead – as his scars suggest – evoke the main character of The Man of the High Plains, first western directed and also worn by Clint Eastwood in 1973.
Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Sydney Penny, Chris Penn, Richard Kiel, Richard Dysart and John Russell round out the cast of Pale Rider. After the chilly reception of the comedy High the guns!, the film allows its headliner to reconnect with criticism. the Time Magazine even goes so far as to qualify the star as“American icon” when leaving.
Exploring a myth
It must be said that the Preacher, whom Clint Eastwood describes as a “ghost”, ends up setting up his interpreter in essential and mythical figure of the western after his collaborations with Sergio Leone on the Dollar Trilogy. A myth that the filmmaker deconstructed piece by piece in 1992 with Ruthless, by focusing in particular on the marks left by violence and by questioning the notion of legend.
Disembarking in full recitation of the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Preacher symbolizes death. He inflicts it on his enemies without blinking and without the slightest difficulty. Unlike the cynical and ultra violent Stranger of The Man of the High Plains or the northern corporal in The preys, the character shows benevolence towards the gold diggers. If he does not lack ambiguity and mystery, he stands out as a solitary hero, invisible and almost supernatural, working both out of goodness of heart but also to satisfy a secret vengeance.
Clint Eastwood’s “Worst Injury of Career”
On screen, the lone rider does not seem to no time in danger in Pale Rider. But behind the scenes, things aren’t that easy for Clint Eastwood. During an interview with the National Public Radio in 2008 for the promotion of Gran Torino, the director and actor is questioned about “the worst injury of his career”, linked to “a fight or a stunt”. He then said about an incident during the filming of the western:
I think the worst part is a dislocated shoulder, but it wasn’t from a stunt. I was riding on an ice field, and the horse’s hooves went through the ice, it rolled, and I was thrown. I landed on some rocks and had a dislocated shoulder. It was the last shot of the day, and it was a good time for it to be the last shot. The worst part is that I had to sit in a van and drive for about an hour, an hour and a half, to get to the hospital and put it back on. So it was a long drive.
This does not prevent Clint Eastwood from continuing to work, continuing to shoot using mainly his left hand.