M | | Drama, Western
When an innocent man barely survives a lynching, he returns as a lawman determined to bring the vigilantes to justice.
This film represents what might be called the third phase in western stars. The first were represented in the silent films by such stars as William S. Hart, who actually grew up during the days of the wild west and played highly dramatic versions of the western hero. Theirs was an era in which the new medium of film provided adventure in an era in which three-quarters of Americans lived in rural settings. The second were the singing cowboys such as Gene Autry, who introduced a very light-hearted and stylized image, which offered both fun and escapism during the grinding years of the Great Depression. The third was represented by John Wayne, who played serious figures in serious situations, which suited the mood of the post-war era. Spanning a period of roughly thirty years, its reign, along with that of Wayne, was the longest to date.
In this film, Clint Eastwood introduced a greatly modernized cowboy in stories very similar to the John Wayne films but far more earnest. His slender figure and flat, wide-brimmed hat (bearing a strong resemblance to the character of Hipshot in the popular Rick O'Shay comic strip) was a breath of fresh air in a genre that had been greatly waning in popularity in a society in which baby boomers were reaching maturity.
I'm gonna have to carry ya, huh?
When Cooper is marched to the 'paddywagon,' one mule is seen hitched behind the wagon. It then disappears, and when the wagon moves, two mules are seen.
As with many westerns at the time the UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC to reduce facial closeups during the opening lynching and to edit Cooper's fight with Miller. Later video/DVD releases were intact.