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Western films, from silent to today

Pale Rider (1985)

Pale Rider (1985) poster A small group of miners have set up camp in Carbon Canyon with their families, hoping to find gold.

But local land baron Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) wants the canyon for his own and can’t move in his hydraulic mining operation until the miners leave.

His last raid has wrecked the camp of the “tin pans” — his derisive nicknam for the small band — and nearly broken their spirits.

Megan Wheeler (Sydney Penny), a pretty 14-year-old, watched her pet dog gunned down in the raid. While burying her pet, she prays for a miracle.

Behold, a pale horse appear. And on its back rides a man who becomes known as The Preacher because of the preacher’s collar around his neck.

But it soon becomes apparent this is no ordinary preacher. When four or five of LaHood’s ruffians try to rough up Hull Barrett (Michael Moriarty), The Preacher whips them all with a stick of hickory. And when Coy’s son Josh (Chris Penn) sics the hulking Club on the Preacher, he whips him too.

But LaHood has an ace up his sleeve — a lawman named Stockburn (John Russell) who sells his law to the highest bidder. And he comes complete with a band of six killers for deputies.


This marked Eastwood’s only Western of the 1980s and the return of the mysterious stranger we met in “Fistful of Dollars” and that he brought back in “High Plains Drifter.”

But the plot — right down to the final scene — is more reminescent of “Shane” as the stranger helps pull together a band of settlers under the thumb of a more powerful man, then winds up taking the law into his own hands.

Of course, Shane didn’t have bullet scars all over his back. Or a main adversary who swore he was killed before.

A bit jarring is the fact that both woman in miner Hull Barrett’s wife — Sarah Wheeler and her young daughter Megan — wind up batting eyes at the preacher.

Then there’s a silly scene in which LaHood’s henchmen storm into a cafe where The Preacher is having a cup of coffee and start emptying their gun barrells into nothing. Then, of course, The Preacher shows up.

But all in all, it makes for a highly entertaining, well-acted Western at a time when those were few and far between.

Clint Eastwood as The Preacher in Pale Rider (1985) Directed by:
Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood … Preacher
Michael Moriarty … Hull Barret
Carrie Snodgress … Sarah Wheeler
Sydney Penny … Megan Wheeler
Chris Penn … Josh LaHood
Richard Dysart … Coy LaHood
Richard Keil … Club
Doug McGrath … Spider Conway
John Russell .. Stockburn
Charles Hallahn … McGill
Marvin J. McIntyre .. Jagou
Fran Ryan … Ma Blankenship
Richard Hamilton … Jed Blankenship
Graham Paul … Ev Gossage
Chuck LaFont … Eddie Conway
Jeffrey Weissman … Teddy Conway
Allen Keller … Tyson
Randy Oglesby … Elam
Herman Poppe … Urik Lindquist
Kathleen Wygle … Bess Gossage
Terrence Evans … Jake Henderson
Jim Hitson … Biggs
Loren Adkins … Bossy
Thomas H. Friedkin … Miner Tom
S.A. Griffin … Deputy Folke
Jack Rodosta .. Deputy Grissom
Robert Winley … Deputy Kobold
Billy Drago … Deputy Mather
Jeffrey Josephson … Deputy Sedge
John Dennis Johnston … Deputy Tucker

Runtime: 115 min.

Memorable lines:

Josh LaHood: “Here you messed up some of my boys, preach.”
The Preacher: “Nothing personal.”
LaHood: “Well, I hope you won’t take it personal when we tell you to get the hell out of Carbon Canyon then.”
Preacher: “Well, there’s a lot of sinners here abouts. You wouldn’t want me to leave before I finish my work, would you?”

Coy LaHood: “When I left for Sacramento, those tin pans had all but given up. Their spirit was nearly broken. And a man without spirit is whipped. But a preacher — he could give them faith. Shit. One ounce of faith and they’ll be dug in deeper than tics on a hound.”

Spider Conway: “One nugget. I’d like to find me one big nugget. I’d shove it so far up LaHood’s ass, it’d wink at him when he brushes his teeth.”

The Preacher: “Only by standing together are you going to beat the LaHoods of the world. No matter what happens tomorrow, remember that.”

Michael Moriarty as Hull Barrett with Sydney Penny as Megan Wheeler and Carrie Snodgress as her mother Sarah in Pale Rider (1985)

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