Friday, March 26, 2010

Clint Eastwood's film High Plains Drifter (1973)

The first time I saw High Plains Drifter was probably in the late 1970s. Clint Eastwood stars in and directs the film. Most westerns are either about cattle drives or cowboys and Indians. High Plains Drifter is different: this is a God's-Judgment-on-the-wicked western.

Clint Eastwood plays a stranger who rides into the town of Lago--and he has a really bad attitude. This stranger is also very good with a side arm. During the course of the film, the stranger ends up killing some bad guys and burning the town of Lago to the ground. There are a couple of flashbacks of one Marshal Jim Duncan being whipped to death.  At the end of the film, the audience can see that the stranger was the Second Coming of Marshal Duncan:

The stranger rides out of the town of Lago past the cemetery. This little guy named Mordecai is writing something on a grave marker. 

The stranger looks at Mordecai and Mordecai looks up and says, "I'm almost done here."

Then Mordecai asks the stranger, "I never did know your name."

And the stranger replies, "Yes, you do."

As the stranger rides off, the camera shows the grave marker: "Marshal Jim Duncan."

There is a lot of sin (unrepented sin) in the United States and in the world. When people continue to live in sin, eventually God's Judgment falls. The more people try to hide their sin, the greater God's Judgment. The people of Lago tried to hide the murder of Marshal Duncan, but their sin was found out. You can't hide from God.

There is a scene in High Plains Drifter where this lady tells the stranger, "Ever since Marshal Duncan's death, the people in this town are afraid of strangers."

"When the Stranger says: 'What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?'
What will you answer? 'We all dwell together
To make money from each other'? or 'This is a community'?

"Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

"There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger."

--T.S. Eliot
Choruses from "The Rock"


There is another scene in High Plains Drifter where the people of Lago are meeting at the church. One of the guys is speaking in the front of the church. The camera then pans to the right and shows a bulletin board with this Scripture:

Isaiah 53: 3-4: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

The Days of Vengeance

Marshal Jim Duncan was whipped to death; Jesus Christ was at least nine-tenths whipped to death. The stranger riding into Lago (the first scene of the film) is a symbol of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: not as the Lamb of God, but as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

Isaiah 63: 1-6: "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth."

Luke 21: 22:  "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled."

I Thessalonians 5:2:  "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."

The Killer Angels
The Second Coming


  1. Isaiah 66: 15-16: "For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many."

  2. This is an email that I sent to Dominic Lennard:

    To: The Western Review--Dominic Lennard
    From: Tim Shey (
    Sent: Sun 9/25/11 2:26 PM
    To: The Western Review--Dominic Lennard (


    I just read your review of the film High Plains Drifter. I thought your review was excellent. High Plains Drifter is one of my favorite films. I have hitchhiked through Lee Vining (Mono Lake--where High Plains Drifter was filmed), California many times over the years. I have been hitchhiking the United States for most of 15 years now.

    In your review, you said something very interesting--I had never seen it before--and I have seen High Plains Drifter many times:

    "The focus on guilt and atonement in High Plains Drifter, for example, seems to go some way to explaining why the town of Lago apparently contains no children--typically symbols of innocence in adult cinema."

    I had never noticed that there were NO children in High Plains Drifter. Maybe the absence of children in the film also means that the town of Lago was a morally sterile place where it was impossible to beget children ("children" meaning a blessing from God). Lago was not a blessed place and was awaiting God's judgment (the arrival of The Stranger [Eastwood] on horseback) for the murder of Marshall Duncan. The murder of Marshall Duncan was similar to the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus was pretty much half-whipped to death before He was crucified at Calvary. I have always seen the arrival of The Stranger as symbolic of The Second Coming and God's wrath on wicked men.


    Tim Shey

  3. Last night I had a very vivid dream. I was talking with some friends and then I walked over to this table and sat down. I think I was tired, so I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes to take a short nap.

    I then heard someone walking towards me. I opened my eyes and saw these cowboy boots. I then looked up and saw Clint Eastwood. He was wearing a cowboy hat and had a bandana wrapped around his neck. Eastwood was in his forties; he looked like the cowboy in those spaghetti westerns or The Stranger in his film "High Plains Drifter". He was smiling at me.

    He was there to talk to me and prepare me for the lead role in a film he was directing. I think the film was based on my book "High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America".

    Then Gene Hackman walked up to me, shook my hand and smiled at me. Gene Hackman was dressed like he was in the film "The Quick and the Dead". There was more to the dream, but it is gone from me now.

  4. Great Post Tim. I've seen High Plains Drifter many times but had no idea so much was tied into it, especially with Jesus coming to judge the world and how serious God's wrath is.
    thank you Tim.

  5. Tim, you had me baffled when I saw the label and picture for High Plains Drifter, but the Revelations 6:8 quote is from the film Pale Rider. Just to let you know. I thought it might just be a draw to your blog and if that is so, it worked on me. LOL I like your blog writings and am bookmarking the page so I can drop by and check on your travels and ministry.. Go with God.

  6. Warren: I have seen Eastwood's film Pale Rider a few times, but I forgot that Revelation 6: 8 was from that film. I liked Pale Rider a lot, but I love High Plains Drifter. Both films have similar stories: the Stranger comes to town and protects a few people and knocks the tar out of the bad guys.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. If you watch the first minute of the film High Plains Drifter, you see a man riding on a horse across a shimmering desert landscape. That scenes reminds me of John 3:8:

    "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."