“How many men are you going to have to hang to heal your scar?”
Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood), wrongly accused of cattle rustling, is hung by a group of vigilantes and left to die. When he survives, Cooper becomes a marshal for the local judge (Pat Hingle), and vows to seek revenge on the men who nearly killed him.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary doesn’t seem to like this western much, calling it “derivative”, “stilted”, and “cliche-ridden”. I suspect, however, that the film suffers primarily from guilt-by-comparison, since it was made immediately after Sergio Leone’s string of brilliant “Man With No Name” westerns. In reality, Hang ‘Em High is actually an enjoyable revenge tale, one which manages to comment on the public thirst for bloody spectacle without coming to any neat-and-tidy conclusions. In addition, Judge Fenton is played with surprising nuance by Hingle; his struggle to bring justice to the vast, untamed Oklahoma Territory makes for an interesting contrast with Walter Brennan’s more humorously sadistic Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner (1940).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Pat Hingle as the frustrated, hard-nosed Judge Fenton
- Bruce Dern in an early villainous role
- The “Hanging Circus” scene, which makes public corporal punishment come across as a viable entertainment alternative to the County Fair
No, but it’s recommended.