Hang ‘Em High (1968)

“How many men are you going to have to hang to heal your scar?”

poster

Synopsis:
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.

Genres:

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
  • The “Hanging Circus” scene, which makes public corporal punishment come across as a viable entertainment alternative to the County Fair
  • Bruce Dern in an early villainous role

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

Links:

One Response to “Hang ‘Em High (1968)”

  1. Not a must –

    – but a solid-enough western, even if it’s a little too traditional and there aren’t really any surprises. I’m not a huge fan of westerns overall, but I do appreciate them if they hold attention. This one pretty much does.

    It’s helped a lot by a strong cast – Eastwood, of course, is Eastwood; but, aside from the marvelous Hingle and the properly “villainous” Dern, there’s good support from Ed Begley, Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, Ruth White, L.Q. Jones and Richard Gates (the hunk who, almost a decade later, would appear in the somewhat-notorious ‘Eyewitness News’ sequence in ‘Kentucky Fried Movie’). Surprisingly, Dennis Hopper shows up here as The Prophet and James MacArthur leads the locals in song before hangings.

    Lovely Inger Stevens (tragically a suicide two years later) tries to manage a little depth for what is essentially garden variety love interest.

    The film score is a bit…overstated. Here’s where you can talk about “derivative”!

    Five years after this, (mainly tv) director Ted Post helmed the rather odd (but ‘entertainingly’ so) cult flick ‘The Baby’, the equally odd (apparently, cause I’ve yet to see it) ‘The Harrad Experiment’, and re-united with Eastwood for ‘Magnum Force’.

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