Eastwood Revamps For The US Market
Hang 'Em High and Coogan's Bluff Ask Us To Buy American
These were a pair that Clint Eastwood made in the US after he had been The Man With No Name three times. Those out of Europe would change our concept of frontier men. One-time Rowdy Yates became the anti-anti-hero for a worn out genre. Trouble was accepting him back on American soil, where the wearing out was accomplished fact. Hang ‘Em High especially was like Rowdy back in stirrups. Feature westerns long since stank of television, background littered by faces too familiar from the tube. Italo imports had an edge because anything might happen in them. Life was obviously cheaper there, Eastwood gunning down five for every one dispatched back home. The former MWNN, called “Jed Cooper” in Hang ‘Em High (and a marshal, yet) rescues a calf from rapids, then is hanged by last week’s guest cast from Gunsmoke. I noted discrepancy then (Fall 1968) and wondered if Eastwood erred in coming home. Hang ‘Em High was less bad and more reversal of new direction the
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Hang ‘Em High was essentially a get-even yarn, but Yanks were skittish still with revenge served cold, so our man dons a badge, making him an Establishment figure at a time we were all fed up with Establishment figures. A music score by Dominic Frontiere wobbles between overwrought and faux-Morricone. There are reminders of great westerns and even noirs past: Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, a barely-there Dennis Hopper just before Easy Rider breakout. Hang ‘Em High could be labeled slapdash, historian William K. Everson calling it so in later excoriation where it stood for Decline and Fall of the western genre. I watched Hang ‘Em High on the MGM/HD channel and saw credit for Eastwood’s Malpaso company as co-producer. Same with Coogan’s Bluff. That’s quite a grip Eastwood had on direction of his starring career, and from early on. Fact he was older and well-seasoned by the late 60’s had much to do with smarts acquired. You wonder if he was plotting all this from beginnings at U-I and piloting jet that downed Tarantula.
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