Marshall Jed Cooper survives a hanging, vowing revenge on the lynch mob that left him dangling. To carry out his oath for vengeance, he returns to his former job as a lawman. Before long, he's caught up with the nine men on his hit list and starts dispensing his own brand of Wild West justice.
We all have our ghosts, Marshal. Hang 'Em High is directed by ted Post and written by Leonard Freeman and Mel Goldberg. It stars Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Pat Hingle, Ed Begley, Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, Ruth White and Bruce Dern. Music is by Dominic Frontiere and cinematography is shared by Richard H. Kline and Leonard J. South. An innocent man survives a lynching and returns as a lawman and sets about bringing the vigilantes to justice. After making a name in Leone's Dollars Trilogy, Eastwood returned to America and began cementing his name in the genre of film that would come to define him. Though very much an American Western, this does have Spaghetti Western tonal splinters. Story is derivative and safe, however the characterisations are not and are pungent enough to warrant viewing investment. Unfortunately director Ted Post often lets the pace sag to unbearable levels - especially in the last third of film, it's a shame that the mooted Robert Aldrich didn't get the gig. There simply is not enough on the page to sustain the near two hour running time, with the finale proving to be a rather flat experience. The liberal stance on the death penalty is a touch heavy handed, but not so as to kill the picture since the thought process of the complexities of justice holds high interest values. Then of course there is Eastwood to lure one in. He's not the best actor in the film, though the amorality of character he plays makes him the fascinating centre piece. Hingle steals the acting honours as the stoically forthright Judge Fenton, while Stevens also shines as Rachael Warren, a character who like Eastwood's Jed Cooper has an obsessional motive for capturing criminals in her heart. All told the perfs across the board are pitched right and good value. I'm not sure if the fact two cinematographers were used was a job for mates scenario? Whatever though, for there's nice work here, the New Mexico locations pleasing and at the same time mood compliant for the harsher edges of the story. Frontiers's music is interesting, full of ebullience - sometimes overbearing, it strangely at times sounds familiar to some of Herrmann's compositions in the fantasy genre... Hang 'Em High is an important entry in the Western genre library, though neither great or bad, it's still a must see for genre enthusiasts. 7/10
'Hang ’em High' is entertaining stuff. I personally think the first half is much stronger than the second half, which loses its way a tad and ends up concluding in a perfectly good but not as great way as what I had wanted - based on the impressive opening hour or so. Clint Eastwood, though, is excellent from start-to-finish. I undoubtedly enjoyed his performance, which is great to see follow on from the major highs of the Dollars trilogy. Pat Hingle is also a positive performer, he and Eastwood share one terrific scene in particular.