An innocent man is hanged by a lynch mob but survives,
and returns as a marshal to hunt down his attackers.
Hang 'Em High (1968)
Directed by Ted Post
Written by Leonard Freeman and Mel Goldberg
Starring Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Pat Hingle, Ed Begley,
Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, Bruce Dern, Alan Hale Jr.
Clint Eastwood was born to wear a silver star and squint into the sun while smoking one of those cigarillos. His westerns are his best work, be it under Leone's direction or the many others he worked with, including himself. Hang 'Em High starts out as a badass revenge thriller but slowly dissipates into some sort of lesson in moral high ground, which was hard to find in the Oklahoma territory before statehood. It's just a weird direction to take a film that had such a great premise. It's mostly filler, and ultimately we don't get much resolution in the end. But still, there's something about Eastwood as a cowboy that keeps your eyes glued to the screen.
Eastwood plays Jed Cooper, a former lawman who is mistaken for a murderer and lynched by frontier vigilantes. They hang him in a tree, but he survives and is taken to the local town to be tried for real. He's found innocent and recruited by Judge Fenton (Hingle) to be his new marshal and hunt down the vigilantes. Now, Marshal Cooper goes after the men who tried to kill him, but he gets held up several times with various side quests. Ultimately, he gets all but two, and the film ends with Cooper going to get those two. Weird that we don't get to see it. Instead of ending with the expectant bloodbath, we end with a conversation between the judge and the marshal about what the law really means in a lawless territory. It isn't terrible, but it's not what we wanted either.
Overall, Hang 'Em High is one of Eastwood's lesser westerns, but it's still a great deal better than most of John Wayne's work. The music tries to emulate Morricone, but can't quite nail it down. In fact, the whole movie wants so badly to be a spaghetti western, but Americans just don't get it. An Italian western made by Italian filmmakers will always be superior to anything Hollywood churned out.