mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hang 'Em High (1968)

While pouring back through all the Tarantino films recently I realized a couple things:
1) There's not that many of them. I mean he's only one guy and he pretty much only works off of his own material that he wrote... which takes time, and thus this is very understandable.
2) His films make reference other movies constantly. Now call it what you want homage, reference or just plain theft but I'm thinking that a lot of people don't catch the majority of these references to other films because frankly, we don't have the film same exposure as a young Tarantino did going to the grindhouse theater constantly in his youth or working in a video rental store. However, hypothetically with the vastness of the internet and Amazon, Netflix etc. these films should be easier to get a hold of today, if you know what you're looking for that is.

So I figured there's probably more people out there, like me, who crave more Tarantino constantly and I could showcase some films that I'd consider essential viewing for Tarantino fans. And thus the 10 must-see films for Tarantino fans was born. Now let me warn you this is in no way a comprehensive list. There's probably hundreds of films that Tarantino references in his own films, and I found enough films I could write about to probably do this series again but that will have to wait until next time there's another big Tarantino release.

DAY 2: Hang 'Em High (1968)

Hang 'Em High is an American tribute to spaghetti westerns, much like Django Unchained (2012), its a very good revenge story like half of Tarantino's films and the lead character has a "hanging scar" across his neck which I can't help but think inspired Lt. Aldo Raine's scar in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

"You don't remember me, do you? ... When you hang a man, you better look at him."

Hang 'Em High (1968) is a dark revenge western film about justice and the law directed by Ted Post and is the first film from Clint Eastwood's own production company The Malpaso Company. This film was the American attempt at a darker western like those from Italy specifically the films of Sergio Leone. The film follows Jed Cooper a former lawman who is wrongfully lynched by a mob of 9 men, somehow he survives and then he tries to bring the men who hung him to justice.

First off I gotta say how much I like Clint Eastwood in this film, he doesn't do anything too special or unique for this role but he's convincing and you really believe the changes in his views as the lines of justice muddy and right blurs pretty close to wrong. This is his first American film after returning from Italy and doing the Dollars Trilogy for director Sergio Leone, his acting choices are pretty close to the Man with No Name character down to a similar hat and smoking a similar style of cigar but this didn't bother me because of how awesome that character is and he seems to be at least slightly different in this film.

There's a lot of really interesting ideas in this film. I like how at the very beginning the film shows the Marshall who shaved Cooper from the rope, and as he's trying to pick up another criminal the guy escapes and you can visibly see him hesitate, yet all the other criminals locked up are yelling at him to shoot the criminal on the run. It's a pretty interesting scene just because of the irony, and it also sets up the power of a Marshall, which will come into play when Cooper picks up a badge. I like the idea that the hanging is a kind popular event in town which everyone seems to take really lightly and, even though her character wasn't as successful as she could have been, I like the idea of the love interest Rachel Warren checking the faces of all the criminals who come in in attempt to find the man that killed her late husband.

The music is good, it's a bit forceful at times (which can come off as hokey and humorus) but it shows a clear attempt at emulating the spaghetti western style music of Luis Bacalov and Ennio Morricone.

The film has some odd spacing issues, which leads it to feeling really drawn out during some parts then others seem very rushed. Overall I think the film could have been told more effectively in less time.

The romance of this film seems like it was a last minute idea. I don't know if there was cut scenes or what, but basically they meet then immediately they fall in love with this pretty awkward love sequence and they talk about leaving together (which admittedly is an interesting counter point) then he just decides to continue on his revenge path. I would have like to see this romance blossom a little more, because I do think they are an interesting pair together.

The camerawork in this film is very creative and inventive. There's a lot of shots in this film that caught my attention. For example, I love the shot with a bunch of feet dangling which you think are hangmen then the camera pulls up to show these are just people sitting to watch the hanging! I also love a film like this that isn't afraid to pull in really close to the actors during suspenseful moments.

I love the story of this film, along with all its interesting twists and turns. It's such an interesting premise and watching a man get hung in the opening sequence is such a great opening. Furthermore I love how this film dives in to great depth about what is revenge, what is fair justice and the faults of the law and lawmen who must carry it out. I love the couple times this film shows people who are in Cooper's eyes innocent (or at least not worthy of hanging), yet they still hang as a result of the judge's law.

Hang 'Em High (1968) isn't just a stylish attempt at copying the spaghetti westerns it's also a great look into the question of what is justice. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

This film is part of my month-long Tribute to Tarantino in honor of his latest film Django Unchained (2012) and his 20-year career. If you've missed any of my reviews so far, be sure to check out his filmography and click on any film you've missed.

The 10 must-see films for Tarantino fans countdown continues tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

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