Saturday, September 3, 2016

Classic Movie Review: Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider (Kurosawa meets Christ Jesus)

The 1985 classic cowboy western, Pale Rider, starring and directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood deserves another, closer screening and pithy review in light of world events in the 21st century. Let me explain.

For film fans who are unaware of biblical, apocalyptic prophecy, the term "pale rider" denotes special meaning for people interested in eschatology-or end times terminology.
The opening scene stars the then young, and now still beautiful, Sydney Penny, as Megan Wheeler as the teenage daughter of a gold miner's deserted wife in the rugged California canyons during the mineral rush of the mid 19th century. 

She is reading from the Book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) just before a vicious raid by a posse is sent by the greedy and successful neighboring, large scale industrial miner, Coy LaHood played by Richard Dysart. LaHood destroys the natural lay of the land with then, modern strip mining activity and he despises the collective of individual miners called 'tin pans'. In brief, it's the same story of the Old Wild West's developing economy--evil robber barons against the simple, good man who is just trying to make an honest living. 

Penny reads these verses from the Bible as an angry, thundering cloud of hell bent men on horseback charge down the canyon slopes to her location in order to bust things and send a strong signal for the miners to move on. She reads Revelation chapter 6, verse 8: 

And I looked, and behold a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death,
and Hell followed with him.

Even those of us familiar with this supernatural description of prophetic events during the last days on earth before God sends His only begotten son, Jesus, to wrap up things and restore the cosmos to its intended perfection, may not know that the actual Greek word translated here into King James English is chlóros, or pale green, the color of Islam. Draw your own conclusions.

Anyhow, after the angry raiders rampage the small shanty town on the fictional Carbon Creek and unnecessarily kill Megan's dog, the girl buries her pet and prays for a miracle. Lo and behold, the former gunfighter turned preacher, Eastwood, shows up on that very day to save the miners in a series of well crafted, finely acted scenes that link together meaningfully, cinematically and with some occasional corny theme music thrown in which does not distract too much from the otherwise brilliant production that Hollywood today with all its technology and confused 'creative' artists can't touch.

The movie is iconic for at least a couple of reasons. First of all, church history shows that God uses converted sinners, and transforms their evil skills for His purpose and plan of salvation. The licentiousness of St. Augustine, for example, becomes an outpouring of definitive interpretations of doctrine, specially related to sin and the consequences of sinful behavior. Martin Luther's cloistered intensity prepares him to stand against the world and reform church doctrine in a highly controversial and permanent way. And then there's the traveling St. Paul of Tarsus in the New Testament who likes to go from town to town and throws new Christians into prison so God uses him to keep on the move and to evangelize the Gentile, Greek speaking world of that era, leaving us believers with a legacy and foundation of written exhortation and explanation that continues to shape the modern world. 

Another iconic movie tool, is based on the Japanese filmmaker Kurowsawa's mythic, Seven Samurai, in a plot reversal. Instead of the persecuted miners hiring a team of bad guys to fight the good guys for them, bastard miner and not very eco-friendly, LaHood hires a team of 'marshals' to finish the job and drive the rag tag, tin pans out of sight--permanently. This forces Eastwood, who is only referred to as 'preacher' throughout the movie, to put away his collar and pick up his gun again and face off against the hired guns in classic Sergio Leone, spaghetti Western style complete with a squinty eyed Eastwood with the sun at his back against the mountain tops, standing square shouldered and deadly calm in the middle of town for what turns out to be anything but a fair fight.

Penny, as Megan, rounds out the biblical and eternal battle of good against evil, shouting out her adolescent professed love to a stone cold Eastwood's back, already riding his pale horse up and out of sight into the mountains. It's a scene that echoes emotion, righteous power, and forgiven violence that can only allude to God's majesty in the allegorical mode. I rented and watched the film on Amazon Instant video in HD for $3.99. Not a bad deal for a traditional fan of classic Western movies on a weekend afternoon. See you at the revelation which won't be televised, I'm afraid.