Pale Rider (1985)

pale rider

“Nothin’ like a good piece of hickory.”

The Scoop: 1985, R, Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Clint Eastwood, Richard Kiel and Michael Moriarty.

Tagline: Hell has come home.

Summary Capsule: The Man With No Name saves a mining settlement with no hope.


Heather’s rating: Two out of ten overblown egos

Heather’s review: I’ve been home for a visit for two weeks and, even wrenched from the bosom of my beloved Netflix account, I’ve been able to get in quite a lot of movies. The beauty of cable (which I am too miserly to buy for myself) is that there’s always a movie on. Last Sunday ABC was running a marathon of movies featuring Hollywood’s iconic heroes. My nephew and I were just being lazy and hanging out for the afternoon. We caught the end of Two Mules For Sister Sara and made the unfortunate decision to watch Pale Rider, which came on right after.

I reviewed TMFSS a while back and, having never seen a Clint Eastwood movie before, I fell in love and decided I had to watch everything that he’s been in. Except for Every Which Way But Loose. I just don’t think I can get behind that. I should have gone with something tried and true like Dirty Harry or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Instead I got stuck with a shameless Clint Eastwood vanity project.

Pale Rider (an allusion the Biblical description of Death upon a pale horse) tells the story of a small settlement of miners who are being bullied out of their land by a greedy landowner and his son (who looks like a cross between Elijah Wood and Toby Maguire). Their salvation comes in the form of a nameless preacher who shows up while one of the miners is ganged up on by six of the landowner’s thugs. Our hero, known only as “Preacher”, halts the attack by pulling out some fancy karate gimmicks with a hickory axe handle and handily dispatching of the group. Hull (Michael Moriarity) thanks Preacher and asks him to come back with him and help the miners. Preacher agrees and sets in motion a wave of awe and google-eyes from everyone he encounters.

Honestly, folks, I don’t know where to start. I knew my nephew and I were in trouble when, five minutes into the movie, we were treated to a young girl burying her dog and saying The Lord’s Prayer over the fresh grave, inserting her own commentary after every line. She says things like “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. But I do want”. I don’t know what Clint was going for, but the result was just forced and weird and the audience has to suffer through a whole prayer’s worth. We would have changed channels at this point, but this was already proving to be excellent fodder for the MST3K treatment.

This Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Preacher flick relies on Clint Eastwood’s ability to be awesome to carry the goofy scenes and implausible romantic triangle involving the aforementioned fourteen-year old girl and her mother. I wish I were joking, people. Hardly a scene went by that didn’t have my nephew and I cringing or guffawing. Halfway in we watched Preacher take a sledgehammer to a man’s cashews and then help him back to his horse. The man, who is the landowner’s main muscle, thereafter becomes “good” and helps Preacher throughout the rest of the film, leading me to believe that the man is either a complete idiot or is into some seriously weird kink.

I can’t begin to describe the stomach-shrinking creepiness of the scene where the fourteen-year old professes her love to Preacher and tries to seduce him. Yes, you read that correctly and no, I will not relive my horrible memories by explaining. Might I add that the scene begins with the girl saying to him “This is where I buried my dog”? I don’t know what drove you to think up that scene, Mr. Eastwood, but I know that there’s professional help available for what ails ‘ya.

All of this was so distracting that I can’t even recall whether or not the acting was any good. It wasn’t distractingly bad, except in the case of Megan (the…erm…driven teenaged daughter). Maybe Clint’s intention was to make everything and everyone else so secondary that the audience would focus only on him, hoping for some bloodshed to break the tedium and idiocy. Whatever the case may be, I think I’ll be steering clear of any future films directed by Mr. Eastwood unless I get some very convincing arguments for them (and a dose of Vicodin).

Look! It's Jaws!
This is Jaws’ ‘Before’ picture.


  • Eastwood can kick eight dudes’ butts with a stick but can’t put out a match with a tub full of water.
  • “This is where I buried my dog” actually surpassed the level of awkwardness achieved by “This is where the fish lives.”
  • What on earth is that thing sitting on the steps when Preacher steps out into streets?
  • Whose idea was it for the marshall to call out “Prrreeeeaaaacherrrrr…” over and over, echoing into the  moonlight, through the mountains? What, is he a coyote?
  • The train station built for production was used again late in 1988 for Back To The Future, Part III.

Groovy Quotes:

Preacher: Good gun for buffalo. The problem is there aren’t any hereabouts.
Hull: I’m going with you.
Preacher: No buffalo where I’m going, either.

Eddie: It was him. Him and his men. They shot him. Forever. The bullets kept hitting him. Forever.

Sarah Wheeler: Who are you? Who are you… really?
Preacher: Well, it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Megan Wheeler: Preacher? Preacher? We love you Preacher… I love you!… Good-bye!

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  1. This was the funniest review I have read in a long time, and oh so true. I couldn’t quit laughing the minute you typed “This is where I buried my dog”.

    The movie has a good look to it but it’s just that. it relies way too much on Clint Eastwood’s acting alone as the starlight. I really wanted to like this movie but it was ridiculous.


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