Hang 'em High

Hang 'em High

4.4 7
Director: Ted Post

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley Sr.


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Ex-lawman turned rancher Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is moving a small herd of cattle when a group of nine men on horseback, led by Captain Wilson (Ed Begley Sr.), ride up and accuse him of having stolen the cattle and killed their owner. Refusing to believe his account, they string him up by the neck and leave him for dead, but they don't do the job right. Cooper is… See more details below


Ex-lawman turned rancher Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is moving a small herd of cattle when a group of nine men on horseback, led by Captain Wilson (Ed Begley Sr.), ride up and accuse him of having stolen the cattle and killed their owner. Refusing to believe his account, they string him up by the neck and leave him for dead, but they don't do the job right. Cooper is dangling there, barely alive, a few minutes later when Deputy U.S. Marshal Bliss (Ben Johnson) spots him and cuts him down. He survives the next few days in Bliss' tumbleweed wagon with the other prisoners, and is later cleared of any wrongdoing and released by Judge Fenton (Pat Hingle), just in time to witness the hanging of the man who really murdered the owner of the cattle and took Cooper's money. Cooper still wants revenge on the nine men who tried to hang him, but Fenton insists that he leave the bringing of them to justice to his deputy marshals. As it happens, Fenton is in desperate need of deputy marshals for the territory that he oversees, and he also knows that Cooper was a good lawman. Cooper, in turn, is now broke and in need of a job, and does want to see justice done. They strike an uneasy bargain, Cooper agreeing to wear a badge and bring in the men he's looking for -- alive -- for trial. The latter proves easier said than done, however, when the first of them that he spots tries to draw on him when he makes the arrest. One of the hanging party, Jenkins (Bob Steele), soon turns himself in and provides the names of the others. Cooper takes Stone (Alan Hale Jr.) alive, but the hapless blacksmith is later shot by the local sheriff (Charles McGraw) while trying to escape. The other men, led by Wilson, have no intention of dying, or even being brought to trial, without a fight. Two of them go on the run out of the territory, while Wilson and two of the others decide to take the law into their own hands once again. Meanwhile, Cooper becomes a hero when he single-handedly brings back a trio of rustlers who are also guilty of murder. This leads to Cooper's first confrontation with Judge Fenton, who, in a gripping scene, explains why it is essential that he be as seemingly quick to hang a man as he is. Unless the people are convinced that the law will do its job -- including hanging men who deserve it -- they will keep taking the law into their own hands and there will be more lynch mobs like the one that tried to kill Cooper. In the course of his quest for justice, Cooper also makes the acquaintance of Rachel (Inger Stevens), a young woman with her own search for justice, haunted by her own ghosts, and the two of them are drawn together, no more so than when Wilson and two of the others try to gun Cooper down in cold blood. The final confrontation between Cooper and Wilson escalates in violence to its savage, irony-laced conclusion.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
When Hang 'em High first appeared, it was dismissed by many critics as a pale shadow of the Italian-made Westerns that Clint Eastwood had made with director Sergio Leone during the mid-'60s. In fact, the movie offered far more than was perceived by most reviewers, and a range of virtues that set it apart from the Leone films. Eastwood's portrayal of Jed Cooper, for a start, was a surprisingly subtle and complex performance, displaying a range of varied and conflicted emotions just below the surface that made his character far more fully developed than any of his prior portrayals. Pat Hingle was equally important to the movie's success, bringing a deep and serious interpretive talent to the part of Judge Adam Fenton. He was based on the real-life figure of Isaac Charles Parker (1838-1896), the judge in charge of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas, based in Fort Smith. In his 21 years on that bench, Parker issued 160 death sentences, resulting in 79 executions. His first week at Fort Smith resulted in rulings leading to a six-man hanging, very much like the one depicted in Hang 'em High, complete with a huge crowd of on-lookers, hymn-singing, and prayers, as well as massive press coverage. Eastwood and Hingle's scenes together are so good that one just wants to replay them, though Hingle's greater experience does show his performance coming from a much deeper place inside of himself than Eastwood's. They get extraordinary support by a uniformly good cast: Dennis Hopper, barely recognizable as a lunatic called "The Prophet", who dies in the opening minutes of the film; James Westerfield in a wryly ironic portrayal of a doomed prisoner; Bob Steele as the conscience-stricken Jenkins; Bruce Dern as the manipulative and bloodthirsty Miller; James MacArthur as the preacher, leading the prayers and hymns at the mass-hanging; Bert Freed as Schmidt, the taciturn hangman; Ben Johnson as Bliss, Fenton's best deputy marshal; and Michael O'Sullivan as the hapless murderer Francis Duffy, leaving this earth after giving a mournful speech, in the kind of scene that could make a career. Director Ted Post pulls all of these elements together into a graceful, compelling, spellbinding whole that's as much a serious drama as a Western, and as much an epic about the settling of the west. Very much in the manner of The Wild Bunch and William S. Hart's Tumbleweeds, among other classics of the genre, it is a personal, character-driven tale of revenge. Eastwood would make more artful and ambitious Westerns in the '70s and beyond, but Hang 'em High -- which was co-produced by his fledgling company, Malpaso -- was an exceptional beginning and his best work in the genre up to that time.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Clint Eastwood Jed Cooper
Inger Stevens Rachel
Ed Begley Capt. Wilson
Pat Hingle Judge Adam Fenton
Arlene Golonka Jennifer
Ben Johnson Sheriff Dave Bliss
Tod Andrews Defense Attorney
Richard Angarola Actor
Larry Blake Actor
Barry Cahill Actor
Bruce Dern Miller
Herb Ellis Actor
Hal England Actor
Bert Freed Schmidt the Hangman
Jack Ging Marshall Hayes
Roy E. Glenn Guard
Richard Guizon Actor
Alan Hale Stone
Dennis Hopper The Prophet
L.Q. Jones Loomis
Robert Earl Jones Actor
Mark Lenard Actor
Jonathan Lippe Actor
James MacArthur Preacher
Charles McGraw Actor
Michael O'Sullivan Francis Duffy
Ned Romero Actor
Bruce Scott Billy Joe
Joseph Sirola Actor
Paul Sorenson Actor
Bob Steele Jenkins
Ted Thorpe Actor
Russell Thorson Mr. Maddow
James Westerfield Prisoner
Ruth White Madam Peaches Sophie
Robert B. Williams Actor
Rick Gates Ben
Dennis Dengate Actor
John Wesley Actor
Bill Zuckert Actor

Technical Credits
Ted Post Director
Bill Brame Editor
John Capter Musical Direction/Supervision
Gene Fowler Editor
Leonard Freeman Producer,Screenwriter
Dominic Frontiere Score Composer
Mel Goldberg Screenwriter
John B. Goodman Art Director
Richard H. Kline Cinematographer
Arthur Krams Set Decoration/Design
Gene Murray Costumes/Costume Designer
Leonard Sough Cinematographer
Leonard J. South Cinematographer
George Swartz Special Effects
Glen Wright Costumes/Costume Designer

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