HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1973, Corgi, 150pp) ∗∗∗
Blurb: They whipped the last sheriff to death in the middle of the Main Street. Now a year of breaking rocks had made them hungry for revenge on the whole town. But first they had to deal with the stranger, a man with a lot of lean lightning on his hip – and a gut-urge to use it!
In the 1960s and 70s, before the advent of home video, paperback novelisations were the only way you could revisit a movie without waiting 5 years for a TV premiere or a re-release. They pretty much faded away once movies became readily available, firstly through the rental market and ultimately through retail. Tidyman’s High Plains Drifter is a solid example of how a novelisation could flesh out a screenplay, but could not always recapture the elements that made a movie special.
The novelisation of Tidyman’s screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s Western was published in May 1973 – a month after the release of the film. Tidyman had written the original screenplay during the early summer of 1972 and assigned Phillip Rock (uncredited here) to adapt the screenplay into a novel manuscript, which Tidyman would then edit. The book, therefore stays very close to Tidyman’s original draft. Eastwood saw the opportunity to add some mystical elements – suggesting the stranger was a re-incarnation of the murdered town marshal. Dean Reisner had been hired to add these elements into a final draft screenplay – although Tidyman retained sole credit on screen following a WGA ruling. It is these additional elements and Eastwood’s persona that made the film stand out from other westerns. The novel is, therefore, a much more straight forward tale. Most of the elements of Tidyman’s screenplay were used in the final version of the film, but in the novel there is no real suggestion of a link between the stranger and the marshal. The reader is left to ponder on the stranger’s motives. As a result, the novel – though well written and never less than engaging – does not stand out from the crowd in the same way as the movie.
Note: Phillip Rock wrote the novelisation of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry in 1971.
Play Misty for Me (1971; USA; Technicolor; 102m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Clint Eastwood; w. Jo Heims, Dean Riesner; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Dee Barton. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills, John Larch, Jack Ging, Irene Hervey, James McEachin, Don Siegel, Clarice Taylor, Duke Everts, Tim Frawley, Brit Lind, George Fargo, Mervin W. Frates, Otis Kadani. A brief fling between a male disc jockey and an obsessed female fan takes a frightening, and perhaps even deadly turn when another woman enters the picture. Slick, effective psychological thriller with an unnerving performance from Walter. The taut narrative only slows in an unnecessary detour to the Monterey Jazz Festival. Sumptuously photographed by Surtees. Eastwood’s directorial debut. The first scene he shot was his former director Don Siegel’s cameo as a bartender. 
Beguiled, The (1971; USA; Technicolor; 109m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Don Siegel; w. John B. Sherry, Grimes Grice; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman, Jo Ann Harris, Darleen Carr, Mae Mercer, Pamelyn Ferdin, Melody Thomas, Peggy Drier. A wounded Union soldier who has been taken in at a Southern girls’ school. The girls become curious and then sensuous. But when jealousy sparks, the anger is ultimately focused on the soldier. Haunting tale with Eastwood playing against type. Themes of repression, sodomy and sexual frustration are well-handled by Siegel and Page is excellent as a headmistress with her own secrets. Based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. 
Joe Kidd (1972; USA; Technicolor; 88m) ∗∗∗ d. John Sturges; w. Elmore Leonard; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, James Wainwright, Paul Koslo, Gregory Walcott, Dick Van Patten, Lynne Marta, Pepe Hern, Joaquin Martinez, John Carter, Ron Soble. An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader. Eastwood and Duvall add class to an otherwise routine Western. Superbly photographed by Surtees who uses the location to maximum effect. Story lacks a satisfactory resolution but has its moments in through a number of well-staged set-pieces. 
Where Eagles Dare (1968; UK/USA; Metrocolor; 158m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Brian G. Hutton; w. Alistair MacLean; ph. Arthur Ibbetson; m. Ron Goodwin. Cast: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Robert Beatty, Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark, Michael Hordern, Donald Houston, Peter Barkworth, Ferdy Mayne, Anton Diffring, William Squire, Brook Williams, Neil McCarthy, Vincent Ball, Derren Nesbitt. Allied agents stage a daring raid on a castle where the Nazis are holding an American General prisoner, but that’s not all that’s really going on. Spectacular action mixes with intrigue in this enormously entertaining adventure. Burton makes an unlikely hero and Eastwood gives stoic support. Beautifully photographed in the Austrian Alps. MacLean wrote the script and novel simultaneously over a period of six weeks. [PG]
Absolute Power (1997; USA; Technicolor; 122m) ∗∗½ d. Clint Eastwood; w. William Goldman; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lennie Niehaus. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Davis, E. G. Marshall, Melora Hardin, Ken Welsh, Penny Johnson, Richard Jenkins, Alison Eastwood, Kimber Eastwood. A career thief witnesses a horrific crime involving the U.S. President. Highly implausible and lacking in pace, this is made watchable by the quality of the performers – although Davis chews the scenery somewhat in an eccentric portrayal as private secretary to Hackman’s president. Based on the novel by David Baldacci. Marshall’s final appearance in a theatrical film. 
In the Line of Fire (1993; USA; Technicolor; 128m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Wolfgang Petersen; w. Jeff Maguire; ph. John Bailey; m. Ennio Morricone. Cast: Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson, John Mahoney, John Heard, Clyde Kusatsu, Jim Curley, Gregory Alan Williams, Sally Hughes, Tobin Bell, Steve Hytner, Steve Railsback. Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) couldn’t save Kennedy, but he’s determined not to let a clever assassin (Malkovich) take out this president. Crackerjack thriller expertly and efficiently directed by Petersen. Malkovich makes for a creepy villain whose verbal sparring with Eastwood adds depth to his psychotic assassin. Russo sparks charmingly with Eastwood, who delivers one of his strongest and deepest performances. Text book film-making marries script, direction and editing to perfection. 
Dead Pool, The (1988; USA; Technicolor; 91m) ∗∗∗ d. Buddy Van Horn; w. Steve Sharon; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Jim Carrey, Louis Giambalvo, Darwin Gillett, Anthony Charnota, Christopher P. Beale, John Allen Vick, Jeff Richmond, Sigrid Wurschmidt. Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target. Fifth and final DIRTY HARRY movie is a watchable thriller coasting on Eastwood’s star presence. Plot is far-fetched, but there is a great set-piece with a toy car carrying a bomb. Carrey as a junkie rock star grabs attention, whilst Neeson is seen in an early role. Based on a story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw and characters created by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. 
Sudden Impact (1983; USA; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗ d. Clint Eastwood; w. Joseph Stinson; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Audrie J. Neenan, Jack Thibeau, Nancy Parsons, Mara Corday, Michael Currie, Mark Keyloun, Albert Popwell, Bette Ford, Joe Bellan, Paul Drake, Kevyn Major Howard. A rape victim is exacting revenge on her aggressors in a small town outside San Francisco. Inspector Harry Callahan (Eastwood), on suspension for angering his superiors (again), is assigned to the case. Fourth DIRTY HARRY film is heavy handed, but entertaining nonetheless. The action has become more violent and cartoonish with the set pieces formulaic, but Eastwood’s screen presence is more than enough to carry the movie. Based on a story by Earl E. Smith & Charles B. Pierce. Followed by THE DEAD POOL (1989). 
Enforcer, The (1976; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ∗∗∗½ d. James Fargo; w. Stirling Silliphant, Dean Riesner; ph. Charles W. Short; m. Jerry Fielding. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, John Mitchum, Bradford Dillman, John Crawford, Robert F. Hoy, Rudy Ramos, DeVeren Bookwalter, Samantha Doane, Jocelyn Jones, M.G. Kelly, Nick Pellegrino, Albert Popwell, Rudy Ramos. Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callahan must foil a terrorist organization made up of disgruntled Vietnam veterans. But this time, he’s teamed with a rookie female partner that he’s not too excited to be working with. Third DIRTY HARRY film is a slick affair. Most of the fun is derived from the interplay between Eastwood, at his charismatic best, and Daly, who is excellent in her first major role. There is also a fine shoot-out finale on Alcatraz. Based on a story by Gail Morgan Hickman and S.W. Schurr. Followed by SUDDEN IMPACT (1983).