Clint Eastwood rides into the lakeside frontier town of Lago. He may, or may not be, the ghost of the Sheriff who was murdered when the cowardly townsfolk stood by and watched him whipped to death by three gunslingers – who incidentally are out of jail and coming back to take their revenge.
The character referred to as “the stranger” is hired to protect the town, but not before he gets revenge of his own on those he feels are responsible for his own past trauma.
He demonstrates his powers not only by meting out the kind of expected gunplay and abuse, but also by forcing everyone to take part in a bizarre fiesta involving making a dwarf (Billy Curtis) into the combined Sheriff and Mayor, literally painting the town red, and renaming it ‘Hell.’ He finally burns down the town.
This was the first Western Eastwood directed and is a stylistic homage to Sergio Leone. It is also indebted to Don Siegel, who directed him in The Beguiled (1971), Coogan’s Bluff, and Dirty Harry (1971).
Mayor Jason Hobart
Sheriff Sam Shaw