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Author Topic: High Plains Drifter: Was The Rape Scene Really Necessary  (Read 125615 times)
rr-electricangel
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« Reply #100 on: November 29, 2012, 05:04:05 PM »

I've watched this scene and would have to define it as either as a convoluted rape scene or as a scene of depravity. It's symbolic. Remember, Clint's character has the entire town painted red, and paints the word "HELL" on the "LAGO" sign just outside of town. Was it necessary? No. It cheapens the satisfaction of retribution sought by Clint's character in the rest of the movie. Retribution- is defined as punishment that is considered a moral right and fully deserved.  :D

Clint reflected on the film's meaning, indicating "it's just an allegory...a speculation on what happens when they go ahead and kill the sheriff and somebody comes back and calls the town's conscience to bear. There's always retribution for your deeds."


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfnFF8VVbrw
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 05:46:44 PM by rr-electricangel » Logged

Clint Eastwood's words of wisdom: "Take your profession seriously; don't take yourself seriously. Don't take yourself seriously in the process, because you really only matter to a certain degree in the whole circus out here."
Perry
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« Reply #101 on: January 23, 2013, 03:20:39 PM »


 Ironically Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time In America's' rape scene's (Especially the one of Elizabeth's McGovern in the back of the car with DeNiro ) are far more brutal than HPD's. Talk about a totally unecessary scene.
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MakeItVin
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« Reply #102 on: June 22, 2013, 04:23:50 PM »

The movie came out WAY before political correctness started getting pushed upon us.  So in my humble opinion, yes, it was part of the movei so it was necessary.  Another excellent way to show the studliness of the main character.  She got what she wanted.  What else can you say?

Political correctness isn't even possible, anyway.
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Matt
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« Reply #103 on: March 17, 2016, 11:52:18 AM »


Also, if you think about it, a whipping is an excessive way to kill someone. As three killers you really dont have to make an example of the town by excessively beating someone over five or ten minutes. The fact that you have the heart to KILL the Marshall will put them on notice.

The whipping was personal.

I'm very tempted to add this to the more recent discussion we're having on High Plains Drifter for our Movie Night discussions, but I'm going to add it here because I think BDCs post needs the response.

I just watched it a few days ago, and I was wondering why they whipped Duncan to death, rather than just shoot him. They're gunfighters. They're hired killers... hired by the town, let's not forget. It's in the text of the movie... Duncan found out the mines were on government land and was going to turn them all in. It was going to end their livelihoods.  (Strangely we never see the mines or know anything about them other than that scene where they discuss why they killed Duncan.) 

Duncan couldn't be bought off. He was an honest sheriff. He was a good man in a corrupt town, and he planned to bring justice to the town. There wasn't an implication of a relationship with Callie, but moreso, there isn't any indication that Duncan would be the type to sleep with someone so dark-hearted and evil. He was one of the only good people in the town.

And it hit me as I was reading through this great great thread (thanks AGAIN to Xichado for bringing it over) what the reason for the whipping was. It wasn't personal, it was a statement. A shooting would have been too normal in a town like Lago. It wouldn't have gotten the attention that was needed. The town leaders who hired Stacey Bridges & the Carlin brothers wanted everyone to know THIS is what happens if you turn us in. They wanted to etch that killing in everyone's memory. They wanted everyone to be afraid:  don't go against us. Don't try to stop us. Just keep your nose down, and pretend you don't know a thing.

And that's all it was. A killing out of greed to silence a man who would have put an end to their profitable industry.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 08:25:00 PM by Matt » Logged
AKA23
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« Reply #104 on: March 19, 2016, 08:37:44 AM »

I agree with Matt. The whipping in front of the town, and its brutality, was meant to terrify anyone who might have thought of stepping out of line and exposing the town's crimes.

It won't surprise viewers of this thread, since I, you know, started this topic, that I still find the rape to be unnecessary. To me, it doesn't really add much to the movie, since the theme of The Stranger coming to punish the town is already so well developed. In many ways, I think the rape scene makes it harder to like and root for The Stranger character because I personally found the rape to be so disturbing. It was a very difficult scene for me to watch, even now, all these years later, and after many repeat viewings. But what I also found disturbing, and wasn't sure if I'd noticed it before, was how dismissive people were in the town about the rape. It just didn't seem like that big of a deal to most of the people. Like Matt, I was also disturbed by the fact that the women in the town seemed to still be so attracted to the Stranger. I know he was rugged and manly and all that, but he had raped a woman in the town. To me, that felt false, or was this reflective of the time? Was that dismissive attitude toward rape characteristic of the time?
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Matt
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« Reply #105 on: March 19, 2016, 09:04:28 AM »

Was that dismissive attitude toward rape characteristic of the time?

In some ways, it still is. Rape is still viewed as a crime based very much on the moral respectability of the victim. Think about it... if you rape a nun, you'd go to jail. If you rape a stripper, no one would do a thing. If you rape a single woman in her 20's who wore immodest clothing and dated a lot of men, good luck prosecuting. If you rape a 10 year old girl, you might get the death penalty. If you rape a 80 year old woman, the same.
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FANaMillerUSNRet
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« Reply #106 on: September 23, 2017, 06:44:31 AM »

Originally posted by AKA23, 10-28-2001 04:56 PM

Hey guys I just popped in High Plains Drifter into the DVD player and watched it last night and I don't know but I must say that there was one scene in that really unnerved me. While watching it I kept thinking over and over again what purpose did that rape scene serve? It seemed to me to be something that didn't really need to be there unless you are painting this guy as some type of evil creature which was not the intention or impression that I got from the film at all. I'd have to say that High Plains Drifter is one of Eastwood's darkest films as an actor/director. The only films that I can think of that are comparable to it would be Sudden Impact and possibly Unforgiven. Yes, Unforgiven is a very dark film at times but I still found myself at least having some kind of an understanding as to why he did what he did and why the film played out as it did. With the rape scene, I just find this guy to be a total bastard. I can understand him killing those three guys in the barber shop at least to a degree and I can understand the majority of his other actions in the film but this action I just don't get. And then he justifies what he did having no remorse for it at all. I just don't get it. Am I missing something? A few frames after that he's being the good samaritan and giving blankets and candy to the poor. It doesn't make sense to me. If he is in fact supposed to be a sort of avenging angel (and thats a crude term for what he is I think) than why the rape scene? I can understand him punishing the town for their involvement in the Duncan murders. I can understand the majority of the Strangers actions but this one I just find to be completely immoral and totally beyond any justification whatsoever. Are we supposed to hate this character or sympathize with his actions? This rape scene just doesn't makes sense to me and I find myself hating the character the more than I think about it! But then in the rest of the movie he doesn't do anything too objectionable that would make me want to hate him. I don't quite understand why he would kick all of those people out of the hotel but since the hotel manager was involved in the murder than can be somewhat explained. But why the rape?

What scene is this? I remember the film and never remember this scene... It's just so... un Clint-like...  ???
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KC
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« Reply #107 on: September 23, 2017, 08:38:56 AM »

It's right at the beginning. You may have missed it if you saw the film on network television, since it would have been cut.

Years later, Clint said in an interview that he might not have included the scene if he had the film to do over again.
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Kayley
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« Reply #108 on: October 24, 2017, 01:18:19 PM »

I say the rape scene was necessary.
Just like the killing and the humiliating and the drinking and everything else he does to this town.

It's symbolic. Every little thing in this movie is symbolic.
So here comes this guy who hasn't been compromised like these town's people have. He doesn't take sh*t from anyone. He is his own boss, does what he wants... he comes into town and the first things he does is rape, kill and drink... and still everybody sees a savior in him. That's how far from decent these people have gotten. And they want him around. They want him to stay because he is a symbol of victory and they hope that through him, they can conquer their source of indecency, too. Only... it's not the outlaws. They just use the people. The real evil sits inside them, so in order to conquer it, they have him destroy themselves. And because they want it destroyed, they keep him around, even though they see him rape the girl and kill the men! Because these people are lost and they want to be found, no matter the cost, even if it is their lives.
I just love that movie!
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It's a hell of a thing, killing a man....
KC
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« Reply #109 on: October 24, 2017, 09:54:48 PM »

Very good point. I never saw the rape scene from quite that angle before. It's not that it's not an evil and despicable act ... it's about what it reveals about the townspeople, for whom the Stranger's very evil is the draw.

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He's got you all snake-fascinated, every damn one of you.

He's a bit like Shakespeare's Richard III. Fun as it is to wallow in the spectacle of Richard's villainy, the most interesting part of the play is what it shows us about the characters who surround him, for better or worse.

Welcome to the Board, Kayley!
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Kayley
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« Reply #110 on: October 25, 2017, 03:31:40 AM »


Welcome to the Board, Kayley!

Thanks. I'm glad I found it ;).
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El Cigarillo
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« Reply #111 on: January 06, 2019, 10:42:57 PM »

Gee.
My main complaint with the film is the extended vicious whipping scene. It really went on too long and was genuinely disturbing.
The rape scene was filmed in a stylized manner (no nudity) that fit the general tone of the rest of the film; a very black comedy and morality play.
Bruce
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El Cigarillo
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« Reply #112 on: January 06, 2019, 10:46:57 PM »

I always found it strange the Sondra Lock is threatened or subjected to gang rape in three films he directed.
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Hammerhead
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« Reply #113 on: January 15, 2024, 09:23:22 AM »

Watched HPD last night for the first time in ages. First time for my partner.

The rape really put my partner off the film. I tried to justify it by pointing out that rape was more common in 70s cinema, and it established Clint's character as evil, but I couldn't defend the film's implication that she enjoyed it. Straw Dogs is infamous for a similar scene but at least there is some context in that one (the rapist is a former lover and the victim is raped again right after where it is made clear that she is not enjoying it).

Verna Bloom's character jumps implausibly into bed with Clint as well shortly after being threatened.

So, I think the rape was necessary in establishing Clint's character. But it would have been far better if they had not implied that the victim enjoyed the act.

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AKA23
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« Reply #114 on: January 16, 2024, 02:13:11 PM »


The rape really put my partner off the film. I tried to justify it by pointing out that rape was more common in 70s cinema, and it established Clint's character as evil, but I couldn't defend the film's implication that she enjoyed it.

Thanks for contributing to this discussion. This is an interesting take but I disagree with this interpretation. I don't think "High Plains Drifter" ever intended to show the Stranger character as evil and with the exception of this scene, I don't think he's portrayed that way. To me, he's shown more as a force for righteous actions than a force for evil. He is seen to punish those who did wrong, but he actually rewards those who did good, such as the little person who he makes the sheriff, replacing someone who did not have the character to serve the town, giving clothing and other items to the poor, killing the outlaws seeking to take over the area etc. I don't know why the rape scene was included, and don't feel that it was necessary, per my earlier comments. But, I think that scene aligns with him being seen more as an avenging angel who is set to punish those who were responsible for murdering the marshal, but not seeking to harm those who were not complicit in that. The woman who was raped was part of the group who was corrupt who killed the sheriff so that he would not expose their wrongdoing. The rape could then be seen as a punishment for having participated in that. I think there were many other ways to make that point, but to me this seems like the most plausible interpretation given the events of the film.
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Hammerhead
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« Reply #115 on: January 17, 2024, 04:04:10 AM »

Maybe "evil" is the wrong term, but the "good" actions that you mention haven't happened yet at that point in the film. In the first few minutes he has killed three men (albeit in self defence) and raped a woman. The killings are basically the same as those at the start of a fistful of dollars, or Harry's shootings at the start of Dirty Harry. What makes this character different in the audience's eyes, is the rape. The man with no name wouldn't rape. Harry or Coogan wouldn't rape. We realise we are dealing with somebody "worse" than what we have seen before - whether or not that makes him evil is open to interpretation.

In any case, my issue isn't so much with the rape per se, it's the way that it's shot that implies that the woman enjoys it, and the fact that she does indeed "come back for more" later in the film, albeit it could be argued that she did that to help the others get in to kill him.

Modern audiences are different of course but many of the Letterboxd reviews cite the rape and the way it is portrayed as a reason for not liking the film

https://letterboxd.com/film/high-plains-drifter/reviews/

One thing I would say is it was incredibly brave of Clint to play a character who commits a rape in the first few minutes of a film. I struggle to think of any other major movie star doing something like that at any point.
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AKA23
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« Reply #116 on: January 17, 2024, 05:50:07 PM »

How do others see this? I agree the act was certainly evil and condemnable, but do you believe the rape shows that Stranger was an "evil" character, and was intended to be viewed that way, and that that may be why this scene was included? I agree with you that the rape and the way it was depicted is objectionable. It does feel out of character to me from how the Stranger has acted outside of this scene for the rest of the film. This is why I suggested that this may have been done intentionally to signal that the Stranger was there to punish the town and that this was done as a consequence and retribution from her involvement with the murder of the marshal. That is the only explanation that fits thematically to me. I'm not a cinephile, so I don't know how common rape scenes are in films from the 70's, and how much that may have influenced the inclusion of these scenes. I do think that it's inappropriate to judge films from a long time ago with modern moral standards, but I think even in the 70's, rape was a crime and horrific, and judged to be so, so that argument doesn't really work for this scene. I also have no explanation for why the film implies she enjoyed the rape, since that isn't relevant to the broader themes I outlined as a potential rationale for including the scene. This is a good question you've raised. What is the rape supposed to convey?
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Hammerhead
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« Reply #117 on: January 18, 2024, 03:19:46 AM »

I wouldn't call myself a cinephile but there was rape all over 70s cinema, even creating a sub genre of Rape/Revenge films:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_and_revenge

Off the top of my head in the 70s you had:

Clockwork Orange
Straw Dogs
Death Wish (and the sequels in the 80s)
Deliverance
Lipstick

And as mentioned earlier in this thread there is rape or the threat of rape in a whole slew of Clint films.

Two Mules for Sister Sara
Dirty Harry
High Plains Drifter
The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Gauntlet
Escape from Alcatraz
Sudden Impact
Tightrope

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Hammerhead
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« Reply #118 on: January 18, 2024, 03:27:27 AM »

Was just googling and came across this, which sort of ties in with my view (I hadn't read it before, honest!), and is a great article overall:

https://www.rogerebert.com/features/a-road-paved-with-bloodshed-high-plains-drifter-turns-50
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« Reply #119 on: January 18, 2024, 10:57:01 AM »

Thats a very interesting piece Hammerhead. Thanks for sharing
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