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PALE RIDER ($29) is a personal favorite amongst Clint Eastwood’s films, and one that returns actor/director to somewhat familiar ground, which he covered in his earlier HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. Like HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, PALE RIDER again combines elements of the supernatural within the framework of a western. In PALE RIDER Eastwood portrays a character called Preacher, who may only be a man seeking revenge, but there is an otherworldly quality to Preacher that make him seem as if he may be a ghost or an embodiment of the Angel of Death- hence the biblical reference of the film’s title and other allusions to Death riding a pale horse. The premise of PALE RIDER follows on Preacher’s miraculous appearance in a small mining community, which is being besieged a large mining company’s hired goons. Said goons are using unsavory methods to drive the small time prospectors off their claims, which will allow the mining company to acquire the land. With Preacher’s arrival, some semblance of faith is restored to the prospectors, especially as Preacher is able to fight off the attacks of the mining company's henchmen. In addition to Eastwood, the cast of PALE RIDER also features Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass, Christopher Penn, Richard Dysart, Sydney Penny and Richard Kiel.

Warner Home Video has made PALE RIDER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is a beauty that does full justice to Bruce Surtees earthy cinematography. Image sharpness and detail are quite strong, but the cinematography is slightly diffuse, which prevents absolute razor sharpness. The vistas of the film’s scenic locations are gloriously represented, but the penchant for natural lighting renders interiors a bit dark and under-defined. Still, it is all very beautiful and makes the 19th Century setting come to life. Colors can be a bit subdued, but in bright sunlit scenes, they become far more vivid. Additionally, texturing of objects, fabrics and even the hide on horses becomes quite apparent in brightly lit sequences. Blacks are deep and the whites are crisp. Contrast can be a bit harsh, but it is a result of the lighting design. Shadow detail is intentionally limited by the use of natural lighting. The elements from which PALE RIDER has been transferred are in excellent shape, displaying only some minor blemishes. Grain is variable due to the available lighting; some shots exhibit somewhat heavy grain, while others show very little. All in all, highly film like and organic.

PALE RIDER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Much of the time, PALE RIDER plays like a talky drama, so the sound design isn't particularly aggressive during these sequences. However, there are moments that become sound effect intensive and the outlying channels spring to life for gunshots, thundering horse hooves and even the water cannons being used by the big mining company. Fidelity is stronger than I’ve ever heard on this 1985 feature, whit the bottom end carrying respectable weight. Voices sound completely natural and the dialogue is always completely understandable. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel, plus French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Italian language tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as Theatrical Trailers for PALE RIDER and UNFORGIVEN.

As I stated above, PALE RIDER is a personal favorite amongst Clint Eastwood’s films. The Blu-ray presentation is exceedingly strong and is certain to please both Eastwood fans in general, as well as those, who are fond of this particular mildly supernatural western. Recommended.



Pale Rider [Blu-ray] (1985)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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