In the baking heat of the Spanish countryside Clint Eastwood performed his duties as an actor in three spaghetti westerns that had little expectation attached to them; somehow amid the chaos of a Sergio Leone shoot Mr. Eastwood studied the Italian’s technique, absorbed the stylisations, admired the fiery filmmakers work ethic, and filed away the daily lessons he was exposed too for future reference. Eastwood was clearly determined to get more of out his three European vacations than just payment. It’s almost as if Eastwood knew that these formative experiences would be crucial in his later career. But Eastwood was not content with merely following the Sergio Leone curriculum of filmmaking, especially when the opportunity arose later in his career to work with Don Siegel. If Leone’s influence on Eastwood was visual and stylistic, then Siegel’s lay in the simplification of narrative; in a minimalist attitude to the presentation of familiar generic material. Eastwood’s first outing as a director was the atypical and unusual Play Misty for Me (1971); an intense psychological thriller in which Eastwood made his first attempt to subvert audience expectations built on his image as a tough guy action hero. His second film was High Plains Drifter, and it was his first western. It is a more instructive and intriguing film, and was his first clear opportunity to celebrate his influences and develop his own unique outlook.
© Shaun Anderson 2012