The Outlaw Josey Wales, one of Eastwood's early directorial efforts, is crude beyond belief, what with its by-the-numbers opening family massacre and its teeth-gritting revenge finale. Comic scenes lifted from Little Big Man stitched alongside plodding drama lifted from late John Ford stitched alongside embarrassing ass shots of former Eastwood squeeze Sondra Locke (anyone ever take Eastwood to task for misogyny?) stitched alongside action sequences lifted from Eastwood's earlier films with Leone and Seigel (only without the visual fluidity or clarity). I hear Philip Kaufman was to direct this before he got replaced--I'd love to see what he could could have done with the material (for one thing, he could probably have better integrated the wildly swinging tone).
Pale Rider is a more confident directorial job that really brings out the beauty of Bruce "Prince of Darkness" Surtees' moody cinematography (maybe the best shot in the film is of Eastwood in--what else?--deep shadow, a more still, evocative figure than Marlon Brando would be in Apocalypse Now), but the movie is such an obvious steal from Shane, only without George Steven's sense of grandeur and sureness of touch. Sydney Penny replaces Brandon de Wilde as the Shane worshipper (she's got several inches of bustline on him, but he's got several dozen IQ points on her), and Carrie Snodgress takes Jean Arthur's role as the housewife, pretty much staying in the background until we learn late in the film that she has the hots for him (?!).
Michael Moriarity is the Van Heflin charcter, only here he's all victim, which makes for a much less interesting dynamic all around (in Shane, Alan Ladd always considered Van Heflin an equal, maybe his superior even). Moriarity's played weakling in many of his films, but at least in those that Larry Cohen directed that weakness is complicated by a number of things: a vivid sense of his own weakness; an unholy energy driven by fear and loathing of said weakness; and an intriguing sense of perversity ("okay, so I'm a weakling, bring it on!").