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HTF REVIEW: "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral





Studio: Paramount
Year: 1957
Rated: NR
Film Length: 122 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English





Up until last evening, I never saw Gunfight at
the O.K. Corral
. Yet somehow, as I watched this
film, I felt as if I had seen all of it before. This
western has been spoofed in comedies, Bugs Bunny
cartoons and by renowned impersonators. The story
has been retold in several films, and even appeared
as a storyline in a classic Star Trek episode. Before
I had even seen a single frame of this movie I was
already familiar with its names: Wyatt Earp, Doc
Holliday, Tombstone
and Dodge City. There
seems to be no argument that the showdown at the
O.K. Corral in Tombstone 1888 remains imminent in
the minds of Americans.




Novelist Leon Uris wrote the script for this Western
directed by John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven,
The Great Escape) and based on the life and times
of Wyatt Earp and his sickly companion, Doc Holliday.
As the film begins we see how two unlikely candidates
quickly become reluctant allies despite a mutual dislike
for each other. Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) is the
U.S. Marshall and Doc Holliday (Kirk Douglas) is the
town gambler and shootist. When Earp saves Holliday
from a lynch mob, Holliday later returns the favour
by helping the Marshall keep the peace in Dodge City.
These two men not only learn to tolerate and respect
each other, but soon become very close friends.



After cleaning up town, Earp decides to quit law
enforcement in favor of starting a new, peaceful life
with his girlfriend, Laura Denbow (Rhonda Fleming).
However, before their marriage, Earp receives a
telegram urging for help dealing with the Clantons,
a local clan of thugs and cattle thieves who have
overrun Tombstone. Despite the pleas of his fiance,
Wyatt heads out to Tombstone. Doc Holliday soon
follows him and upon their arrival, they meet up
with the rest of the Earp clan, including Virgil
and Morgan (Deforrest Kelly) and younger brother
James (Martin Milner).



The rest of the film deals with the legendary
October sunrise battle featuring the climactic
"march" to the O.K. Corral where Doc and the three
Earps meet their fate side by side.

As I noted at the beginning of this review, this
was the first time I had ever this film, and I
was surprised how quickly I became immersed in
its story. The casting of Lancaster and Douglas
together was ingenious. It is apparent that
Douglas's portrayal of Doc Holliday is one of
the defining roles of his career. Watching these
two men expertly play against each other is
what makes Gunfight at the O.K. Corral one
of the greatest westerns ever made.



There are two special points I need to make about
this film. First, after recently watching High
Noon
(another classic I highly recommend), I
was quite happy to see the return of composer
Dimitri Tiomkin who not only provides the score
for this film but repeats an interesting and
favorable technique of placing some of the film's
narration in the form of the film's title song
sung by Frankie Laine. Another interesting note
is the appearance of a young Deforrest Kelly (Bones
of Star Trek), who looks a lot like actor Gary
Sinise -- and an even younger Dennis Hopper who
appears as one of the Clanton boys


How is the transfer?


Get past the opening credits and you'll find the
transfer of this film to be simply marvelous. The
print seems to be in almost pristine condition,
marred only by a few minor blemishes that are
mostly negligible. The color palette is rather
limited here, but is rendered very nicely through
the Technicolor process. Black levels are nice
and deep -- especially those found in Doc Holliday's
hat. Image sharpness is very good, sporting
exceptional detail. I did notice the occasional
introduction of film grain/noise within some of
the sky shots, but I consider this normal for a
film of this age. No doubt you'll be taken back
by the beautiful shots of the rolling grasslands
and hills of the American plains. Paramount has
done an incredible job of restoring this film for
its DVD presentation.



The original mono soundtrack has obviously been
cleaned up and is presented robustly through the
front channels with hardly a sign of clipping,
distortion or background hiss.


Special Features



Alas, there is none. I can't help but express my
dismay at Paramount for releasing what must be
considered one of the greatest classic westerns
of our time without any supplemental materials --
especially when you see the sort of work that
Fox is doing with their Studio Classics.

The least Paramount could have done is to include
a promotional trailer for the film. I am sure that
something of that sort exists for this film.
Are there any promotional materials or interviews
that could have possibly been included here? It
just seems rather strange that a film of this
magnitude has been released as a bare-bones DVD.


Final Thoughts



Once again I am thankful for a format that has
given me the opportunity to discover a wealth of
classic films for the very first time. Gunfight
at the O.K. Corral
is another one of those
classics that have left a powerful impact upon me.

Paramount has given us a first-rate transfer here,
but I am bothered by the fact that the studio
totally neglected to give us any sort of bonus
material, including a promotional trailer.

If you haven't figured it out already, Gunfight
at the O.K. Corral
is an essential DVD purchase.


Release Date: April 22, 2003


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality
 

oscar_merkx

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never saw this before either, so will just pick this up simply because of Kirk Douglas & Burt Lancaster.

Yes a shame that there is not even a special feature when you see how Fox really takes care of their classic line.

:emoji_thumbsup:
 

Paul_Scott

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Lancaster and Douglas, two of my favorite actors of all time (i'm counting the days till the Swimmer and hopefully some day we'll see Ace in the Hole from Paramount).
this is one, though, that i haven't seen either...yet.
looking forward to it.

while a trailer would have been nice, a good looking OAR transfer is all i really need to be happy.

this and Nevada Smith are the two movies from this batch i'm most looking forward too (although i will probably take the opportunity to finally see Little Big Man)
 

Cees Alons

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Yam, yam. Thanks, Ron. Waiting!

(Those who are going to love this one, should also keep My Darling Clementine in mind.)

Cees
 

Jim Rankin

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Thanks Ron, the Western genre is one area my collection is severely lacking in, and I promised myself I would address it this year, this one along with High Noon, The Wild Bunch and The Searchers will be in before long.

Is anyone else sort of rediscovering Western films in general? I had been dismissive of these films because they were my "dads" films, and there is no way he would know what a good film was!:D
 

Jeff_HR

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(Those who are going to love this one, should also keep My Darling Clementine in mind.)
I feel that "My Darling Clementine" is a better telling of this story than "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral". And I believe it will have some extras.
 

Thomas T

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Gunfight At The O.K. Corral is one of my all time favorite westerns so I'm dying to get my grubby hands on this.

You mentioned Rhonda Fleming as Lancaster's love interest, Ron, but you neglected to mention Jo Van Fleet as Kate, Douglas' "love" interest. Their Freudian love/hate relationship is one of the more interesting aspects of the film.
 

Randy Korstick

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Another good review Ron although I'm still surprised at how many classic or older films you have not seen since you come from the old school of video collecting i.e. VHS to Laserdisc to DVD. VHS and Laserdisc exposed me to many classics and old films back in the 80's and early 90's.

This is another good one. I agree the performances of Lancaster and Douglas add alot to this film. I enjoy it alot more than Tombstone. I wish they would release the follow up "Hour of the Gun" also done by John Sturges. It finishes the story.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Is anyone else sort of rediscovering Western films in general? I had been dismissive of these films because they were my "dads" films, and there is no way he would know what a good film was!
I always felt that way, too. I hated Westerns all
my life. Suddenly, I dunno....I think I got hit in
the head with a brick as I am really enjoying the
Western genre on DVD.


Well, enough rambling from me.
 

Cees Alons

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The Western genre was so accepted and so ample, in those days, that they were able to cover various and all sorts of different situations and problems of life in those books and films.
Some were mediocre, some plainly bad, but some were real gems.

Psychology, moral conduct, luck, adversity, war, politics, the strives of man, you name it and it's covered somewhere in some western movie. The big advantage was: the basic rules were simple and well known and close to early needs for survival, rules of society and communion that are built in the fabric of our minds.
AND it's about the history and creation of the USoA and its modern society as well.

It enabled them to sketch the situations and challenges in broad strokes, simple but powerful - and then concentrate on the problem at hand, because we were supposed to already know and understand some of the general details.

It has led to really powerful films as well as "something for everyone". Something for every taste.
Almost all other genres seem to exist as a sub-genre of the western as well. OK, I may be slightly exaggerating here now, but it's basically true. Apart from that one limitation: it had to play in the (old, or not so old) west, anything else seemed possible.

Problems embedded in Frontier Logic. It's a tremendous joy.

Cees
 

Richard Gilmore

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Another classic without supplementary features:frowning: This film is so ripe for this kind of material. For gosh sakes, get an interview with Kirk Douglas while he is still here with us. I will purchase anyway, based on Ron's notes on the quality of the transfer.
 

Doug Fogle

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Completely off topic,but if you're just discovering clasic westerns be sure to check out the Anthony Mann-Jimmy Stewart ones from the fifties.Bend of the River,The Far country,many more.Stewart played an entirely different persona than his usual"aw shucks" character-much harder,almost cruel sometimes,and i've often wondered how much clint eastwood was influenced by him.My personal favorite westerns.On topic,I'm glad I"m not the only one that likes this film better than Tombstone.
 

Adam_S

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The Western genre was so accepted and so ample, in those days, that they were able to cover various and all sorts of different situations and problems of life in those books and films.
Some were mediocre, some plainly bad, but some were real gems.

Psychology, moral conduct, luck, adversity, war, politics, the strives of man, you name it and it's covered somewhere in some western movie. The big advantage was: the basic rules were simple and well known and close to early needs for survival, rules of society and communion that are built in the fabric of our minds.
Speculative fiction is capable of the same thing, though we have sadly yet to see that genre take off in film the way the western genre has. Sadly the studios missed the lessons of ET and Star Wars, its never about the effects, its about the story. And so a beautiful story about sacrifice (among many other things) like Donnie Darko is buried while Wing Commander (and its like) is given a wide release. One of these films is science fiction, the other is a teen movie in a new setting.

Let's hope that Lord of the Rings gets the right message out to the studios. Its not the effects, its the story dammit.

bring on more classic westerns, I want Bad Day at Blackrock (nother great Sturges film!).

Adam
 

Robert Crawford

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Watched my copy today and was very pleased with the dvd presentation. However, like others, I wish some extras were placed on this disc especially considering it's one of the most popular westerns ever made.





Crawdaddy
 

Zen Butler

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Awesome review Ron. This is a big must buy for me. One of the true great westerns. Despite the lack of extras, I'll be happy with what looks to be a great transfer. I just love the more psychological westerns of this period.
 

Nelson Au

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With all respects to Ron, the spelling is "DeForest Kelley". Here finally is a western that this actor appears in before Star Trek we can enjoy.

Nelson
 

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