Senior HTF Member
- Jul 3, 1997
- Real Name
- Ronald Epstein
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Film Length: 122 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
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.
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.
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