Thursday, Oct 2020
Director: George Pan Cosmatos
Screenwriters: Albert LeVino, Edward Parmore, Dean Franklin & Charles Beisner from Walter Noble Burns book Tombstone
Length: 130 mins.
Released: 1993

tombstoneA more recent Hollywood Western re-telling the gunfight at the OK Corral tale, probably best filmed by John Ford in My Darling Clementine in 1946. This Western of the 1990s is an undeniably entertaining movie, but it unfortunately seems to disregard its predecessors. To Western lovers, this disrespect shows and taints our enjoyment of the film. This recent Hollywood product is aggressively marketed without so much as a nod to the past. It is geared toward an audience which has never before heard of Tombstone (map), Wyatt Earp, or, most certainly, John Ford. Tombstone lends itself some considerable gravity by having Robert Mitchum narrate the introduction. However, here we encounter of one of this film's several mixing of legends when we learn of "The Cowboys, America's earliest example of organized crime..." It can't be disputed that there were gangs of outlaws in the Old West -- or a degree of "organized crime" -- but by so labeling them here, we suspect the producers of Tombstone were trying to include the audience in a 'Kitchen Sink' production: "Its a Mob Movie and a Western!" Hollywood has always played fast and loose with the history of the West, but here the cause seems to be manipulative marketing instead of misunderstood history. Where Eastwood's Pale Rider was clearly a respectful homage to Shane, Tombstone acts as though this movie has never been made before. It embellishes considerably upon such predecessors as My Darling Clementine and Gunfight at the OK Corral adding the above-mentioned 'Cowboys', a wife for Wyatt Earp, and opium dens in Tombstone. But in spite of all this disregard for cinematic and historic past, Tombstone is a well-made film, a worthy latter-day entry to the Western genre.

This is a colorful and witty movie. Though the build-up to the gunfight finale suffers from the contemporary Hollywood compulsion to feature violence in the movie's first 5 minutes and continue it at regular intervals thereafter, the story moves along well and develops most of the characters with care. Realistic details are included which gives the movie some revisionist credibility. Tombstone greatly benefits from Val Kilmer's edgy and sweaty performance as the ailing Doc Holliday, and in this respect it is superior to My Darling Clementine, where the peculiar Victor Mature tried to portray the cosmopolitan Holliday. However, amidst all the intriguing characters and their budding and dying relationships, we lose some necessary tension in the central escalation toward the confrontation at the OK Corral. In fact -- perhaps to remedy this -- Tombstone gives us two gunfights at the end.

But overall, Tombstone is a Good View. Perhaps a Must See in that it is interesting to consider it in line with the other treatments of the same legend.

--JED

Cast:

  • Kurt Russell.... Wyatt Earp
  • Val Kilmer.... Doc Holliday
  • Sam Elliott.... Virgil Earp
  • Bill Paxton.... Morgan Earp
  • Powers Boothe.... Curly Bill Brocious
  • Michael Biehn.... Johnny Ringo
  • Charlton Heston.... Henry Hooker
  • Jason Priestley.... Billy Breckinridge
  • Jon Tenney.... John Behan, Cochise County Sheriff
  • Stephen Lang.... Ike Clanton
  • Thomas Haden Church....Billy Clanton
  • Dana Delany.... Josephine Marcus
  • Paula Malcomson....Allie Earp
  • Lisa Collins.... Louisa Earp
  • Dana Wheeler-Nicholson ...Mattie Blaylock Earp
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