Artisan // 1952 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 27th, 1999
A man of pride and character saves the day.
This is one of the greatest westerns of all time. But its not really a western at all. Read on to find out what I mean.
High Noon is a terrific film. This release by Artisan is essentially a re-release of Republic Pictures' 1998 version, repackaged sans the "Silver Screen Edition" logo down the left hand side of the box cover art. I can't find Artisan's new cover art anywhere and my scanner will not do the actual cover any justice.
This film is a masterwork of the genre. In essence, it is an anti-western western. Contrary to the western films of the period, and for that matter the western period in general, this film is slow moving, evenly paced and deliberate in presentation. Most westerns are shoot-em-up action flicks. Not this one. Much like Unforgiven, this western tells a story, something Hollywood has always been good at when it puts its mind to it. It is the story of a lone Marshal who has every chance to escape a coming threat with his new wife. But he cannot. His morals and values will not let him run for the hills like a stuck pig. No. He must stand and fight, even though no one will stand with him.
Gary Cooper (Meet John Doe, Pride of the Yankees) is terrific as Will Kane, the local Marshal. Throughout the film he conveys a quiet sense of desperation as he searches for and finds no help among his townspeople. Cooper won the Best Actor Oscar for this performance and it was richly deserved. Kane's quiet demeanor belies the fire that burns inside the belly of this man. Perhaps Coop's ability to portray this fire was influenced by the fact that he spent the entire time of this film's shooting in severe pain from bleeding ulcers. Now there's a fire in the belly for you.
Coop is surrounded by a stellar cast, including Grace Kelly (Rear Window, Dial M for Murder) as his new bride, Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Mummy's Tomb, Son of Dracula, The Wolf Man) as a former Marshal, Thomas Mitchell (It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Gone With The Wind) as a town leader. Also supporting Coop are Lloyd Bridges (The Rainmaker, Sea Hunt TV show) and Harry Morgan (Dragnet, M). Everyone does his or her job well here. Enough so to keep he focus on Cooper's portrayal of Kane, as it should be.
The film is edited with a superb mastery, so much so that it won an Oscar for that too. A lot of information is packed into the 85 minutes on screen. But the best part is the fact that the film takes place in near real time, which we are reminded of by a continual barrage of brief shots of a clock ticking away. You see, the bad guys are coming at noon, and everyone knows it. Kane has a little over an hour to gather support to fight the four evil doers, but it never comes. Continually showing us how much time Kane has just builds the suspense for us as viewers. It really is a masterful touch and a great piece of filmmaking prowess. Major kudos to director Fred Zinnemann (From Here to Eternity, The Day of The Jackal).
The video of this THX certifies disc is superb. It is presented in its original theatrical aspect ration of about 4:3 or academy ratio. The disc is in its original black and white, but do not let that keep you from seeing this film. The contrast is just right and the film was given a new hi-def master to work from. There were still a few nicks and scars, but so what. I was just glad to get a hold of this film for my library.
The sound is a bit thin, but what would you expect from a 45-year-old soundtrack. The mono presentation is as good as it needs to be.
Also included on the disc is a nice little "making of" featurette hosted by Leonard Maltin. This includes on camera interviews with Lloyd Bridges, director Zinnemann and producer Stanley Kramer. It also includes some production stills and the original theatrical trailer for the film. Boy would I have like to get a couple of commentary tracks along with this though. Oh well.
There is really nothing bad to say about this DVD. Absent a fully restored version with a commentary track, this is as good as it's gonna get for the likes of this film. While not perfect, this comes damn close.
Run, do not walk to your local video store or click on over to your favorite on-line retailer and BUY THIS DISC! This was my first viewing of this film, and I hate myself for having waited so long. It has such a terrific reputation for a reason. It is a story of a man first and a western only by accident. Trust me. Even my significant other liked it and she hates westerns.
Acquitted on all counts. Thanks you Republic and Artisan. Now I know what I've been missing.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1952
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Making of High Noon Documentary
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Stills