"Why don't ya get off your pulpit, Wyatt?"—Doc Holiday (Kirk Douglas)
The time: 1888. The place: Tombstone, Arizona. The grudge: The Earp brothers have a bone to pick with the cattle rustling Clanton family. In corner number one we have the Earps: U.S. Marshal Wyatt (Burt Lancaster), Virgil (John Hudson), and brothers James (Martin Milner) and Morgan Earp (DeForest Kelley of Star Trek fame). In corner two we have the vile Clantons: Finn (Lee Roberts), Ike (Lyle Bettger), and Billy Clanton (Dennis Hopper), as well as allies Tom (Jack Elam) and Frank McLowery (Mickey Simpson), and Johnny Ringo (John Ireland). Along the way Wyatt strikes up an unlikely friendship with Doc Holiday (Kirk Douglas), a gambling gunfighter who suffers from tuberculosis. Though Wyatt dreams of settling down with his girlfriend Laura (Rhonda Fleming), a telegram from one of his brothers requesting help keeping the peace makes him rethink his "retirement"—soon a showdown will ensue in the town of Tombstone that will leave many dead…and only one side the victor.
A staple of the 1950s were those old time westerns, filled with gunslinging heroes and dastardly villains whose fashion sense leaned towards all black. Though there have been many films made about the adventures of the legendary Wyatt Earp and sickly Doc Holiday, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral stands as a semi-classic due to its attractive casting (though the Kurt Russell/Val Kilmar version Tombstone is most likely far more admired). Truth often gives way to Hollywood lore, and what once was fact quickly becomes mythological fiction in the hands of studio writers and producers. In Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, we get a chiseled Burt Lancaster and dashing Kirk Douglas as Wyatt and Doc, respectively, slugging it out double-barrel wise with the mean old Clanton gang (featuring a very young Dennis Hopper as one of the brothers). What follows is an often too long wait for the final gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the dry town of Tombstone. Clocking in at over two hours, the film is filled with lots of dialogue featuring Douglas' character grumbling and razzing Wyatt about his preachy ways—after about ten minutes of this, the dialogue wanders off into stock character territory. When the final showdown finally transpires, one realizes that at least a third of the film could have been trimmed in the editing room—too many scenes drag on endlessly, especially anything regarding Doc Holiday and his girlfriend's strained relationship. However, inherent flaws in the script are (mostly) overcome by Lancaster and Douglas' on-screen rapport. The two men banter well together, each bringing a distinct and fine zing to their performances. Aside of Hopper, the bad guys are all interchangeable mad dogs, each grumbling about their nemeses and concealing hidden knives strapped to their ankles. It may be I'm too far imbedded in the Young Guns generation to truly appreciate Gunfight at the O.K. Corral—give me Emilio Estevez over stiffly choreographed gun fights any day. Though flawed, I can recommend Gunfight at the O.K. Corral for curious historical cinema buffs and die hard western fans.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount's efforts here are decent, if not great—the image is often marred by edge halos and print flaws, making this transfer a prime candidate for a good cleaning. The colors and flesh tones are all accurate and bright, proving that in Hollywood's version of the old west, almost no one sports grimy teeth. The soundtrack is presented in a very dull sounding Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono sound mix in English. It sounds canned and features a title song that irritates more often than not (it's one of those ear shattering Frank Laine songs that gives exposition after each scene, as if the viewer didn't know what just happened on screen two minutes previously). Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Sadly, Paramount has really missed the boat with this release—not a single extra feature has been included on this first ever DVD edition of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
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