The Earp brothers, Wyatt (Henry Fonda), Morgan, Virgil and James, are herding their cattlepast the town of Tombstone, Arizona. The cattle are stolen and James is murdered. Ex-MarshallWyatt suspects the Clanton family, but lacks proof. He becomes Tombstone’s lawman, biding histime, waiting for the Clantons to make a mistake. While he waits, he strikes up a pricklyfriendship with the cynical Doc Holliday (Victor Mature). The tension between the two men isintensified by…the arrival of Holliday’s old flame Clementine.
This is the western as gorgeously shot character piece. After the almost gothic opening withthe death of James, the film is (by western standards) very quiet until the explosion of violence ofthe famous gunfight at the end. In between these moments, our focus shifts back and forthbetween Fonda and Mature. Much of the characterization is achieved without dialogue, and DPJoseph P. MacDonald’s compositions are breathtaking. Funny, charming, and tense, this is thewestern at a very high level.
The film comes in two different versions (about which more below), and the stereo option isavailable only on the theatrical release version. Frankly, you’re better off sticking with the mono(which is clean, undistorted and has very little hiss). The stereo re-mix is tinny and plagued bythe usual surround voices and other inappropriate effects.
The black-and-white cinematography is just stunning, and is well served by the transfer. Thecontrasts are fabulous, with deep, deep blacks. There is some grain, but not much when youconsider the film is almost sixty years old. There is a bit of edge enhancement visible, however,and occasional haloing effects. There are a couple of splices in the print, and other very minordamage. Generally speaking, the film looks very good, and the image is nice and sharp.
Producer Darryl F. Zanuck interfered with the making of the film, demanding reshoots, andwhat this meant to John Ford’s work is explored in a 40-minute featurette about the theatricaland pre-release versions of the film. Both these versions are on the disc, one on each side. Side A(the theatrical release side) has a superb commentary by film scholar Scott Eyman and WyattEarp III. Their separate talks are formal, scripted, and very informative. Eyman focuses more onthe film itself, while Earp has more to say on the historical background. The theatrical trailer ishere too. Side B has the featurette, along with a behind-the-scenes still gallery. The menu isbasic.
Another excellent entry in the Studio Classics series, with extras targeted more at the seriousfilm buff than the casual fan. A great movie too.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Pre-Release Version of Film
- Verson Comparison Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery