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Tombstone (1993)


Tombstone (1993)Another long awaited film, and probably the definitive film of the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday legend in Tombstone (1993) which shows how far the historical research has brought us since the last telling of the legend almost 30 years previously in Hour of the Gun (1967) which itself was a opened up the tale beyond the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral that was seen as the ending of the legend.

Opening with the Earp family on the move from Dodge City to Tombstone to make their fortune in the gold-mining town. Wyatt (Kurt Russell) tries his best to avoid any offers of work as a peace officer, wanting nothing more than peace in his own life for his wife and family. So we found them at the apparent end of their career as law enforcers.

Much to their misjudgement on arriving in Tombstone, Arizona they are faced with trouble and the real law, the cowboy, complete with red sash on their belt, whilst the official law can do very little to bring any law to those who suffer with the carnage that ensues. It’s not long after they have a stake in a casino that the call to public office by one of the Earp brother Virgil (Sam Elliott) who has never worn the badge but has always stood by his other brothers in their fights. This is the beginning of a bloody struggle to bring law to the town and surrounding area that is plagued by cowboys. Seeing what we already knew would happen but in a very different order, a new take on the legend that is surrounded by an authentic town that doesn’t shy away from the cliché’s of the western genre, instead embracing them and a few nods to the past generation of cinema. As we see both Charlton Heston (Henry Hooker) make an on screen appearance, whilst an older Robert Mitchum narrates this legendary tale. The genre has changed, but not forgetting it’s roots. Complete with a scene-stealing Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday as ever on death’s door, now more than ever thanks to the great make-up that ensures that we see his suffering, so much as it is inflicted upon himself. Kilmer really eats up the script and spits it out again with his delivery of lines and the gun play making him Earp’s right-hand man out of the duty of friendship and nothing more.

A violent film that does blows all the others Earp films out of the water and throws them aside to give us a brutal take on what it was like. Using guns and brute strength to bring law. Faced once again by the Clanton Brother Ike (Stephen Lang) and Billy (Thomas Haden Church) yet there is no threat from their father/family, that is replaced by the threat of the cowboys who own the town. We found the classic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is placed whap-bang in the middle, before a trial that never happens.

And so begins a violent second half that sees the Earp family thrown into a world of trouble, with Virgil shot in the  arm and Morgan (Bill Paxton) sent to his death. Whilst Wyatt’s home life is far from desirable, with an Opium addicted wife  and a secret lover, the performer Josephine Marcus (Dana Delany) who had her eyes on him the minute she stepped off the stagecoach. The cowboys are fighting back with all they have. And so with Earp, Holiday and his reformed posse of cowboys who go on a mission to bring down all they found with a red sash hanging from their belts. Something new to the filmed take on the American legend.

Not the most recent, but far more entertaining take on the legend that the biographical Wyatt Earp which had different intentions as a film, about the man, not the legend as such. Whilst other films have built into them their own take to make the legend more real to a new audience, from John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946) that moves the famous gunfight to the end of the film, and depicted it as Earp once described it to him. Each take brings something new to the legend, be it the performances, the direction and the information available.

3 responses

  1. Thanks for the linkback, Tim. I’m a big fan of both Tombstone and Wyatt Earp as movies, but I think the Costner flick is more a drama than the “blockbuster” Tombstone is. Nice write-up too, by the way!!

    July 25, 2013 at 2:56 am

    • Your welcome. Yeah that’s what I felt about Costners, he wasn’t so interested in the action but the man himself, whilst Russell’s is about a man on the edge. Thanks mate

      July 25, 2013 at 11:00 am

  2. Pingback: Western Badass Violence Fix – Tombstone, 1993 | SERENDIPITY

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