Well we have reached the final round of this Movie event, so I’d like to thank “Hans” both for inviting me to take part and for running it in the first place. I know I’ve been reminded of some movies I like a lot but hadn’t seen recently and better yet, read of some movies that sound great that I didn’t yet know I wanted to see!
The final round for me is no coincidence. “Westerns and War” movies is the category, and there’s no secret why I had skipped over it for 11 rounds. Frankly, I don’t like Westerns or War movies. No offence to fans of either genre, they’re fine and valid but just not my personal cup of tea. My dad when I was very young seemed to love old Westerns; none of them stood out in my mind specifically and I think even at age six or seven I could detect that the stories were overly simplistic and the acting usually over-the-top.They were made in black & white, and their take on morality was equally sharply defined. As were the stetsons usually. By the time I began having more to do with my Dad as I became an adult, I found his tastes had changed. Mysteries and period pieces, often British had become his favored style and I for one saw that as what a film maker would call “character development.”
I will add though that I don’t object to the concept of either Westerns or War. Yes, I know Indians are usually depicted as the enemy and there are stereotypes galore, just as there are of the German or Japanese enemies in most WWII movies, but if people want to watch them, I say that’s OK. They are a product of their times and can be simple entertainment or if you prefer, a teaching lesson. I’m not one of the types who want to ban them because something about them seems offensive to a few. Sorry.
For all that, I still struggled to pick a film that fit either category. I love Tom Hanks generally, so I saw Saving Private Ryan and was seemingly the only person in North America who was unimpressed. I might have fallen asleep during it had it not been so loud. I watched High Noon, an award-winning old Western, some years ago because I was curious to see Grace Kelly in a different kind of role. It left me both bored and of the mind that a the princess-to-be was better suited to her Hitchcock roles as a jet-setting, wealthy socialite than a poor Quaker girl on the frontier. However, there was one movie that was a bit of an exception – Tombstone.
Now I will admit it’s been over a year since I saw it, and it wasn’t my first choice of viewing for the night. But we put on the 1993, color Western and I was surprised. It was reasonably good and kept my attention for its full two-hours plus.
The film was a bit of a risk for its studio, given how Westerns had fallen out of favor long before the ’90s. But they got a good cast on board, including Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Jason Priestley, Dana Delaney… and a small role by a remnant of the Hollywood of when Westerns (and Biblical epics) were king, Charlton Heston.
The story, while not entirely a factual historical telling of events, was based on real events and has been judged to be more accurate than most of its type. The authenticity no doubt helped create characters that seemed real rather than White Hat/Black Hat heroes and super-villains. A plus. It revolves around Wyatt Earp, played in a fairly under-stated manner by Kurt Russell, retiring from the Law after he fixed things up in Dodge City. He moves to Tombstone, Arizona, planning to take it easy, run a saloon/casino and not worry about bad guys anymore. There he hooks up with his old buddy Doc Holliday, played by Kilmer. Unfortunately for him, Tombstone was in the grips of “The Cowboys”, an outlaw gang fond of red sashes, robbing, raping and pillaging. They terrorized towns on both sides of the border, and worse, had a sherriff in Tombstone who seemed disinterested in shutting them down. Inevitably, Earp feels compelled to round up his brothers and set out to bring the Cowboys to justice… or death, whichever came first. It all led up to the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral.
The movie kept me on the edge of my seat for a good part of it and was, I thought, well-acted and fleshed out. Rotten Tomatoes agreed, giving it a fairly good 74% rating and noting that it was “a stylish modern Western with a solid story and well-chosen ensemble cast.” The movie ended up making around $60 million at the box office, not a smash but a profit for all involved and a message to the Hollywood establishment : if it’s well-told, well-acted and well-shot, there is still a market for Westerns. And I dare say, if the story is good, well-acted and well-shot, that might go for each and every one of the dozen genres we’ve covered here this spring.