Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

5.0 1
Director: John Sturges

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming


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John Sturges' Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) never got a major upgrade on laserdisc, so the Paramount DVD edition is an extra-special treat for Western fans, as well as admirers of Sturges or the movie's two stars, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas -- all of a sudden, a classic movie that never looked that good on home video or late '90s cablecasts (AMC ranSee more details below


John Sturges' Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) never got a major upgrade on laserdisc, so the Paramount DVD edition is an extra-special treat for Western fans, as well as admirers of Sturges or the movie's two stars, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas -- all of a sudden, a classic movie that never looked that good on home video or late '90s cablecasts (AMC ran it a lot) looks really, really special. From the montage of the vengeful trio riding across the plains over the opening credits, the disc is a visual stunner, with lots of detail, deep color, and a letterboxed picture (around 1.85:1, maybe closer to 2:1), framing the VistaVision image perfectly. Even the title song, by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington, which should sound hokey, takes on a haunting quality when it's heard over Sturges' relentless, powerful sense of visual storytelling. The letterboxing is particularly important and, in tandem with the clean-up, polish, and luster given to the film, and the 16 x 9 enhancement, it only improves the results. The movie is driven as much by the psychology of the two lead characters, Wyatt Earp (Lancaster) and Doc Holiday (Douglas), as by the action, and the elimination of extraneous top and bottom picture information and the inclusion of the material at the sides of the screen gives the image a tight focus that just grabs viewers and doesn't let them go. Coupled with the beauty of the cinematography and the restored compositions, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral comes off as twice the movie here than it has seemed in full-screen presentations on cable. The restoration of the color and the widescreen image all come to a head in a shot of the sunrise and the Clantons on their way into Tombstone at 104 minutes into the movie, which is so beautiful that a still frame of it could be enlarged and framed as a picture for one's living room. Good as the transfer is, the disc is lacking in a few other areas -- the 19 chapters are just adequate for a character-driven movie with lots of plot to go with it, and one sorely wishes that there were a trailer to go with the movie, if only to see how a Western as psychologically oriented as this one was sold to the public. The only bonus feature is the availability of English captions for those who need them, accessible through a simple three-selection, two-layer menu that opens on startup. On the other hand, the movie is so good, standing just about in the company of Sturges' The Magnificent Seven by virtue of the acting alone, that it's a bargain just the same, especially with this fine a digital mastering job.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
It's one of the sad details of John Sturges' life that he never thought much of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Perhaps he just resented the fact that it was a more popular and successful film than Hour of the Gun, the film account of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday's friendship that he produced as well as directed a decade later. Sturges always regarded Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as a Hal B. Wallis film on which he was just a hired hand, without a lot of control -- the script wasn't his and the project wasn't his, but he did his job well and then some, pulling out two of the more complex performances ever given by Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas, the former playing Wyatt Earp, as a frontier lawman who surprises himself with the violence that his decency can't prevent and, in fact, seems to instigate; and the latter as Doc Holliday, an embittered, self-destructive outcast, betrayed by his own body and the disease he can't shake, who finds a streak of decency in himself just large enough to give him a sliver of common ground with Earp. They're excellent on their own and off the scale when they're together in the same scene or shot. Additionally, Sturges set up some shots -- including a scene early in the movie between Lancaster and Douglas in a barber shop, involving a mirror, the cowboys' invasion of Dodge City and Lancaster's breaking up of their revels, and the build-up to the final shoot-out -- that are as good as any in the Western genre. And the final shoot-out, though hardly accurate historically, was about the best staged in any Western ever seen up to that time. Moreover, the supporting performances are mostly first-rate, from George Mathews to Jo Van Fleet, the latter giving a portrayal that is the perfect match for Douglas' doom-laden, self-tortured Doc Holliday, and Dennis Hopper gives one of his better performances from his early career as Billy Clanton, which anticipated his work in Curtis Harrington's Night Tide. That said, the movie does sacrifice a lot of historical accuracy; among many, many problems in this area, Wyatt Earp was nothing like the way he is portrayed in the script or by Lancaster (though he is so compelling in the part that one almost wishes it were true). Also, Rhonda Fleming's character is a somewhat awkward fit; she isn't essential to the plot, though Sturges does as much and as well with her as one could hope, and more than one would expect given the poor showing that most actresses (apart from Van Fleet here and Anne Francis in Bad Day at Black Rock) get in Sturges' movies. The title ballad, heard at various points in the movie as sung by Frankie Laine, may seem dated and hokey, but it does hold together a dramatic arc that stretches across months of time, three towns, and several vignettes that are often only linked in their backgrounds, and it is a very haunting tune as well. Sturges' subsequent film about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, Hour of the Gun, done ten years later through his own production company, is more realistic and accurate in its historical portrayals, and less romantic and dramatic, but also less accessible.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Widescreen version enhanced for 16:9 TVs; Dobly Digital English Mono; English subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Burt Lancaster Wyatt Earp
Kirk Douglas John H. "Doc" Holliday
Rhonda Fleming Laura Denbow
Jo Van Fleet Kate Fisher
John Ireland Johnny Ringo
Lyle Bettger Ike Clanton
Frank Faylen Cotton Wilson
Earl Holliman Charles Bassett
Ted de Corsia Abel Head "Shanghai Pierce"
Dennis Hopper Billy Clanton
Whit Bissell John P. Clum
George Mathews John Shanssey
John Hudson Virgil Earp
DeForest Kelley Morgan Earp
Martin Milner James Earp
Lee Van Cleef Ed Bailey
Joan Camden Betty Earp
Olive Carey Mrs. Clanton
Brian G. Hutton Rick
Nelson Leigh Mayor Kelley
Jack Elam Tom McLowery
Dorothy Abbott Girl
William Norton Bailey Actor
John Benson Rig Driver
Don Castle Drunken Cowboy
Roger Creed Deputy
James Davies Actor
Joe Forte Actor
Frank S. Hagney Bartender
Len Hendry Cowboy
Charles Herbert Tommy Earp
Edward Ingram Deputy
Anthony Jochim Old Man
Ethan Laidlaw Actor
Morgan Lane Actor
Gregg Martell Actor
John Maxwell Merchant
Harry B. Mendoza Frank Loving
Tony Merrill Barber
Dennis Moore Actor
Max Power Actor
Richard Reeves Foreman
Lee Roberts Finn Clanton
Bing Russell Bartender
Courtland Shepard Card Player
Mickey Simpson Frank McLowery
Robert Swan Shaugnessy Man
Kenneth Tobey Bat Masterson
Henry Wills Alby
Trude Wyler Social Hall Guest

Technical Credits
John Sturges Director
Sam Comer Set Decoration/Design
John P. Fulton Special Effects
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Arthur Krams Set Decoration/Design
Frankie Laine Score Composer
Charles B. Lang Cinematographer
Winston H. Leverett Sound/Sound Designer
Harold Lewis Sound/Sound Designer
Warren Low Editor
Michael D. Moore Asst. Director
Paul Nathan Associate Producer
Hal Pereira Art Director
Leon Uris Screenwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Walter Tyler Art Director
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Ned Washington Songwriter
Wally Westmore Makeup

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Bailey Rides Into Town [7:58]
2. Tracking Clanton and Ringo [4:54]
3. Concealed Derringer [6:05]
4. Wyatt Earp Saves Doc Holliday [6:25]
5. Honest Business Proposition [4:24]
6. Lady Gambler [5:02]
7. Releasing Miss Denbow [5:18]
8. A Good Gun Handler [7:15]
9. Anybody's Woman [7:56]
10. Doc Settles His Debt [7:31]
11. Bad News From Tombstone [6:20]
12. Family Loyalty [6:13]
13. Firearms Forbidden [6:58]
14. United States Marshall [7:12]
15. Ambushed by the Clantons [6:11]
16. The Challenge Is Extended [5:44]
17. Preparing for Battle [7:20]
18. Showdown [3:48]
19. Final Stand [9:46]


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