Although often criticized for its considerable historical inaccuracies, director John Sturges' 1957 film GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL has gone down in history as one of the western film genre's finest efforts. But stung by those criticisms, Sturges chose to revisit the story and go beyond the gunfight itself ten years later in 1967's HOUR OF THE GUN.
Whereas GUNFIGHT made the gunfight the climax of the film, and the later 1993 film TOBSTONE placed it in the center, HOUR OF THE GUN actually begins with Wyatt Earp (James Garner) and his brothers and the TB-ridden Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) confronting the Clantons and McLowerys at the corral. It also goes into the trial that got the Earps and Holliday off of murder charges. And it also goes into how the thirst for revenge that salivates in Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) turned Garner's Wyatt Earp from a stoic lawman to almost a mirror image of Clanton, just with a badge. Robards' Holliday can't stand to see his friend disintegrate, but he doesn't want to leave his side, despite his penchant for booze which is exacerbating his tuberculosis.
As has often been pointed out in films based on historical events, including Wyatt Earp's Arizona period, HOUR OF THE GUN does not totally stick with the facts. Ike Clanton's role in the Cowboys gang has been embellished in this film (in truth, Ike wasn't all that swift upstairs); also, Wyatt and Doc didn't track Clanton down to Mexico and kill him (Ike would be killed in a robbery some years later, and not at Wyatt's hand). It must also be said, too, that, instead of having filmed HOUR in the same southern Arizona locations as GUNFIGHT, Sturges filmed it on locations in northern Mexico; and even the most discerning film-goer who has been to either place will spot the differences.
Still, despite these flaws, and the fact that Robards was already too old to be playing the 36 year-old Holliday, HOUR OF THE GUN is a fairly substantial western, more hard-edged and cynical than its illustrious predecessor. Garner, perhaps serving as the bridge between Burt Lancaster's portrayal in GUNFIGHT and Kurt Russell's in TOMBSTONE, is at his very best as the increasingly disillusioned Wyatt; and Robards does a good enough turn as the good Doctor. Ryan's portrayal of Ike Clanton is one of very low-key, business-like villainy, perfectly suited to this constantly underrated actor's talents. Jon Voight is also on hand in his debut film, portraying Curly Bill Brocious.
Helped out by Lucien Ballard's first-rate cinematography and a flavorful Jerry Goldsmith score, HOUR OF THE GUN is an underrated sagebrush saga that deserves to be seen, especially as it came in the years between the wide-eyed optimism of the John Ford films and the more cynical westerns that were to follow in the wake of Leone and Peckinpah.
Hour of the Gun
Hour of the Gun
Marshal Wyatt Earp kills a couple of men of the Clanton gang in a fight. In revenge, Clanton's thugs kill the Marshal's brother. Thus, Wyatt starts to chase the killers together with his friend Doc Holliday.
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December 16, 2017 at 12:07 PM