September 24, 2016


Starring Gary Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Grace Kelly, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney Jr, Harry Morgan, Eve McVeagh, Jack Elam. Directed by Fred Zimmerman. (1952, 85 min).

If not one of the greatest westerns of all time, High Noon is inarguably one of the most important. Allegorically, the film was always more than just another Hollywood oater, despite its deceptively simple plot. It is also a technical and visual masterpiece that plays as well today as it did 64 years ago. Re-released by Olive Films as part of their new Signature Series, this Blu-Ray is a must-have for any self-respecting cinephile, even if you already have it on disc.

As played by Gary Cooper (who deservedly won an Oscar), retiring Marshall Will Kane was a hero we really hadn't seen in a western before. While certainly brave, he's not fearless. Kane is often uncertain of his own decisions, self-conflicted and torn between doing the 'smart' thing and the 'right' thing, even though the right thing could get him killed. Kane's not necessarily adored by all the townsfolk, either, even though he's been solely responsible for keeping them safe over the years. As a man he once put-away is returning to town on the noon train for revenge, most of them want Kane to leave. Some fear for his safety, while others, all of whom refuse to help him, obviously fear for their own. A few simply hate the man, such as his Deputy Marshall (a very young Lloyd Bridges), who resents not being picked to take over as Marshall.

Will Kane can barely contain his excitement.

High Noon has been remade and ripped-off many times over the years that one of its primary ideas seems to have been largely forgotten. Screenwriter Carl Foreman intended this as an allegory in protest of McCarthy-era blacklisting (of which he himself was subjected to). Some of the features on this disc offer some great backstories about both Foreman and producer/partner Stanley Kramer, whose working relationship acrimoniously ended during filming due to their political positions during the Red Scare.

"Does this look infected?"

High-mindedness aside, High Noon still works wonderfully as mere entertainment. Shot in beautiful black & white, the film is loaded with stunning imagery; the iconic image of Kane walking alone through the streets just before all hell breaks loose can still raise goosebumps. One of the earliest films presented in 'real time,' there isn't a lot of action per se, but with each ominous shot of a ticking clock, director Fred Zimmerman - with considerable help from editors Elmo Williams and Harry Gerstad - masterfully pile on the suspense.

There's no real reason not to own this one, even if westerns aren't your thing. High Noon isn't a conventional western in the purest sense either. If your already have this classic in your collection, Olive Films has packed in enough brand-new, revealing and comprehensive bonus features to make this disc worth the price for any serious fan.

"A Stanley Kramer Production" - Michael Schlesinger discusses the Kramer's legendary career.
"A Ticking Clock" - The editing of the film
"Oscars and Ulcers: The Production History of High Noon" - Narrated by the late Anton Yelchin, this is a detailed account of the making of the film, and the best of the bonus features.
"Imitation of Life: The Hollywood Blacklist and High Noon" - People were really dumb in the 1950s
"Uncitizened Kane" - Essay by Sight & Sound editor Nick James (It's okay, but much of this is more interestingly covered in the other documentaries)
Original Trailer

No comments: