High Noon - 50th Anniversary DVD Edition review by The Grim Ringler

High Noon - 50th Anniversary DVD Special Edition

Western’s don’t get much more iconic or legendary than High Noon and its influence has changed the way Hollywood looked at the western, and even at our own heroes. And in this 50th Anniversary Edition we finally get to see High Noon get the digital treatment it deserved.

High Noon is the story of the marshal of a small town on his last day in charge. He is marrying a Quaker and is leaving office for her and is none to happy about it. He’s a lawman and that’s all he knows. Things aren’t going to be so easy for him to leave though as three men he helped put in prison are back in town, waiting for the arrival of the noon train into town, which their leader is on, and when everyone expects they will come for the marshal looking for revenge. Marshal Kane, knowing that if he stays he risks losing his life, chooses to leave the town with his new bride, hoping to leave the outlaws far behind him. As he gets further and further away from the town though he realizes he can’t do it, he can’t leave this town he has worked so hard to protect, and indeed that he has helped make safe, when they have no replacement for him until the next day. His new bride cannot understand why he feels he must go back, knowing he might be risking his life, and threatens to leave him if he stays there and waits for the men, her religion being one of pacifism. He insists he must stay though and leaves her, not knowing if he will ever see her again, but tied to his duty. The Marshal puts out the word that he is looking for a posse but the townsfolk refuse to help him, instead telling him to leave, or rooting for the outlaws to finish him off. And they break his heart. This is a man that has risked his life and has lived up to his vow to protect this town and none will help him save a drunk, a kid, and a man that won’t be deputized unless other people are there as well. And in the end even the true deputy quits in protest of not being given the Marshal’s job when Kane finally leaves. So Kane is left to stand alone against the four men he had to capture before, risking his life for a town that doesn’t care.

High Noon is all about duty and honor and doing the right thing no matter what the consequence. The fact that it was filmed during the McCarthy era in Hollywood, with one of the production members in the midst of possibly being black-balled, the film takes on a deeper meaning of how we sadly find out how alone we are in the world when trouble comes around. The film has achieved its legendary status for many reasons, the least of which is not the sad, stubborn character of Marshal Kane as played by Gary Cooper. Kane is a man that loses everything, his friends, his town, and even for a while, his wife, but still must stand against men that would destroy everything he worked to protect. Kane stands as a film archetype of how Americans like to see themselves and really, how all people want to see themselves – as the one person who would not back down from a fight. The classic hero. The film is helped greatly by a chillingly melancholy score and a very sparse visual style that was meant to evoke images of the real west – isolation and loneliness. The camera never intrudes into the film, merely becoming a bystander in the film, watching as Cooper wrestles with duty and damnation. Cooper portrays Kane in a very low-key, indifferent way that at first is off-putting, but really does capture the character of a man who is compelled by duty to stand alone. Another interesting thing to point out in the film is that an ex lover of Kane’s, a Mexican woman that has become a business-owner in the town, is the only one that stands up for and believes in what Kane does, and she and Grace Kelly, as his wife, come off as more masculine than the men in the film. Kelly even has to break the vows of her own religion to help protect her husband, and thing she does willingly, but regretfully. Director Zinneman so loved the western genre that he had always wanted to tell a story set in that world but refused to make it look and feel the same way every other Hollywood western did, instead wanting to give the film a starker, more realistic look to enhance the loneliness of the character of Kane, and to focus on how isolated the town was. Zinneman also made the film so that its clock and the clock in the film are almost identical, the feeling of doom getting ever more present as the movie clock inched ever closer, and ever louder, towards noon.

The DVD for High Noon is actually well done, though not terribly full of bonus materials. There are two documentaries - both generally puff pieces, but the longer of the two being, if nothing else, more informative. There is also a rather stiff commentary and a rather pointless radio interview with singer Tex Ritter as he talks about the title song to the film that he sung. All in all the disc looks good, the film having been shot in such a way so to make everything less glamorous and more realistic, and the new sound mix is actually pretty good.

High Noon well deserves the accolades is has gotten and truly is a classic film, be it western or any other genre. Taken in parts, the movie would crumble, being rather lacking in the action and at times the acting, but taken as a whole, with the magnificent photography, the wonderful score, and the inevitability of the pace, the film shines as a major achievement for all those involved. A really wonderful film.


9 out of 10 Jackasses

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