HOUR OF THE GUN (director: John Sturges; screenwriter: Edward Anhalt/based on Douglas D. Martin’s Tombstone’s Epitaph; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editor: Ferris Webster; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: James Garner (Wyatt Earp), Jason Robards (Dr. John ‘Doc’ Holliday), Robert Ryan (Ike Clanton), Albert Salmi (Octavius Roy), Charles Aidman (Horace Sullivan), Steve Ihnat (Andy Warshaw), Michael Tolan (Pete Spence), Frank Converse (Virgil Earp), Sam Melville (Morgan Earp), Richard Bull (Thomas Fitch), Bill Fletcher (County Sheriff Jimmy Bryan), Robert Phillips (Frank Stilwell), Jon Voight (Curly Bill Brocius), William Schallert (Judge Herman Spicer); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Sturges; United Artists; 1967)
“Depicts folk-hero Wyatt Earp’s moral decline from upstanding lawman to someone so filled with hatred that he’s bent on personal revenge.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Sturges’ (“Escape From Fort Bravo”/”The Law and Jake Wade”/Mystery Street) followup after a decade to his popular Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of the better Westerns of the 1960s. It’s a revisionist telling of that famous shootout, as it continues the story after the gun battle. This superior but less popular version, probably because Westerns were a hard-sell by the late 1960s and its hero was debunked causing the film to suffer because it was ahead of its time in its portrayal of an anti-hero. The earlier version saw Wyatt Earp (James Garner) as an honorable marshal, but the sequel is a more cynical, bitter and hard-hitting version that questions if he wasn’t a cold-blooded killer. Edward Anhalt’ script, based on Douglas D. Martin’s Tombstone’s Epitaph, depicts folk-hero Wyatt Earp’s moral decline from upstanding lawman to someone so filled with hatred that he’s bent on personal revenge for Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) and his henchmen (Michael Tolan, Robert Phillips and Jon Voight) for gunning down his brothers Morgan (Sam Melville) and Virgil (Frank Converse). In this version dentist turned alcoholic/gambler/gunslinger Doc Holliday (Jason Robards), suffering from a tubercular disease and someone loyal to Wyatt for saving his life, evolves as a moral compass for the declining morality in Wyatt. It’s a forerunner to depicting the anti-hero in the modern oaters. The cinematography by Lucien Ballard is shot in stark Panavision and adds much to the story’s passionate telling.
It opens in 1881 and has the Earps and Doc Holliday gunning down Ike Clanton gang members Billy Clanton and the McLowery brothers at the bloody gun battle at the O. K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The Earps and Doc are brought to trial as murderers by crooked Sheriff Bryan (Bill Fletcher), on the payroll of cattle baron and the politically empowered Clanton, but the charges are dropped by the judge. Young Virgil agrees to run for city marshal but is gunned down in an ambush by Clanton’s gang and left for a cripple. Morgan volunteers to replace him, but is killed by the gang. Wyatt after being appointed a Federal marshal organizes a posse, after getting warrants, and goes on a vendetta to hunt down the killers–picking them off one by one in a brutal manner. When Doc goes to a Denver sanitarium for treatment, Wyatt treks to Mexico to go up against cattle rustler Ike Clanton and finally settles the score by gunning him down in a small village. Returning to visit Doc, Wyatt tells him he’s giving up his badge.
REVIEWED ON 1/5/2007 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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