Dick De Jong
May 9, 2010
"I'm your huckleberry."
That one line - that dulcet invitation to a deadly dance, delivered with savage civility by Doc Holliday to Johnny Ringo - if for no other reason, that sweet come hither made me want to write about Tombstone.
In a bravura performance, Val Kilmer incarnates the ravaged body and sullied soul of Holliday, the Southern gentleman, Northern dentist, Wild West gunslinger and tuberculosis ridden roué.
Not to be forgotten is Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, whose rage is palpable as he hunts down the red scarfed Cowboys in a murderous mixture of justice and revenge.
In fact, Tombstone is teeming with complex characters that are so fully drawn that no one comes off purely as hero or villain.
The Earp brothers wear black hats and long undertaker jackets as they march to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The Clanton gang, though sweatier and dirtier, are adorned in bright colors. I like this portrayal of the existential mixture of good and evil in everyone.
I also appreciate the fact that when someone is shot, they bleed, they suffer and they are crippled or worse. Lately, I've seen too many comic book movies where cars careen and crush innocent anonymous bystanders while the heroes fly off to blow up something or someone else.
Don't misunderstand me, Tombstone is packed with plenty of mayhem and malice, but before a gun is drawn, you see the fear or uncertainty or cold bloodedness in the combatant's eyes.
If you were too young when it first came out in 1993 to see this Western that demythifies the Earp legend, the release of this Blu-ray provides a great opportunity to appreciate the film's visual splendor as well as Doc Holliday's razor repartee.
The DVD is not overflowing with bonus material. "The Making of Tombstone" featurettes are not particularly engrossing, but each includes tidbits that make them worth watching.
For example, it was interesting to hear a young Set Decorator named Catherine Hardwicke, (who later goes on to direct the first Twilight movie) explain how they faithfully recreated the buildings and interiors of Tombstone.
Another segment delves into the history of the actual O.K. Corral shootout and how the Earps were considered by many of the townspeople as the culprits.
This topic spurred me to revisit some of the other Wyatt Earp films and compare how they retold the tale. If you are a film buff, you will find yourself in cowboy heaven looking at such classics as John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) starring the laconic Henry Fonda as Wyatt.
A decade later, Burt Lancaster revivifies Earp in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Kirk Douglas tearing up the scenery as he once again proves that Doc Holliday is the meatier role.
And no discussion of Holliday or the Earp oeuvre would be complete without mentioning Lawrence Kasdan's Wyatt Earp (1994) with Kevin Costner as the title character.
This movie, which is also out in Blu-ray, would make a great double feature with Tombstone allowing you to marvel at how two actors so completely capture the exquisite essence of Doc Holliday. Dennis Quaid in Wyatt Earp lost forty pounds to embody Holliday's consumption. Both Quaid's and Kilmer's performances are riveting.
Finally, in the DVD's first special feature, the cast is interviewed about their characters and you quickly realize that Tombstone could serve as a touchstone in a game of Six Degrees of Separation.
In addition to Russell and Kilmer, the film includes the other Earp brothers, Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton. Their adversaries are played with élan by Powers Boothe (Curly Bill) and Michael Biehn (Ringo). Ike Clanton is Stephen Lang (Colonel Miles Quaritch in Avatar) and his brother Billy is Thomas Haden Church.
The mayor is Terry O'Quinn (Locke on Lost). Dana Delany plays Wyatt's paramour. Billy Bob Thornton has a bit role as a faro dealer. And then there's Billy Zane, John Corbett, Jason Priestly and to connect to an earlier generation of film actors, Charlton Heston, and even Wyatt Earp, a distant relative of the original lawman.
To complete this actor association amusement, Sheriff John Behan is played by Jon Tenney who is married to Kyra Sedgwick in the TV series, The Closer. And Kyra is married to Kevin Bacon in real life. (And Dennis Quaid was Sedgwick's brother-in-law in Something to Talk About.)
"I'm your huckleberry."
Studio: Touchstone Home Entertainment
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Cast: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Dana Delany, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Stephen Lang, Charlton Heston, Thomas Haden Church, Jason Priestley
Length: 130 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
DTS-HD Master Audio
English SDH, French, Spanish