- on Saturday, 24 September 2016 11:27
- by Loron Hays
Think you know westerns? If you haven’t seen High Noon, then you are two boots short of a genuine cowboy outfit. In 1952, this “little” film defied the genre and saved all its bullet-slinging action for the final few moments. And what of the rest of the film? It’s all suspense and every last bead of perspiration on Gary Cooper’s face is felt as he tries to assemble a few decent men to protect the town from the notorious Frank Miller. Winner of four Academy Awards and considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made, High Noon has finally arrived on blu-ray with a BRAND NEW 4K restoration.
High Noon, at its heart, is a universal morality play that at times is better than anything Shakespeare ever penned. Screenwriter Carl Foreman positions Will Kane (Cooper), the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory against recently released Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) in a violent showdown. Trouble is, Kane can’t seem to rely on anyone to help him face Miller and his gang. His deputy, Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges), resigns. His friends and associates, Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan) and Judge Percy Mettrick (Otto Kruger), refuse the call and even his mentor Martin Howe (Lon Chaney, Jr) backs away. His new wife, Amy (Grace Kelley), confused by his past association with Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), chooses the train over staying by his side…at first.
Kane is a man alone. Protecting the town is HIS duty.
Picketed by everyone from the Klu Klux Klan to the All American Activities Committee upon its release, High Noon – due to the screenwriter’s classification as an "uncooperative witness" by the House of Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare – quickly was cast out of favor. Even John Wayne hated the film. Director Howard Hawks disliked the film so much he made Rio Bravo with the Duke as a rebuttle to it. Believe it or not, High Noon was that politically received and polarizing.
Nowadays, we simply call it a classic.
Of course, director Fred Zinnemann never intended the Cold War era politics to weigh down the picture. This is a movie about one man’s moral consciousness. Is that truly an unamerican act? Of course not. Latching on to the static image of a cracked railroad, Zinnemann (a relative King among B-movie makers) goes about breaking up the formulaic western genre with an innovative visual punch that matches script to screen time as High Noon ticks its way toward its confrontational showdown.
And not a nuance is missed. Realistic details are pushed forward. Any notions of a picturesque western are shoved aside; the normal cloud-filled skies are stripped of any appeal and there’s only a vast emptiness looking over the happenings. Hadleyville is not a town you want to be in, near, or from. It’s a town you want to avoid.
Cooper might have had no formal training in acting, but that never stopped him from becoming one of our most beloved actors. His performance here is quiet, sure and never melodramatic; he’s a natural. Other actors tend to look as if they are overacting in the scenes they share with him. His lines simply roll out with such snapping precision - much like the quick and fabulous editing job done by Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad. All of which were rewarded for their efforts by the Academy when awards season came about. For Cooper, it would be his one and only Academy Award.
High Noon is a tightly wound film that never loses focus on the duties of the individual and his conflict of conscience. Just as Tex Ritter (the father of the late John Ritter) sings, “Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darlin'”, neither should you ignore this film. It’s a classic and, as a classic, it deserves a new audience each and every year.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Olive Signature has arrived.
MPAA Rating: PG for some western violence, and smoking
Runtime: 85 mins
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Writer: Carl Foreman
Cast: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell
Tagline: Simple. Powerful. Unforgettable.
Memorable Movie Quote: "This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that happens here is really important."
Theatrical Distributor: United Artists
Release Date: July 30, 1952
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 20, 2016
Synopsis: A marshall, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, finds that his own town refuses to help him.
Olive Signature Edition
Available on Blu-ray - September 20, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles: Optional English subtitles
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Olive Signature has simply outdone themselves with this release. A couple of years ago, they put out a bare bones release of High Noon, but this release – complete with the new 4k scan - is beyond brilliant. Depth in the crisp black-and-white image defies explanation; it is theat deep. Some shots are nicely balanced and certainly brings out the craftmanship in the feature. The image is jawdroppingly rich. Black levels are constant and nuanced. Greyish white tones are clear, too. The amount of detail now noticeable in most of the frames is alarming. Outfits are textured and so is the dirt kicked up by all the horses. The low-key western gets it done with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track that – while a bit limited in range – serves the picture well. There’s nothing here that is going to shake the floorboards or the walls but it certainly doesn’t muffle its actors or Dmitri Tiomkin's Oscar winning score.
Olive Signature corrects the sin of their past release of this film with a bevvy of supplemental items, all detailing the strength of this release. From its editing to its blacklisting, the special features contain interviews from film historians and editors about the impact of the movie upon the industry. Sad that there STILL isn’t a commentary attached. Below is what you get with the release:
- "A Ticking Clock" - Academy Award nominee Mark Goldblatt on the editing of High Noon
- A Stanley Kramer Production"" - Michael Schlesinger on the eminent producer of High Noon
- "Imitation of Life: The Blacklist History of High Noon" - with historian Larry Ceplair and blacklisted screenwriter Walter Bernstein
- "Ulcers and Oscars: The Production History of High Noon" - a visual essay with rarely seen archival elements, narrated by Anton Yelchin
- "Uncitizened Kane" - an original essay by Sight & Sound editor Nick James
- Theatrical trailer