High Noon (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A town Marshal, despite the disagreements of his newlywed bride and the townspeople around him, must face a gang of deadly killers alone at "high noon" when the gang leader, an outlaw he "sent up" years ago, arrives on the noon train.

April 30, 2024 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Movies have become so intertwined in our daily lives, odds are that we’ll likely quote them long before we even see the film. “Play it, Sam”, “I’ll have what she’s having…”, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” and so on. Such is the case with High Noon in which the film’s title is what is most recognizable. But High Noon goes way beyond the title and it was made at a very dark time in Hollywood’s history. Some call it an allegory for what was happening with the blacklistings of several movie stars, directors and others in the entertainment industry. The film was inspired by a magazine short entitled “The Tin Star”, but was brought to the screen by Carl Foreman and directed by Fred Zinneman (From Here to Eternity). It’s no secret that High Noon was a “different kind of Western”; and it shows on many levels. Gary Cooper had not recaptured the former glory of his early days, but found new life in the title role of Will Kane (note the last name) and it won him his second Academy Award (his first was for Sergeant York). New to the screen was the lovely Grace Kelly and this is the movie that made her famous. Almost as famous as the movie was that of the title song; “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'” sung by Tex Ritter (father of John Ritter).

High Noon, running at 84 minutes, plays out in a close approximation of real time. On his wedding day, Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and his new Quaker bride (Grace Kelly) plan to head out of town and start a life together. However, Frank Miller, a man that was sentenced to jail by Kane, has been released and vowed to come back and kill Kane. Together with his band of buddies, his train will arrive (and therefore Kane’s fate) at High Noon. As mentioned, the screenplay had a lot to deal with what was going on in “real life” as Kane is encouraged to leave town with his new bride and therefore escape Miller’s wrath. Kane, being the brave individual he is, ignores the pleas of his wife and the town and decides to confront what awaits him. Trying to persuade the townspeople to stand with him, they do not and eventually it’s Marshal Kane vs. the four outlaws. Interestingly enough, the only people who are willing to help Kane is a crippled old man who wears and eye patch and a teenager who knows no fear. Kane, for obvious reasons, can’t let them participate. His trusted deputy (Lloyd Bridges) is involved in a power struggle with him and is bitter, thinking that he should have the job as town Marshal. When his relationship with his girlfriend is compromised, sparks flare and in the end it’s still Kane who stands alone.

Stylistically, the use of some static shots throughout the film set the standard for what was to come. Shots of empty train tracks that represented the train coming into town. The shots of clocks not only told the time, but also built the tension as the time crept closer and closer to noon. The washed out skies of Hadenville (where the film takes place) aren’t the familiar skies of a John Ford western. There’s no scenic sunsets and no mountains in the background, it’s washed out and appears like that of a newsreel. This unique look added to the tension and forced us not to look at the scenery, but pay attention to what might happen at High Noon.

The film, like so many others, was a huge success at the time. It won four Academy Awards including Best Editing, Best Score, Best Original Song and Best Actor for Gary Cooper. It was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to The Greatest Show on Earth. Also of note is the fact that it’s the highest “ranked” of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all time, clocking (no pun intended) in at #33. While some critics, including Roger Ebert, have called this film dated, I think the values it instills hold up well even today. For what it’s worth, this is Bill Clinton’s favorite movie of all time! While High Noon has been copied time after time, the original is still the best and it’s unlikely we’ll see something this exciting come along in the near future. Gary Cooper was the perfect choice for the role and the supporting cast shines as well. Look closely and you’ll compare the ending with that of Dirty Harry. Highly recommended.

Video: How does it look?

When you consider some of the glorious colors of modern-day films, watching a black and white film framed in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio might seem a bit…lackluster. But this is High Noon we’re talking about and it’s one of the finest films made. Granted, the washed out skies give the movie a “newsreel” feel in look and appearance and the long shadows of Gary Cooper have become unmistakable.¬† I noticed no halos or artifacts and what little there were seemed to fit in well with the film. The gritty look of the picture only adds to the way the movie plays out. Very little edge enhancement is included and only in some scenes can you tell that things really look a bit off. This is, by far, the best the movie has ever looked and it’s a testament to the 4K format if there ever was one.

Audio: How does it sound?

I don’t really consider myself a “purist” by any means, so DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mix was more than sufficient. In fact, I found it a bit loud in some parts. While the soundtrack certainly can’t compete with that of today’s movies, the dialogue didn’t have that “hiss” that is so associated with older movies. Sound doesn’t come out of all the channels, but with what is going on screen, you really won’t notice. This sounds great for being as old as it is and no one should be let down.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc 1 (4K)

  • Audio Commentary – The first of two new commentary tracks finds Author/Film Historian Alan K. Rode as he gives us his comments on the film throughout. It’s a good track and running at the film’s length (85 minutes) isn’t too much of an investment when you consider the source.
  • Audio Commentary – The next track finds Film Historian/Writer Julie Kirgo, whom we interviewed a few years ago. Ms. Kirgo was formerly of Twilight Time and clearly knows her stuff. I preferred this track (for obvious reasons).

Disc 2 (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary – The first of two new commentary tracks finds Author/Film Historian Alan K. Rode as he gives us his comments on the film throughout. It’s a good track and running at the film’s length (85 minutes) isn’t too much of an investment when you consider the source.
  • Audio Commentary – The next track finds Film Historian/Writer Julie Kirgo, whom we interviewed a few years ago. Ms. Kirgo was formerly of Twilight Time and clearly knows her stuff. I preferred this track (for obvious reasons).
  • A Ticking Clock – Assuming the film has been viewed, we all know the importance of the clock. It represents many thing and editor Mark Goldblatt discusses the importance of ¬†High Noon and its editing.
  • A Stanley Kramer Production – Filmmaker Michael Schlesinger discusses Stanley Kramer’s work as a producer all the while the political controversy at the time this was being made.
  • Imitation of LifeThe Blacklist History of High Noon – If you’re looking for a crash course of what was going down in the McCarthy-era at the time this was being made – this is for you.
  • Ulcers and OscarsThe Production History of High Noon – This one is a bit difficult to watch not so much due to the subject matter, rather it’s narrated by Anton Yelchin who, sadly, is no longer with us. Still, we do get a pretty sordid history of the film as well as a plethora of stills and so on.
  • Uncitizened Kane – Editor of Sight & Sound Nick James, contributes a text-based essay on the film.
  • The Making of High Noon – Essentially that. Assuming that all the other features have been viewed, this is a tad bit redundant but nice to have nonetheless.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

There are movies and then there are movies. As you’ve no doubt guessed, this one is the latter. The lone man standing up for what he believes in. Ironically, this is Bill Clinton’s favorite film of all-time. I have no idea why I just mentioned that. Nevertheless, Kino’s new 4K image brings the film to a whole new level and the addition of two new audio commentaries only sweeten the deal. This is one of the finest films ever made.

Disc Scores

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