Hour of the Gun (Blu-ray)

November 21, 2017 6 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

The story of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holliday is well known. I grew up watching a certain film named Tombstone religiously and still quote it on a regular basis. Tombstone was not the only film to tell this story. John Sturges directed a famous film named Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas) about ten years before he made the film Hour of the Gun. Hour of the Gun picks up essentially where Gunfight at the O.K. Corral left off.

The film begins with Wyatt Earp (James Garner) and Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) killing the Clanton and McLowery boys at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. It is known that Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) owns the law in the town, especially Sheriff Brian. Due to the deaths in the Gunfight, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday must prove in the courtroom that they killed the men in self defense. Despite the unlawful Sheriff Brian’s testimony, the judge sides with the coroner’s testimony of the wounds and how they were received. This makes Ike Clanton even more furious. He enlists Curly Bill (Jon Voight) and others to murder the Earp brothers. Virgil Earp is crippled by Clayton’s men and the men are not identified in court, and then Morgan Earp is gunned down while playing a game of pool. A reward is offered for the murderers. Wyatt and Doc team up with Doc claiming he is attracted to the reward. Doc helps to form a posse to help keep Wyatt from getting murdered by the Clantons by deputizing several men on the fringe.

If this film sounds familiar, it is because it is one of the best known stories of Western justice. John Sturges approaches the film with a realistic eye – honing in on areas like the courtroom battles and the involvement of the Mexican Federalis that had never been shown to me in previous films I had seen on the subject. This realistic approach is a double edged sword – I found the film interesting because I was learning more facts about what had actually occurred. At the same time, I think the film Tombstone is more entertaining.

Hour of the Gun is an enjoyable Western overall. James Garner and Jason Robards have never been anything short of great in any film and both stars play their roles correctly here. I really enjoyed seeing the fantastic character actor Robert Ryan as Ike Clayton. Robert Ryan was born for roles like this. The script is well-written and sticks to the facts but the dialogue could have been given a little more juice. I couldn’t help but compare the lines in this film to some of the best one-liners of all time (“I’ll be your huckleberry.”)

Fans of the Western genre and the historical facts surrounding Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday’s partnership will find a solid film here.

Video: How’s it look?

Twilight Time have provided a good looking, but not flawless, transfer of the film from MGM/United Artists using an MPEG-4 AVC codec. The picture for the most part is very sharp but there is occasionally some softness during transitions. Specking is fairly prominent on this release, more so than in most of the Twilight Time releases. Discoloration also occurs occasionally with one really noticeable incident in the final ten minutes of the film. Overall, a little bit more restoration could have made a good film even better, but I still imagine this is the best it has been presented since its theatrical run.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Twilight Time have provided a capable DTS-HD MA Mono Track. As can be expected with a true mono track, there is not much in the way of immersion. That doesn’t stop the film from having some excellent qualities. It features an enjoyable score by the venerable Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith uses a lot of restraint in the score which helps lend even more credence to the film’s realistic tone. I did not detect any noticeable hiss and dialogue was clear throughout the film.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Isolated Score and Effects Track

The Bottom Line

Hour of the Gun is a well researched and realistic portrayal of the events that followed the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. James Garner, Robert Ryan, and Jason Robards are as great as you would expect. That said, it is hard to watch this film without drawing unfavorable comparisons to the fantastic Tombstone. This film is well worth checking out to see these great actors play these parts. I also enjoyed the score by Jerry Goldsmith. Fans may be disappointed by the lack of special features, but it is nice to watch this film in high definition.  Recommended.

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