The Tin Star

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In the fifties, the western was a dominant genre in film. Many took advantage of glorious color and broadened a scope in widescreen cinemascope. Although some went to routine measures and told a lot more personal tales and kept the costs lower by filming them black and white and one such western would do that in the late 50s told by director Anthony Mann, who’s track record had been solid in this genre. It’s a story of courage, leadership and what lies beneath The Tin Star.

Morg Hickman (Henry Fonda) is a bounty hunter who has just run into town, with 2 guns, 2 horses and a body. He’s a man who believes more in bringing his prey in dead than alive. He has come to collect his reward and notices that the town looks down on a stranger in the land. Meanwhile, the law is kept as best as it could by a temporary sheriff (Anthony Perkins) but as it turns out his authority is as temporary as his tenure as sheriff. When he approaches Hickman where he’s staying outside of town, he asks him for help and Hickman is willing to take him under his wing provided that he doesn’t include him in any of his decisions for Hickman has a past as a sheriff himself that he doesn’t want to relive again.

It’s always a pleasure to see a western that’s more character driven than by action. No matter how the film is shot or the look, there’s nothing better than a well told story and Anthony Mann has one here in The Tin Star. This film seems to be the springboard of a future of many westerns.

Henry Fonda plays the sympathetic but tough bounty hunter with enough gusto and reserve that spawned well enough later on with his work a decade later with Sergio Leone. On that same note, a little known actor named Lee Van Cleef has a small role that would set him off in the same sinister direction with the same director. Anthony Perkins plays his sheriff that is willing to learn, even if he has to take advice from a veteran gunfighter to gain the confidence that he needs to show authority. This would not be complete without noting the work of Elmer Bernstein, whose fine score in this film would foreshadow his now legendary score in another western, The Magnificent Seven.

From the first shot with two horses to the last shot in the same angle, Mann has adopted a solid western that is short and sweet and never short on action and never short on character as he keeps the positive western flow going in the black and white town where not everything is as typical and routine as the westerns before it.

Video: How does it look?

The Tin Star is filmed in the less elaborate but still effective 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio and the results on this DVD transfer is solid for the most part. Although there is the occasional speckle and debris, along with a long line on the print during a scene between Fonda and Perkins as well as the shaky end titles as well with some shakes and some specks. Despite those flaws, the rest of the print is very clean and crisp and makes for a decent transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Tin Star is given the Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment and even though the film was made in the fifties, much of the limitations of the sound at the time are hardly evident on this track as the gunshots are loud and Bernstein’s score is active through all channels. It does have a lower range than most films during the dialogue scenes which is the only setback to this track. Other than that, it’s a very good track. This disc also has a English Restored Mono track along with English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The Star may be Tin but the extras are nowhere to be found for this is Paramount and for a character driven western, it would’ve been nice to see how they would sell it at the time by means of a trailer.

In conclusion, The Tin Star is a fine entry into the American Western genre, along with a decent DVD that is affordable and recommended.

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