Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chris 2010 Viewings #20: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

US, 1957. Directed by John Sturges. Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas.

John Sturges directed some great movies (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Great Escape), some overrated ones (The Magnificent Seven), and some crappy ones (Marooned), but was overall an above-average helmer for a testosterone-heavy action picture. Not a Hawks or a Ford or a Boetticher, but solid.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is par-for-the-course Sturges. It has some excellent elements, it moves at a good clip, never really bores, while never showing any really sign of a directorial personality. I wasn't especially excited to watch it, but I figured what the hell, Burt Lancaster is always good, I'm falling behind in the movie-watching contest, let's roll. Kirk Douglas in in there too, whatever, he's been in a lot of good movies, even if - Ace in the Hole aside - he's never much rocked my world. And I hold Michael Douglas against him, how could you not? In fact, this is my favourite thing associated with Kirk Douglas:

And that's not even his voice, it's Frank Gorshin! Anyway, I'm not saying I don't like him, just never meant that much to me.

After Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, I wish to apologize to Kirk Douglas for my prior indifference. You, sir, are the bomb. I even forgive your son's hiney in Basic Instinct.

The story in this film is the familiar one of Wyatt Earp (Lancaster) and Doc Holliday (Douglas) and their showdown with the bad ol' Clanton boys at the O.K. Corral. Lancaster is surprisingly boring in this film: Earp is just so damned good and incorruptible that it's hard to be much interested in anything he does. I never dreamed he could be so lacking in screen magnetism. It's shocking.

But Douglas, who admittedly has the much more interesting role as the much-loathed, frequently almost-lynched Doc Holliday, is just fabulous, I would have been happy to watch him for hours more. Burdened with self-loathing, alcoholism, tuberulosis, and a passive-aggressive relationship from hell, Douglas grabs hold of this role and savours every ounce of the dramatic potential. He tackles it like it's the tastiest multi-course dinner ever set before him and invites you to enjoy every last nibble and drop with him. This movie has an insanely good supporting cast - JOhn Ireland, Joe Van Fleet, Frank Faylen, Earl Holliman, young Dennis Hopper (as the one potentially redeemable Clanton), Jack Elam, DeForrest Kelley, Ted de Corsia, Whit Bissell, Kenneth Tobey, Lee Van Cleef - but what lingers from this movie for me is Douglas, Douglas, Douglas. Well played sir, and I will hereby shut my mouth on the matter.

No comments: