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High Noon…for now

June 29, 2008


I’ve been meaning to do this more, but I guess it only makes sense to recycle my recent review of the new Lionsgate High Noon DVD here….

A masterfully efficient thriller and the single most parodied Western of all time, “High Noon” is also one of the most controversial. In its day it was attacked as leftist propaganda – its premise was, and is, widely seen as a metaphor for the McCarthy era. Writer Carl Foreman was called in as a hostile witness to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the production, and later blacklisted. Also, its use of black and white photography and claustrophobic, noirish realism at a time when even low budget westerns were being made in eye-filling color, worried studio suits who wanted lots of puffy clouds and wide open spaces. While the film finally became a huge, Oscar-winning hit and a widely acknowledged classic, the critical attacks have never ended. It has been slammed for decades by some of the world’s most respected critics as a stodgy, one-dimensional “message picture.” Howard Hawks, one of the two or three greatest western directors of all time, famously slammed it for what he saw as the unprofessional behavior of its hero. I respectfully disagree with all of them.

For all the complexity and controversy, the actual story of “High Noon” is ingeniously simple: lawman Will Kane (a 50-something Gary Cooper) has retired to marry Amy (a then-unknown Grace Kelly), a beautiful young woman and a convert to the pacifist Quaker faith. Just as the couple is wed and ready to embark on a new life together, somewhere out on the prairie, word arrives that a vicious outlaw who once controlled the town has been suddenly pardoned and will be returning. He and three henchmen mean to murder Kane. His train will arrive (well, you know when) and it’s a quarter to 11. Though Kane and his strong-willed, violence-loathing, bride initially flee, he decides that he must face the half-insane killer or continue running forever. Though the decision threatens his new marriage, he refuses to reconsider.

Click here to read the rest, partner.

From → entertainment

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