High Noon Blu-ray Review
The men gather in a pasture. There are nods and codes. When the time is right, they hop on their horses and head to town. They have mean eyes and gruff faces. When they arrive in town, there are looks of concern and quiet prayers said.
At the same time, Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper, in a performance that nabbed him his second Academy Award) is marrying his love, Amy (Grace Kelly, Henry Hathaway’s 14 HOURS). Having just put down his holster and badge, Kane gets word on the appearance of the gang (Lee Van Cleef, Sheb Wooley, Robert J. Wilke) and its leader, Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), who is scheduled to arrive in Hadleyville on the noon train. The history between Kane and Miller is soon revealed, putting revenge at the forefront.
Before the honeymoon can begin, Kane decides he must go back to town. Being outnumbered, Kane knows he must compile his own team. This is much more difficult than he anticipated, as even those he thinks he can trust turn out to be cowards. Perhaps some of you are now picturing the iconic image of Gary Cooper walking through the center of town alone.
That’s one of the finest and most defining shots not just in westerns, but in all of cinema. It shows a man who has been abandoned by nearly all; it shows a man doing what a man has to do; it shows a foot being put down. It shows that, no matter the size of the challenge, doing what’s right and just stands tallest. Kane isn’t out for a stamp of approval or to be heralded in the papers; this is something he must do because that’s the person he is and that’s what the situation calls for. It could be argued that if there is one character from westerns—possibly the quintessential American movie genre—that should define it, it shouldn’t be any of John Wayne’s, it should be Will Kane. (For what it’s worth, the American Film Institute ranked Kane fifth on their list of 50 Greatest Heroes; the only Wayne character to make the list was Rooster Cogburn at #36.)
Directed by Fred Zinnemann (who would direct FROM HERE TO ETERNITY two years later), HIGH NOON is a tense and thrilling work, developing at an unnerving step. There is only so much time until Miller arrives and so only so much time for Kane to ready himself. It turns out to be just enough to richly detail the characters, the conflict and the small town in which it all occupies. (The note that the film is told in real time is a myth, although the Oscar-winning editing does wonders for the pace here.)
Shot in gorgeous black and white cinematography by Floyd Crosby, guided by a memorable Dimitri Tiomkin score (he also co-wrote the signature song, “Do Not Forsake Me, My Darling”) and backed by a remarkable supporting cast (Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges and Katy Jurado being the standouts—Kelly in particular does so much with Amy, who is nicely written by Carl Foreman), HIGH NOON has, more than 60 years since its release, successfully secured its reputation. It is one of those great American pictures that serve as stellar entertainment and a prime example of what its genre can do.
Video: 1.37:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This new 4K restoration outdoes the initial 2012 Blu-ray release, which was impressive in its own right, in every aspect. Details have never been as clear, contrast never so strong and the overall image never so close to perfection. This is an absolutely stellar presentation that stands as an excellent introduction to Olive’s new Signature line.
Audio: English Mono. Subtitles in English. The audio is also without flaw, with clean dialogue and a wonderful Dimitri Tiomkin score.
A Ticking Clock (5:53): Editor Mark Goldblatt (who earned an Oscar nomination for his work on TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY) discusses the construction of HIGH NOON.
A Stanley Kramer Production (14:00): Film historian Michael Schlesinger discusses the legacy of producer/director Kramer.
Imitation of Life: The Blacklist History of HIGH NOON (9:27): Author/producer Larry Ceplair and blacklisted screenwriter Walter Bernstein offer their thoughts and recollection on the infamous Hollywood blacklist of the 1940s.
Oscars and Ulcers: The Production History of HIGH NOON (12:02): The late actor Anton Yelchin narrates a video essay on the production of HIGH NOON.
Uncitizened Kane (11:01): Sight & Sound editor Nick James provides an essay.