Review by Robert Trate
As it is with watching any movie released before one is born, there is a risk of said film’s originality being duplicated. High Noon, directed by Fred Zinnemann and produced by Stanley Kramer, is such film and one that set a bench mark for all Westerns that followed it. Who among us hasn’t seen a film about a lone gunman facing unbeatable odds? With a knowledge of Westerns that spans from John Ford’s classics all the way to Kevin Costner’s Open Range, I had, somehow, never seen High Noon. With Olive Films releasing a new 4K restoration, it was high time I did.
Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper), on his wedding to day to Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), learns that his chief adversary, Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), was released from prison and is coming back to town. The train arrives at noon. Marshal Kane, who steps down one day before the new Marshall arrives, picks up his badge again to not only stop Frank Miller from shooting up the town, but from hunting him and his new bride for the rest of their lives.
High Noon seems pretty cut and dry, but the actual story is not. As we learn through the course of the film, Marshal Kane cleaned up the town of Hadleyville and put it on the map. It became a town of good and decent people. This was facilitated when Kane sent Frank Miller to prison. Now with Kane’s official capacity in question, mixed with the town’s people fearing the return of this brutal outlaw, Kane stands alone. His deputy resigns, and those that do come to his aid expect more help and eventually walk away from him, as well. Where High Noon really sets itself apart is that it takes place in real time. From the moment Kane learns that Miller is on the way, minutes after he marries Amy, all the way until noon, both the audience and Kane are faced with the sands of time running out.
There is a great deal of tension in the film and it has little to do with the actual showdown. Cooper brings forth an incredible performance of a man who goes from having his whole life in front of him to nothing more than a few dangling threads in a last will and testament. The irony comes in two fold. Kane never asks for help from the one person who does come to his aid. He also must realize that even though he is out gunned, he won’t beat Miller unless he fights.
Film aficionados will love seeing the town populated with the likes of Lloyd Bridges (town deputy), Lon Chaney Jr. (the old retired town marshall), Lee Van Cleef (one of Miller’s gang and his debut performance), and screen legends, Thomas Mitchell and Harry Morgan, are in there too. However, it is Grace Kelly, in her second onscreen performance as Amy, that really sets a bar for what Kane can have if he wins. Olive Films has attached a great assortment of their “Signature Features” to this Blu-ray.
It is here where the veil of the film can be peeled back and you can see how High Noon became writer Carl Foreman’s analogy for the blacklisting of Hollywood. I personally recommend watching the visual essay “Ulcers and Oscars: The Production History of High Noon” narrated by the late Anton Yelchin. It illustrates how powerful the visual medium of film can be and how we can use movies to hold up a mirror to the world around us.
- Mastered from new 4K restoration
- “A Ticking Clock” – Academy Award nominee Mark Goldblatt on the editing of High Noon
- “A Stanley Kramer Production” – Michael Schlesinger on the eminent producer of High Noon
- “Imitation of Life: The Blacklist History of High Noon” – with historian Larry Ceplair and blacklisted screenwriter Walter Bernstein
- “Ulcers and Oscars: The Production History of High Noon” – a visual essay with rarely seen archival elements, narrated by Anton Yelchin
- “Uncitizened Kane” – an original essay by Sight & Sound editor Nick James
- Theatrical trailer
Order High Noon on Blu-ray from Olive Films HERE.