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For my money, TOMBSTONE ($30) is one of the great modern day westerns. Released in 1993, the film met with success at the box office, but it was through home video where TOMBSTONE achieved its cult status… and seemingly, its legendary reputation. Of course, in the light of revelations from the film’s star Kurt Russell, concerning the film’s troubled production, and who actually directed TOMBSTONE, said reputation, may have grown even more legendary. Certainly, what went on behind-the-scenes would make for a fascinating documentary- perhaps if the film were revisited, yet again… say for its twentieth anniversary, something like that could be included, but for the remainder of the review, I’ll have to stick to the film at hand.

TOMBSTONE beautifully paints historic events on a cinematic canvas, with brush strokes of artistic license that makes for one heck of a movie western. As the film opens, retired lawman Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) is reunited with his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliott) and Morgan (Bill Paxton), along with their families, with the entire Earp clan settling in the booming mining town of Tombstone, Arizona. Also finding their way to Tombstone is Wyatt's longtime friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), a notorious southern gambler, who is equally notorious as a gunslinger. Although it is the Earp’s intention to keep a low profile while seeking their fortunes, lawlessness still pervades Tombstone, due to the influence of a criminal gang known simply as The Cowboys. The presence of the Earp’s maintains some semblance of peace in Tombstone; a peace that buys the bothers’ a cut of the profits from the local saloon and gambling hall. Unfortunately, the small semblance of peace that the Earp’s instill proves short lived, with the activities of The Cowboys ultimately forcing the brothers to take up the badge once again. From there, the situation continues to escalate, which leads to the gunfight at the O.K. Coral, its aftermath and the justice meted out it the wake of both.

What makes TOMBSTONE a truly memorable film is a strong cast that features notable players, even down to its minor roles. However, the standout performance is most assuredly Val Kilmer’s turn as Doc Holliday. Throughout TOMBSTONE, Kilmer manages to steal every scene, thanks to his character’s florid dialogue and, not to mention the depth of his portrayal, in which he brings to life the tubercular Doc Holliday, a man who lives every moment, as though it were his last. Even with the brevity of his screen time, Powers Boothe makes an indelible impression with his performance as Curly Bill Brocious, the leader of The Cowboys, as does Stephen Lang as Ike Clanton, Michael Biehn as Curly Bill’s sociopathic lieutenant Johnny Ringo. The impressive supporting cast of TOMBSTONE also features Charlton Heston, Jason Priestley, Jon Tenney, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delany, Paula Malcomson, Lisa Collins, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Joanna Pacula, Michael Rooker, Harry Carey Jr., Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Zane, Wyatt Earp, John Corbett, Terry O'Quinn and Robert Mitchum as the film’s narrator.

Touchstone Home Entertainment has made TOMBSTONE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. TOMBSTONE has been provided with a satisfying 1080p presentation that makes for a worthwhile upgrade for anyone seeking the film in high definition. Other than some odd shots, the picture is fairly consistent in its appearance. Image sharpness is generally excellent, as is the level of fine detail and texturing, especially in close ups, which seem to show every pore, line and inconsistency in the actors faces. Dimensionality can be quite admirable; the brightly lit outdoor sequences look pretty terrific. Colors tend to be warm and reflect the western locales quite well; in addition to demonstrating a good level of saturation. Flesh tones appear appropriately bronzed and weathered by the western sun. Black appear reasonably deep and accurate, while the whites are crisp. Contrast appears correct during bright daylight sequences, although nighttime and some interiors are a bit too dark, which limits the level of shadow detail. The elements from which TOMBSTONE has been mastered are quite clean. Mild grain is ever present, and can get a bit heavier in places, but helps maintain a truly film-like quality for the presentation.

TOMBSTONE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a terrific soundtrack; full bodied, and makes the most of all the outlying channels for sound effects placement. Shootouts are dimensional and gunfire moves around the soundstage in a highly effective manner. Thundering hoof beats are also well placed… placing the viewer in the middle of the action. Thanks to the lossless encode, Bruce Broughton’s music has marvelous presence and clarity, while sound effects are conveyed in a realistic fashion. The bass channel delivers on the punch potential of gunfire, not to mention the rumble that accompanies thundering hoof beats. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. The largest extra is the three part Making Of Tombstone, which runs twenty-seven minutes in total. Storyboards, Trailers and TV Spots close out the extras.

As I stated above, for my money, TOMBSTONE is one of the great modern day westerns. The Blu-ray presentation is quite strong and makes for a worthwhile upgrade over DVD. Recommended.



Tombstone [Blu-ray] (1993)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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