XL Popcorn – Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 775/1007Title: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Director: John Sturges
Year: 1957
Country: USA

And I thought that two months between Rocha films was a bit brief, now here I am two weeks after seeing The Great Escape and this is the third (and final) John Sturges movie from the 1001 list. This may also prove to be the final film on the list that deals with the infamous shoot-up at the O.K. Corral – the other that comes immediately to mind being My Darling Clementine

I wonder if this particular historical event has some sort of record for the most minutes of produced media as a ratio for how long the actual event was. I mean, it’s reported that the actual shoot-out only lasted about half a minute and yet it is so infamous and repeatedly depicted in films and TV shows. I guess it helps that at the centre of it you have figures like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp who have been so mythologised for having survived something so bloody.

Now, given that that depict the same event and they both add the same plot beats (i.e. the rather sexist idea that the event was spurred on by a jealous love interest) it’s difficult to not compare Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with My Darling Clementine. Doing that, it’s a hands down victory for My Darling Clementine because it tells the story just that much better – although Gunfight would win on the soundtrack stakes as they change it up at least.

The issue that I had with Gunfight (which is still a good film, let’s not get that twisted) is that it tries to be everything as a Western and so it never finds the focus it really needs. The chemistry between Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster doesn’t take off enough to allow it to be a good buddy film, the romantic interests fill just shoe-horned in for dramatic tension so that doesn’t work and we spend too little time at Dodge during the second act, so it doesn’t work as a film that gives you a wider idea of the West at the time.

Like I said though, this is a good western to stick on in the afternoon. It’s just that this exact story has already been told and directed better by John Ford 11 years earlier. One thing this does have over the other is an early role for Dennis Hopper. I would now be interested in a good film depicting the follow-up events of the Vendetta Ride – so any suggestions on films depicting that would be very welcome.


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