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Tombstone tells the story of Wyatt Earp, his brothers and pal Doc Holiday, who all reside in the western town of Tombstone, eager to earn some quick cash. What they encountered was much more than the friendly game of poker.

The film revolves around the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, which went down in history as one of the greatest gun battles of all time. Fighting our heroes was a gang known as the Cowboys, wearing their customary red sashes for identification. Initially Wyatt and his buddies merely wanted to clean the town out of its money and move on, but end up entangled in the law breaking mafia of the Cowboys, who were as close to the mafia as was possible in the Wild West. The Corral fight was only the tip of the iceberg, with the feud becoming a lengthy, bloody war until one side had been totally decimated.

Director George P Cosmatos does a fine job at assembling the cast and creating the perfect amount of tension and drama that does this film true justice.

Earp is played by Kurt Russell, who is totally believable as the gunfighting legend and uses his skills at being a bit of a menace to full effect. The star-studded line-up includes Bill Paxton and Sam Elliot as Wyatt’s brothers, Powers Boothe and Michael Biehn as Cowboys Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo, and the totally adorable Dana Delany as Earp’s dreamy fair maiden. But it is Val Kilmer who excels as Doc Holliday, a tuberculosis-stricken loner who teams with Earp and his brothers out of loyalty. Kilmer brings a poise and charisma to Doc Holliday and delivers his dialogue with scene-stealing aplomb. This only adds to the fine ensemble cast performance, with even brief appearances by Billy Zane and Jason Priestly (the 90210 producers must have been watching!).

Surrender at the OK Corral
The film uses all the necessary plot twists and character developments to drive the film at a reasonable pace, combining the small town atmosphere with big-time action and gunplay. Whilst I’m not a historian, I have a feeling this film wasn’t meant to be totally accurate, but is not spoilt by its willingness to venture into possible more entertaining territory. A little bit more excitement never goes astray…

Another fine transfer by Village, though probably not up to the standard of some of the other releases of recent times. Granted, the newer releases probably lend themselves to a more detailed transfer, so considering the age of this film the image is particularly sound. There are the noticeable artifacts and the like which do occur somewhat regularly but aren’t of the more distracting nature. The setting of the film tends to demand a little more of the visuals than most, with the harsh, bright yellows of the Wild West being rendered quite admirably.

The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and is 16:9 enhanced. It really benefits from a widescreen transfer, with the gunfights never looking so good (and wide).

Two choices of soundtrack here, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 soundtrack was ideal for the use of gunshot ricochets and horses trotting around, and used the effects accordingly. However, there seemed to be too much emphasis on background noise, even just atmospheric sounds. In some instances it either detracted from the action or distracted the ears from the dialogue. Nevertheless, the new sound mix is a welcome addition and my ears were satisfied apart from these minor points.

The music is quite appropriate, if a little overdone. Some of the more dramatic scenes are played out with a booming score in the background, and lean a little to the corny side at times. The main score is a ripper though, so it is wonderful to listen to the main music track on the menus.

Nice scenery
Sadly, there’s nothing really special in the features department, but we do get a making of featurette which is as close to your usual promotional fluff as you’re gonna get. Just a combination of clips from the movie and the standard behind the scenes footage as well as quaint narration make this one a once-only affair.

We are also treated to an easter egg which contains a ten minute montage of more behind the scenes shots from the movie. No narration this time, just the production audio. Again, probably only a one-time viewing experience. I’m not gonna tell you where it is either, as that would spoil the fun. Maybe look in the Easter Egg section of the site. Hmmmm…

There is also the theatrical trailer and biographies for the main cast members and crew.  

Somewhat disappointed at the lack of any fulfilling extras, but this may have been all they had to work with when mastering the disc, so at least they threw something together. I would’ve dueled with Johnny Ringo for a commentary track or some deleted scenes, but I seem to have scared them off. Ho hum.

NOTE: The recently released Region 1 Vista version shows that there is some footage out there to be used. A commentary track has also been added, making the new version a much better alternative in terms of additional content. But be warned, the transfer does contain some major edge enhancement. Your choice.

The film is a great exploration into the events surrounding the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral, and is dealt with admirably by both cast and Director Cosmatos. There’s enough action to satisfy as well as a decently written script, so this one goes down as one of the better Western efforts of recent times. There’s nothing like basing a story loosely around an historical event and then playing with it to suit the movie. Maybe that’s just me, but this film certainly didn’t warrant an actual account of the events of 1881.

The Tombstone pool comp was a hit
The video transfer is serviceable, if a little under the usual quality of Village releases. The audio utilises the surrounds to good extent, although I did find the atmospheric noise to be a little distracting at times. Unfortunately there’s the bare essentials in terms of features so it seems the recently released Vista version is the disc to get.

Overall, a must-buy for all Western fans and definitely a worthwhile addition to any collection. Watch it. Wyatt Earp says so.