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Tombstone (1993) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
ImageThe old west has inspired some of the most memorable films in Hollywood history.  John Wayne and Clint Eastwood lead the pack when it comes to western films.  However, "Tombstone" is one of the best westerns of the past couple decades, bested by "Unforgiven."

Fans of the film have heard of the rumors circulating the development and production of the film, particularly the controversy over who actually directed the film.  None of that is resolved in any bonus materials on this disc.  Sorry folks.

Kurt Russell portrays Wyatt Earp, the most legendary peacekeeper in the old west.  After retiring from his lawmaking life in Kanasa, he and his two brothers move to Tombstone, a silver-mining town out west.  Wyatt and his brothers, Virgil (Sam Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton), are joined by their wives.  It doesn't take long before Wyatt cleans up the town and finds himself making some money with a stake in a local saloon.  Life seems to be going well for the family but soon the brothers are entangled in a mess with The Cowboys, a gang that terrorizes the people of Tombstone.

Suffering from a moral dilemma, Virgil and Morgan take on the responsibilities of being the local lawmen.  They continue to do so despite objections by Wyatt.  Wyatt's life is also complicated by the arrival of a theatrical stage beauty (Dana Delany).

Like many western blockbusters, the film suffers from some script supervising notes, but where the film really shines is in the performances.  Russell and Kilmer deliver the best performances of them all.  Val Kilmer portrays Doc Holliday, Wyatt's friend and gambling addict with TB.

The story is a terrific addition to the performances and bests "Wyatt Earp" which would follow the next year.  The story remains on target.  The film is not riddled with meaningless subplots.  The film remains centered on the Earp brothers and their fight against the Cowboys.  The only other plots to be given attention tie in nicely with the primary plot.  Wyatt and Doc's friendship is nicely developed, as is the relationship between Wyatt and Josephine.
"Tombstone" has been released on standard DVD a few times, and each has been plagued with video quality issues.  Sadly, the Blu-ray video quality is rather poor and inconsistent.  While is without a doubt better than any previous DVD release, it still leaves much to be desired.  The black levels are unresolved and full of crush.  There is virtually no shadow delineation.  Nighttime sequences, of which there are several, suffer from swallowed details and texture.  While the print is in great shape with no dust and dirt, the inconsistent picture level is distracting.  Contrast is strong.  Colors are stable and vibrant.  Fleshtones waver from drained to oversaturated.  Close up shots range from out of focus to razor sharp.  Scenery follows suit with some excellently defined backgrounds and some rather poorly defined.  Backgrounds and foregrounds seem to meld together.  Overall, I was rather disappointed that the film did not get more attention in the video transfer department.

The audio fairs much better than the video.  The soundfield is much deeper than the video field.  Galloping horses thunder across the plains and spread throughout all the audio channels.  However, the immersive features of the audio track are spotty.  Directionality is terrific but pans are a bit off here and there.  Dialogue is clean and clear but not always fully supported.  It is a bit rough at the beginning but smoothes out as the Earp gang enter Tombstone.  The surround channels are engaging when need be.  The thunderstorm sequence is most impressive.  The LFE channel is absent throughout, but the stems still remain balanced.  This is certainly an upgrade in terms of audio quality.

For some reason the studio decided not to include all the bonus materials from the previous 2-disc standard DVD.  Most noticeably, the director audio commentary is missing from the Blu-ray.  The only special features present are a making of featurette, a few original storyboards and some trailers and TV spots.

"Tombstone" is a good film that served more video quality treatment, but as it stands film fans will find the Blu-ray to be an upgrade.  This disc is recommended.

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