Monday, August 27, 2012


I saw Tombstone recently. I remember the trailers when it first came out, almost 20 years ago. It’s a good Western, although I’ve seen better. It has an excellent cast, led by the ever-fine Kurt Russell. It’s also nice to see the late great Charlton Heston in a cameo role.

The film got mixed reviews. But from what little I know about 19C American history, this is a fairly accurate film, with a build-up to the iconic Gunfight at O.K. Corral, followed by Wyatt Earp’s remorseless vendetta.

Aside from the great casting, that’s accounts for the film’s strengths and weaknesses. What makes it more interesting than many Westerns (or other films) is that this movie is based on a real event, involving real individuals. Indeed, a cast of characters who passed into American folklore.

As such, the director and screenwriters don’t have the same unfettered artistic freedom they’d enjoy if this were fictitious. To a great extent they’re constrained by what actually happened.

Hence, it lacks the artificially taut cohesion of some other films in the Western genre. But that’s offset by reality. Most of the characters are based on men who really existed. Not imaginary characters, but men who lived and died, who came before us, just as others will come after us. So we’re reconnecting with the past. Like us, they had their hopes and fears. Their moral choices and consequences. Like us, they were thrown into the maelstrom of a fallen world.

For instance, you have the doomed figure of Doc Holliday. He’s dying of TB, and he knows it. So he doesn’t take life very seriously. He has nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Indeed, he died at 36. No doubt he hastened the process by heavy drinking.

A Christian parable of the damned. Someone with nothing to live for. Nothing to look forward to.


  1. I liked Val "I'm your huckleberry" Kilmer much better as the Doc Holliday character in this version of Tombstone, than Dennis Quaid in the Kevin Costner version of "Wyatt Earp". But Quaid was probably more realistic.

  2. Kilmer was great, he deserved an Oscar for his performance. His mocking of Johnny Ringo's gunplay in the bar using a tin cup was fantastic. Really one of my favorite performances.

  3. The scene with Billy Bob Thorton was great.

  4. The "skin that smokewagon" part was great but I like Kilmer's off-hand dismissal after he and Wyatt reconnect while Johnny/Billy Bob stands there in awe:

    "Oh. Johnny, I apologize; I forgot you were there. You may go now."