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HIGH NOON ($25) is amongst those rarest of films, the kind of movie you sit and watch awestruck because you know that it comes as close to absolute perfection as any cinematic experience is ever likely to get. What makes HIGH NOON an even rarer commodity is the fact that is a western- not exactly the genre where the majority of great films emanate. HIGH NOON is brilliantly written, acted, directed and photographed- there isn't a weak link anywhere in this superb film.

HIGH NOON stars Gary Cooper as Will Kane, the retiring Marshal of a small western town. In the opening moments of the film, Kane is married and turns in his badge so that he can lead a quite life with his new Quaker bride Amy (Grace Kelly). Just as he steps down as Marshal, Kane discovers that convicted murderer Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald); has been released from prison and will be arriving in town on the noon train. When Kane last saw Miller, the killer vowed vengeance on the lawman that captured him. At the urging of his friends, Kane leaves town with Amy. Unfortunately, Kane’s conscience won't allow him to leave the town unprotected from Miller and his gang for even a single day. With his sense of duty urging him to put the badge back on, Kane rides back into town to do his job. Of course, Kane's decision drives a wedge between him and Amy, plus it brings the true nature of the townspeople to the surface.

What sets HIGH NOON apart from many other films is the fact that it tells its story in real time (well almost). HIGH NOON builds tension by making the audience acutely aware of a deadline that looms closer and closer, as the lone hero frantically struggles to gather support from amongst the frightened townspeople. Another thing that distinguishes HIGH NOON is Carl Foreman's tightly written screenplay that features strong, sharply drawn characters. There is more character development in this film's brief 85 minute running time than one is likely to find in most three-hour epics. HIGH NOON is deceptively Spartan in its approach, however every simple image conveys so much more when one looks at the film as a whole. Director Fred Zinnemann meticulously crafted HIGH NOON to make each and every shot count. Floyd Crosby's stark black and white cinematography further serves to isolate the characters, especially the character of Kane during the film's climatic final moments.

Gary Cooper won a richly deserved Academy Award for his understated, but brilliant portrayal of Will Kane. While it seems that Cooper carries the weight of the film on his shoulders, HIGH NOON features a superb supporting cast that makes every character memorable. In addition to Cooper and Grace Kelly, the cast of HIGH NOON also features Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney Jr. (his best work since OF MICE AND MEN), Harry Morgan, Eve McVeagh, Morgan Farley, Harry Shannon, Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and Sheb Wooley.

HIGH NOON has come to DVD via Artisan Entertainment and their acquisition of the Republic Pictures library. Artisan has given HIGH NOON an excellent THX Certified black and white transfer that makes this nearly fifty-year-old movie sparkle. The movie predates Hollywood conversion to wide screen filmmaking, so the full frame transfer is virtually perfect in recreating the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. HIGH NOON is sharp and very well defined, making Floyd Crosby's cinematography look as good as it is likely to look on NTSC video. Blacks are reproduced with maximum fidelity and contrast is usually excellent. There are, however, a couple of moments in which the whites are a bit overwhelming, but fortunately they are brief. Digital compression artifacts never really made their presence known on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is very clean sounding for its age and well worth amplifying for Dimitri Tiomkin's score, as well as his Oscar winning song "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin" performed by Tex Ritter. French and Spanish language soundtracks are also provided on the DVD, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus are somewhat animated and contain sound. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene and language selection features, as well as the DVD's extras. As supplement, the DVD includes "The Making of High Noon" hosted by Leonard Maltin and a theatrical trailer. "The Making of High Noon" is very entertaining and includes interviews with surviving crewmembers, as well as other pertinent individuals.

HIGH NOON is a film classic that belongs in every serious DVD collector's library. Absolutely recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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