The Western genre has had a tough time in theaters the past few decades. It’s a genre that has been around since the beginning of film, The Great Train Robbery (1903) being the first Western and the first narrative film in history. Over the past century, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Stewart and dozens of other actors and actresses have been a part of this historic genre.
But for some reason the Western rarely does exceptionally well at the box office anymore. Even with recent movies like 3:10 to Yuma, There Will Be Blood, Appaloosa, and Open Range, the genre fails to build any box office momentum. But why?
One reason could be that the main audience for these films doesn’t go to movies and waits for them to come out on video or on TV (like my dad). Another reason could be that it’s worn out its welcome at the box office and has become more accepted as a genre for TV (the Lonesome Dove and Comanche Moon being examples of hit TV Western miniseries).
In 1992, Clint Eastwood starred and directed in Unforgiven, a Western that didn’t stay within the confines of the standard conventions and clichés that were the source of material for Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974). It rose above and beyond and created a dark and bitter Western world that resonated with audiences and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, among others.
But despite its success and the success of others like Dances with Wolves in 1990, the genre remained and still does remain in a slump (none of the recent Westerns of the past two decades have made over $150 million). But this doesn’t mean these films are poorly made or are not worth your time. On the contrary, most of the Westerns that have been released in the past couple decades are highly entertaining and worthwhile films.
Tombstone is based on the true events leading up to and including the famous battle at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Earp’s brothers reluctantly help to reclaim the town of Tombstone from the lawless men who threaten the innocent citizens who live there.
The film is more than just a shoot-em-up Western, it delves into the personal lives of Earp and Holiday in a way most films about these two genuine Western heroes don’t. They aren’t mythologized here. They are showcased as people with flaws, foibles, and inner-conflicts. These only serve to make the story that much stronger.
This is a great Western film. Starring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer and Doc Holliday, the film is loaded with well-known faces that will keep you watching. Look for Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott, Dana Delany, Billy Zane, Charlton Heston, and even Lost’s Terry O’Quinn as the Mayor of Tombstone and a host of other people that you’ll be happy to see in this excellent movie.
This is Tombstone’s first time on Blu-ray, and it includes a handful of special features. These include a three-part special, The Making Of Tombstone; the Director’s Original Storyboards; and Trailers & TV Spots.
The film itself looks amazing, and you can tell how much better the film looks on Blu-ray when compared to the scenes shown in the Making Of special. It looks like a completely different movie.
I highly recommend Tombstone. I also would recommend checking out other past and current Westerns in order to get to know the genre. It may not be a genre filled with comic book heroes, serial killers, or big special effects, but its one that has helped film get to where it is today.
Tombstone arrives on Blu-ray April 27, 2010!