In the golden age of Hollywood, films such as “Red River” and “High Noon” were commonplace in theaters across the country. Actors like John Wayne, Alan Ladd and Gary Cooper were the stars of the industry, all playing cowboys on the big screen. Today the western is all but a dead genre, as studios are investing most of their financing into teen comedies, supernatural thrillers and computer animated films. With the recent box office flop of “American Outlaws,” the western genre has fallen on hard times.
Perhaps the last great western is George P. Cosmatos” 1993 film “Tombstone,” starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. “Tombstone” is an action-heavy retelling of Wyatt Earp and the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral. Russell plays the protagonist Earp with a sharp wit. The rest of the Earp family is played by Sam Elliot as Virgil and Bill Paxton as younger brother Morgan. The cast is strong throughout, but Val Kilmer makes special notice with his masterful rendition of Doc Holliday. Other notables include Michael Biehn (“The Terminator”), Powers Booth (“The Emerald Forest”) and Charlton Heston (“Planet of the Apes”).
Originally released in a minimalist edition in 1998, the two-disc Vista Series DVD version of “Tombstone” is a quality upgrade in all aspects. Wyatt Earp and his brothers have never looked better as the disc includes a new THX certified anamorphic widescreen transfer presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The sound options include a new 5.1 digital soundtrack as well as a commentary track from director Cosmatos. The commentary with Cosmatos is less than thrilling, but die-hard fans will appreciate the comprehensiveness of the information. The rest of the bonus material can be found on the vast second disc.
A 26-minute documentary,”The Making of Tombstone,” includes interviews with cast members including Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and Powers Booth The feature provides an in-depth look into the filmmaking process. For a behind the scenes documentary, the short is rather generic in format. Also included on the second disc is the “Tombstone Timeline,” a historical chronically of the events of the Earps, presented with voice-over narration. Of all the vintage materials included, the most interesting is the “Tombstone Epitaph,” a picture of the actual Tombstone newspaper with articles featuring eye witness testimony of the gunfight at the OK Corral.
Other extra material includes the original storyboards for the gunfight at the OK Corral sequence. the theatrical trailer. teaser and seven TV spots included. A hidden feature offers an image gallery of poster art and sketches. The presentation of the film and its extra material is among the most impressive available on DVD. Menus look like “wanted posters” and bullets whiz by when selecting the text. In an absurd move, the dvd producers also included a collectible map of the town of Tombstone. The packaging is identical to other Vista Series dvds “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” as well as popular discs “Citizen Kane” and “Boogie Nights.”
For “Tombstone” fans and western aficionados alike, the two disc “Tombstone” Vista Series is an impressive release. The new material warrants the purchase of this new edition, making the original disc obsolete.