"Tombstone" Blu-ray Review
April 27, 2010 by Zach Demeter
Those around for the big Wyatt Earp movie showdown in 1993 and 1994 no doubt remember the two films well (assuming you were into westerns, anyway): after a falling out between Kevin Costner and Kevin Jarre, Costner took his version of the script and made Wyatt Earp with a much larger budget while Jarre took his script and turned it into what we have here (which was created with a smaller budget). Any guesses as to which one grossed more? While decidedly less accurate historically and a bit more twisted to pander to audiences, Tombstone not only hit screens before Costner’s version but it also grossed more than enough to cover its budget, something Costner’s film failed to do. Tombstone has largely drifted away into obscurity lately, but with the death of director of the film, George Pan Cosmatos, it has come to light that actor Kurt Russell had a great more to do with the films directing process than originally though. While we wait for more of that story to come to light (and perhaps a new cut of the film?), Disney has graced us with the original theatrical cut on Blu-ray for the first and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) hopefully not last time.
A sizzling, star-studded cast brings to life the legendary battle to deliver justice to Tombstone, available for the first time on Blu-ray™ High Definition! Kurt Russell turns in a gripping performance as U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer ignites the screen as the outrageous Doc Holliday. Together, they team up to bring law to the lawless in a notorious showdown with the ruthless outlaws at the O.K. Corral! The all-star ensemble also includes Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Dana Delany, Jason Priestley, Michael Biehn, and long-time Hollywood favorite Charlton Heston. Get ready for an explosive, action packed adventure the Wild West would never forget!
As previously mentioned the Costner film was a much drier and perhaps more accurate painting of the Earp story, but what we get from Tombstone is a much more action-oriented piece. There are a myriad of issues with the film as is, with an overabundance of character dwelling on even the most minor of characters (something Russell struggled with reportedly, even giving up some of his own screen time to allow the other actors to have more of a presence) and just a rather uneven story altogether. But as lumpy as the story felt at times, it was nevertheless incredibly and incessantly entertaining—even if it did have some questionable acting from a few of the minor characters who opted to ham it up quite a bit at times.
But while the minor actors may have been questionable in certain moments, it was the main cast that really drove the film home. Russell was simply perfect as Earp and with Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton playing his brothers, it was a well-rounding of casting for the trio. Dana Delaney as the love interest was certainly inspired as well, considering her career never really ballooned out to the point where she was ever the lead in anything for any major film. She really fit in well with the film though; not only with the time period looks but also just her overall attitude, which was quite different from Wyatt Earp’s opiate addicted wife.
Every one of the cast members should really be praised for their work, but it’s Val Kilmer who ended up stealing the show in the film. As Doc Holiday he was barely in it, but every scene he was in he absolutely stole it (making him the Boba Fett of the film I guess you could say) and chewed through the material. Kilmer was a true delight to see in the film and my only real displeasure with the film was that he wasn’t focused on more---but the film already ran 130 minutes as is, any longer and it would’ve lost the audience likely.
The film really was a fantastic outing, but it did feel decidedly more concerned with the popcorn crowd than the historical one. The best comparison I can draw is that it’s like the 3:10 to Yuma remake, one of the best westerns ever made (modern or otherwise) to me, in that it’s a lot more action oriented than anything. There are some down times obviously but not nearly enough to really enough to categorize it as a pure drama ala something like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which to this day I’ve only watched once, but I really did enjoy that movie for as slow as it was…the ending to it was just absolutely brilliant).
Overall a truly Recommended movie if you have yet to see it.
Sadly this film is, as previously mentioned, just the theatrical R-rated cut. We don’t even get all of the extras from the previous two-disc Vista Series DVD release; a bummer since there was some great content on there and we lose the director commentary on this release too; incredibly strange, but it makes me hope that Disney might unleash a fancier edition for its twentieth anniversary in 2013 (hey, one can hope). As is this release is housed in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with some very basic package art (I daresay they just recycled the barebones DVD release from 1997 and used that packaging art, because even the images used on the back look very…90s-ish).
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p affair and it sadly isn’t that great. I want to say it looks basically like an upscaled DVD, but it’s a great deal better than that; the image clarity is definitely there it’s just not sharp or detailed in the least. It’s just a very, very soft image and one that doesn’t evoke much of the films visuals to the viewer. The contrast levels vary to the point where it’s near impossible to see night sequences and low-level interiors are questionable at times as well. Skin tones dance back and forth, but no matter which way you cut it the film still looks better than the DVD currently in your collection. Just not a whole lot better.
The audio on the other hand sounds fantastic. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is quite a great deal more impressive than the video, as almost immediately we’re given a healthy dosage of LFE output and a fantastic mixture of surround output. Westerns have the potential for a varied soundtrack, as you have a lot of environmental noise to play with during the shootout sequences; passersby, creaking wood floors, guns being drawn both on and off screen…ok well, I guess you have all of that in modern films too, but it all just seems slightly more pronounced in westerns. Back then there was no industrial and environmental noise to amount to much so every little fidget made some kind of discernible chirp on the screen. It’s not a perfect track as sometimes things can get a bit too overpowering and drown out dialogue at times, but it’s as good as we’ll ever get from the nearly twenty year old film I suspect.
Extras are sadly limited:
• The Making of Tombstone – Featurette in three parts: “An Ensemble Cast,” “Making An Authentic Western,” and “The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral.”
• Director’s Original Storyboards
• Theatrical Trailers, Teasers and T.V. Spots
They’re not only limited but also in standard definition. They’re also just carried over from the Vista Series release from 2002, which had way more extras than this release does for…some blasted reason. They could’ve at least carried over Cosmatos’s commentary over. Oh well…if you own the Vista Series release, hold onto it.
Overall a Blu-ray release you can likely Skip unless you’re a die-hard fan of the film.
Tombstone arrives on Blu-ray on April 27th.