AMERICAN WESTERN LEGEND

by Michael Hammerschlag Moscow News Feb 94

 

A New Disney movie in English, Tombstone, about the famous 1881 gunfight in OK Corral between the Earps, and the Clanton and McClaury gang (Cowboys), is running at the luxurious new Americom Cinema in the Radison Slavansky Hotel until Feb 4. Having tried Shakespeare, ponderous moral themes (the Plague), weightless adventure thrillers (Gunmen), the folks at Americom think Russian audiences might like an American classic fable, and have coughed up the money for the current third grossing American hit less than a month after it premiered in America.

 

Director George Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II) has taken great pains to ensure historical accuracy, shooting entirely in the real Tombstone, Arizona, and in Mescal, 70km S of Tucson, a town they largely rebuilt. Elegant costumes were made with authentic 120 year old unused fabric discovered in London, and shooting continued through 115 degree desert heat, dust storms, and thunderstorms. The gunfight itself happens 2/3 of the way through the movie, the rest concerns the aftermath, the war of attrition between the Earps and the Cowboys, an evil lot who start out by annihilating an entire Mexican wedding party.

There are hokey and confusing factors--one isn't sure just who the Cowboys are and the Earps are hotly pursued by a huge posse of criminals wearing badges... who never appear again. Mostly, though, people are nonchalantly blown away at a rate that would have depopulated the West in a year.

But it does show the moral ambiguities with some fine characterizations: the Earps (particularly Virgil) are sometimes hotheaded fools--the gunfight is largely at their provocation, Wyatt is a peacenik who wants to leave the demands of law and order to others, the criminals have moments of fear and passion that humanize them more than most Westerns have. The gunfight itself is well done- fast, frightening, and sloppy, with the Earps pumped up on adrenaline; but after it the movie bogs down in endless retribution and counter-retribution.

Kurt Russell (The Thing, Tango and Cash), an actor from early childhood has tried to demythologize Earp. "I think Wyatt is darker than we've ever seen him. ..He was a man torn by family problems who was in constant turmoil", says Russell. Stephen Lang (the lawyer from TV's Crime Story) is good as the blustery gross, redfaced Ike Clanton; Dana Delany (who played a Vietnam nurse in the award winning TV series China Beach) is the wild actress who wins Wyatt's heart; Powers Boothe (Emerald Forest, Southern Comfort) does typical solid work as the calculating and vile leader of the Cowboys; Michael Biehn (the Terminator) is a twitchy nasty superfast Johnny Ringo; and Charleton Heston does a cameo, but the movie belongs to Val Kilmer (the Doors, Top Gun, Willow.

Playing Doc Watson, Kilmer is magnificent as the witty dangerous sophisticate wasting away from tuberculosis. By turns dry, droll, vicious, and funny, Kilmer is a treat to watch and has moved into the top ranks of young actors (along with his almost eerie resemblance to Jim Morrison in the Doors). "Val has gone to the heart of the real Doc Holiday. Nobody has attempted the refined Southern quality mixed with the psychotic look at life that he reveals", claims Russell.

 

Tombstone Rating: 3 Stars out of 5, at Radison Slavansky Hotel, Americom Cinema(at end of long corridor on 2nd floor) till Feb 4; 5:00 + 7:30 PM, Fri-Sun also 9:30 PM; $7, $6 at 5PM; $5 students and seniors; English sound, Russian available Fri-Sun